Wine Review: 1999 Château Filhot, Sauternes

Château Filhot, Sauternes, Deuxième Crus Classés 1999

My first experience with Sauternes, which is a French dessert wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux was with the 1999 Filhot. I became instantly hooked and through my additional experiences of tasting other Sauternes wines, and I longingly remember tasting this particular wine. Indeed, because of my first experience with this lovely wine, I purchased several bottles of the 1999 vintage of Filhot from a wine shop in UK and brought them back to the United States to taste them over the next few years. This proved to be a great decision!

The vineyard dates back to the 1630s and the château was formally founded by Romain de Filhot in 1709. Following the French revolution, the estate was taken over by Romain-Bertrand de Lur-Saluces who added the estate of Pinaud du Rey and had the château redesigned to its contemporary English appearance in the nineteenth century. During the period when then American ambassador to France Thomas Jefferson ranked the wine directly behind the famous Château d’Yquem, which later recieved the distinction of being the only wine in the Premier Cru Supérieur category of the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Indeed, Filhot actually enjoyed a greater reputation during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries than today, and the two Sauternes wines were actually comparably priced. In 1935, Comtesse Durieu de Lacarelle (ironically the sister of the Marquis de Lur-Saluces, proprietor of Château d’Yquem) bought the estate, which was modernized by her son, Louis Durieu de Lacarelle, during the 1970s. The estate is currently run by the Vaucelles family.

As for production, the vineyard area extends 150 acres from quite a large estate with the grape varieties of 60% Sémillon, 36% Sauvignon blanc and 4% Muscadelle. The annual production is an average of 6,500 cases.

Although wines from Sauternes can be quite expensive, due to the very high cost of production of these wines, if a special occasion warrants it, they can be absolutely delightful. We decided to have this wine after our dinner of the 1997 Château Léoville-Poyferré and what a great finale it was to our dinner with our guests!

The 1999 vintage appeared incredibly silky in the glass and on the nose, there was an enormous amount of honey aromas in addition to hints of peaches and apricots. On the attack, the wine displayed acidic sweet honey flavors with ripe fruits, sweet raisins. The wine finishes quite well with a lovely honeyed aftertaste that seems to float on the palate in an elegant wine. A classic Sauternes from this great Château.

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