The reasons to be overwhelmed with enthusiasm over Daniel and Valérie Alibrand’s Sauternes are bountiful, so I suggest asking one of our staff why we hold this producer in such high regard. To briefly outline it, this is truly artisanal Sauternes—made by hardworking farmers who are willing to sacrifice quantity for excellence. For example, the rigorous sorting to select the best fruit means making up to seven passes through the vineyards, picking berry by berry. The yields come out to around ten hectoliters per hectare—compare that to Château d’Yquem. Or you can forget the details and simply stick your nose into a glass of this divine nectar to comprehend our excitement.
In Sauternes, an appellation that is more well-known for wine châteaux than for the talented people that work the soil and make the wine, Valérie and Daniel Alibrand are braving it on their own without the safety net enjoyed by their more established neighbors. The Alibrands are relatively new to wine, having started Domaine de l’Alliance in 2005, upon the purchase of the vines from Valérie’s side of the family.
They farm seven hectares of vineyards in the village of Fargues and they are fortunate to have old vines, which impart fabulous complexity to the wine. Alliance refers to the marriage between man and nature, and the salamander on the label pays tribute to the many they regularly find in their vineyard.
Often considered the wine capital of the world, Bordeaux and its wines have captured the minds, hearts, and wallets of wine drinkers for centuries. For many, the wines provide an inalienable benchmark against which all other wines are measured.
Bordeaux is divided into three winegrowing regions with the city that gives the region its name in the near geographical center. The “right bank,” or the area located east of the Dordogne River, produces wines that are predominantly Merlot with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The “left bank” is located to the west of the Garonne River and produces wines dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
The third region, Entre-Deux-Mers, lies between both rivers and produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. Though technically in the left bank, it is worth noting the appellation of Sauternes, which produces arguably the world’s most famous sweet wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle as well.
Though many top Bordeaux wines are sold en primeur (in advance of their bottling) and often through a middleman known as a negoçiant, Kermit has always preferred to purchase directly from the winemaker. For more than three decades he has sought out small producers, who make classic Bordeaux wines and are willing to play outside the negoçiant system. This ethic has led to longstanding relationships, excellent prices, and perhaps most important—wines of great value and longevity.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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