It was only about a 10 minute drive from Yquem to Ch. de Malle outside the small town of Priegnac. We were met by the winemaker, Vincent Labergere, who was also the general manager and wore other multiple hats including direct sales to visitors. While we were there, several other people dropped by, and soon we had a small party of people touring and tasting with us. It was quite enjoyable.
Vincent explained that they had 27 hectares of sweet wine (70% sem; 27% SB; and 3% muscadelle), but they also had 13 hectares of red Graves and 3 hectares of white Graves. However, we asked him to focus on the sweet wines, because that is why we had come to Sauternes. When asked about the muscadelle, he admitted it was very sensitive to grey rot, but when it did well he felt it added a lovely lift to the wine.
In the vineyard, they achieved 13 hectoliters per hectare; used 30 to 35 people to pick 3 to 5 times, and had 30 different parcels. He pressed only once in a pneumatic press, and then fermented for 2 to 4 weeks using natural yeast – or Bergage? if it didn’t take – in 30% new oak. He blends 3 times: in February, August, and May and leaves the wine in oak for 1 year and then moves it to tank. He said the primary reason is they don’t have enough room or enough barrels. They use an interesting configuration of stainless steel tanks on the top level and cement on the bottom. They also rack, fine, and filter the wine and he usually averages around 230 mg per liter of SO2.
We tasted 3 wines: 2007 Ch de Malle Blanc – (dry white wine) pale yellow with a soft nose of melon; a lovely roundness on the palate; and a refreshing acidity. It was aged 4 months sur lies. 1998 Ch. De Malle Sauternes – yellow-gold color; honey and apricot nose/palate; very concentrated; med++ acid with a juicy finish. 2002 Ch de Malle Sauternes - pale yellow with white rim; honey and pineapple nose/palate; more delicate and a high acid. I preferred this style to the thicker 1998, but Mike liked the bigger wine, so we purchased a bottle of that.
After our tasting, we toured the 17th century chateau and gardens with a guide who explained each room to us in slow French so we could understand her. It was nice to finally find a chateau with furnished rooms. The owner still lives in part of the castle, and allows the other rooms to be toured as a museum. We found that most of the famous chateau are not lived in – and instead are only used for special events.