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The Sweet Spot.
The area of Sauternes is beautiful, often swathed in the legendary early morning mists, responsible for the noble rot and adding to the romantic atmosphere. Amongst the rolling hillsides of vines there is a wealth of wonderful architecture, witness to the prosperous past of the region and the success of these fine wines.
One such gem is Château Lafaurie Peyraguey, a 1er Grand Classé (first growth) in the heart of Sauternes. Dating back to the 13th century, this proud, fortress-like construction has always been an iconic part of the diverse architecture of the appellation. Renovations were under taken by the previous owners but now, under the new ownership of Silvio Denz, it is enjoying a renaissance. In June 2018 the Lalique Hotel opened its doors, a 400th birthday present to the estate.
Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey was the 2020 Gold winner for the Wine Tourism Restaurant category, unsurprising given that just a year after opening, they had already won their first Michelin star. Lalique at Lafaurie Peyraguey is an excellent showcase for Sauternes, if you were waiting for an excuse to get down there this is it.
The Hotel Lalique decor is amazing, there is Lalique crystal everywhere; the door handles, the arm rests of chairs and sofas, crystal panels show the signature grape motif inlaid into the furniture, crystal vine leaf light fittings and chandeliers and vases and other objets d'art scattered around the rooms and check out the taps. It's like a permanent crystal treasure hunt.
The vineyard and cellars are also open for visits, the perfect pre-lunch or pre-dinner activity. An understanding of the rigorous and risky business of Sauternes production helps appreciate the wine you will taste even more. The boutique is also a treasure trove of gifts both vinous and crystal.
A modern extension to the chateau (glass of course) designed by Mario Botta, houses the restaurant. In keeping with the Sauternes theme, the ceiling is decorated with gilded crystal Semillon leaves. More Lalique pieces grace the tables, including perfect replicas of the salt and pepper mills co-created by René Lalique and Peugeot in 1924.
It takes quite a chef to compete with all this and Jérôme Schilling, the former executive chef of Villa René Lalique, (two Michelin stars) rises to the challenge. His menu plays with different ways of using Sauternes in preparing the food as well as serving it by the glass to compliment his dishes.
The very comprehensive wine list of the Lalique restaurant at Château Lafaurie Peyraguey is the perfect showcase for all the wines styles of the region, from the chateau and its neighbours.
Some Sauternes and Barsac wine makers are embracing a trend towards sweet wines that are brighter, lighter and perfectly adapted to so many drinking opportunities, from aperitif, to fish, from roast chicken to blue cheese. There are always the classic matches of foie gras and dessert, the whole foie gras cooked in a salt crust comes highly recommended, but be bold, don't limit yourselves to the classics. Try a glass of Sauternes with a spicy dish for example and many of the other imaginative pairings on offer.
In the opinion of Jérôme Schilling 'Sweet wine brings other foods into the realm of haute cuisine'. I'll drink to that.
By Wendy Narby.