Interview with Alexandre
and Philippe
de Lur Saluces

Interview with Alexandre
and Philippe
de Lur Saluces

To celebrate the release of the superb book "Château de Fargues, la folle ambition des Lur Saluces à Sauternes", we interviewed Alexandre and Philippe de Lur Saluces for Vintage. This father-and-son duo pay a heartfelt tribute to their appellation and share their food and wine pairings in the run-up to the Christmas season.

Hello Alexandre and Philippe. The title of the work dedicated to Château de Fargues mentions “la folle ambition”, or a crazy ambition. Why is that?

Alexandre de Lur Saluces: Our ambition is crazy in the sense that producing Sauternes is a meticulous task. What makes this wine so special is that the grapes are picked late and it is the result of a paradoxically negative phenomenon known as “noble rot”. This phenomenon has been domesticated and nature is assisted by a highly painstaking and laborious harvesting system which requires many hands to produce few yields. At Château de Fargues, we continue to pick botrytised grapes one at a time. The yield is measly to say the least: each vine produces only one glass of wine! One day, my dear friend Bernard Pivot paid a visit to Château de Fargues. When I took him to the vineyards one morning during the harvest, Bernard was surprised that the volume of grapes collected at the end of each vine row was so small. He asked me if this was normal and I assured him that it was. He turned to the pickers and said, “Thankfully you’re not paid by weight!” This remark will long be remembered at Château de Fargues and reflects the idea that producing Sauternes involves true dedication.

Do you feel that there is a need to restore Sauternes’ illustrious reputation?

Alexandre de Lur Saluces: We need to go back to the roots. In the 19th century, visitors came from all over Europe to purchase Sauternes. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington even travelled to Yquem to buy this extraordinary wine in person. This is a tale worth telling! I believe that we should take action to restore the appellation in the eyes of consumers and also in terms of prices. The price of Sauternes has plummeted. Having said that, the appellation has been given a new lease of life and we welcome many wine enthusiasts through our doors. The other day at Château de Fargues, a young woman had tears in her eyes during a tasting because there is something so delicious and alluring about this wine.

"The other day at Château de Fargues, a young woman had tears in her eyes during a tasting because there is something so delicious and alluring about this wine."

Is this book therefore a means of paying tribute to Sauternes and also a plea for the appellation to be recognised at its true value?

Philippe de Lur Saluces: The message of the book is that this wine has an incredible history. It comes from a magnificent estate and is an excellent, high-quality product. It’s about showcasing all the aesthetics of Fargues wine. There is also a desire to demystify the image of Sauternes and make it more accessible to wine lovers.

It also commemorates an important date in your family’s history.

Philippe de Lur Saluces: Château de Fargues has been in our family since 1472, marking 550 years this year. This book is therefore a great way to celebrate this rather special anniversary.

What can we expect to find in the book?

Philippe de Lur Saluces: It was written by Hélène Farnault who spoke a lot with the production manager at Château de Fargues, who explained the meticulous artisanal effort that goes into producing Sauternes, as well as the history of the estate. There are also some superb photos by François Poincet. Lastly, you’ll find recipes by great chefs such as Guy Savoy, Michel Guérard and Christophe Bacquié who suggest food and wine pairings depending on the vintage. The recipes are original and rightly demonstrate how Sauternes is not simply a dessert wine and should not be relegated to pairing with just Roquefort and foie gras, even though these two pairings do work.

How does your family like to drink Sauternes?

Philippe de Lur Saluces: It depends on who you ask! My father will tell you to serve it with scallops, either as carpaccio or seared and served with a cream sauce. If you ask me, I’d tell you to serve it with veal sweetbread, which makes for a really superb pairing! Otherwise, roast chicken also goes really well with Sauternes. In fact, many delicious combinations are possible. The only rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t add sugar on top of the natural sweetness of Sauternes.

Arthur Jeanne

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