Raymond-Lafon is a name to watch in the Sauternes district, particularly if one is looking for a wine that is close to the brilliance and majestic richness of Yquem for less than one-third the price.
This small estate abuts Yquem's vineyard and has had an excellent reputation. The 1921 Raymond-Lafon was considered even better than Yquem's wine in that great vintage. I have never tasted the 1921 Raymond-Lafon, but the single greatest Sauternes I have ever drunk was the Yquem of that vintage.
However, the estate of Raymond-Lafon fell into neglect, and it was not until 1972 that Pierre Meslier, the manager of Yquem, purchased this vineyard and began to rebuild this wine's once fabulous reputation.
With a tiny yield of 9 hectoliters per hectare (even less than Yquem's), with the same grape blend and winemaking techniques employed as Yquem, and with the same ruthless selection procedure (normally 20% - 100% of a harvest is declassified), Raymond-Lafon has already produced a succession of splendid Sauternes, beginning with a great 1975 and just recently concluding with a monumental 1990.
Raymond-Lafon looks to be well on the road to becoming one of the great classic wines of Sauternes. Unfortunately, the wine is extremely difficult to find because of the tiny production and the fact that proprietor Pierre Meslier sells much of it to private clients in Europe. One must wonder why this vineyard, situated next to Yquem and surrounded by all the Premiers Crus Classés of Sauternes, was overlooked in the 1855 classification.
In Bordeaux, the heat resulted in early flowering. Also, this led to an early harvest after a very hot summer. As a starting point, there is great maturity in the grapes, and one can expect a more opulent vintage than in the last few years.
The summer this year has been the warmest since 1959, yet the rain has fallen at the right times during the growing season. The harvest took place two weeks before the norm and will yield grapes with high potential alcohol and the lowest acidity since the 2003 vintage. As they say in Bordeaux: "It has been a good and extreme growing season which hopefully also produces great wines".