Château Rieussec was originally owned by monks, though after the French Revolution it was confiscated from the church and sold off at public auction. In the 20th century this First Growth of the Sauternes-Barsac had numerous owners, including Albert Vuillier, who purchased the property in 1971 and many made improvements, such as increasing the use of new oak. Though the sweet dessert wines of Chateau Rieussec always had an excellent reputation, quality improved under Vuillier and the current owners, Domaines Barons de Rothschild. Located in Fargues, the chateau includes 186 acres planted to 90% Semillon, 6% Sauvignon Blanc, and 4% Muscadelle. Oak for the fermentation barrels come from the Château Lafite cooperage. About 6,000 cases of Château Rieussec are produced annually.
Sauternes makes the world’s most famous dessert wines. Though the appellation lies within the Graves region of Bordeaux’s left bank, the appellation makes only sweet wines from white grapes, primarily Semillon sometimes blended with small amounts of Muscadelle. The five communes within Sauternes are Barsac, Bommes, Fargues, Preignac and Sauternes. Barsac also has its own appellation and, typically, Barsac wines are slightly drier and lighter than other Sauternes. Sauternes are made when weather conditions result in a mold called Botrytis cinerea developing on the grapes, which causes them to become especially sweet. Sauternes are not produced every vintage, so successful vintages become especially collectible. Sauternes estates were classified in 1855, and Château d’Yquem, the appellation’s most prestigious estate, was ranked in a class by itself as a Premier Grand Cru. Château d’Yquem wines are among the most prized wines in the world.