One of the oldest producers in Sauternes, Château Coutet is a Premier Cru based in Barsac. Dating back to the 13th century, its name, derived from the Gascon word for “knife,” represents the wine’s characteristic crispness and acidity, which was declared the best of Sauternes by American President and oenophile, Thomas Jefferson.
In the 17th century, the estate was owned by politician Charles le Guerin, who later passed it on to his nephew, Jean le Pichard. But the impact of the French Revolution led to the Château being taken over by the state, with its then-owner and President of the Bordeaux Parliament, Gabriel-Barthelmy-Romain de Filhot, being beheaded. Ultimately inherited by Marquis Romain Bertrand de Lur Saluces, a descendant of de Filhot, it became one of four important châteaux in the family – Château d’Yquem, Château Filhot and Château de Malle being the other three – making de Lur Saluces the largest producer of sweet white wines at the time.
The de Lur Saluces family owned the estate until the early 20th century, when they sold it to Henry-Louis Guy, who separated it from Château d’Yquem. Guy, a wine press manufacturer, brought his hydraulic vertical presses to the estate which are still used to this day. 1977 brought the Baly family to Coutet, and they continue to hold ownership. However, in 1994, the Château signed over exclusive distribution rights to Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A.
Coutet dedicates most of the land to Sémillon, with small amounts to Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc. Typical of Sauternes, the soil is a mix of clay and limestone, and the maritime climate fosters the noble rot process whereby the Botrytis Cinerea mold is carefully used to eliminate the water content and heighten the concentrated sweetness of the grape.
Average production is around 4,500 cases of the Grand Vin, with a second wine, Chartreuse de Coutet, also produced from younger wines. A premier wine, Cuvée Madame de Château Coutet, is produced only when the quality of the harvest permits. Crafted fruit-by-fruit, it may reach 700 cases per annum when produced.
Similar to Château d’Yquem, Château Coutet is almost as famous for its architecture as it is its wine. Its signature square tower is thought to have been erected in the 13th century, as it is reminiscent of designs popular during the English occupation of the 12th century. The estate also includes a 14th century style chapel and two 16th century style towers. As such, history abounds at the estate, both in product and property.