© 1998, Robert M. Parker, Jr., pour l'édition originale - © 1999, Editions Solar, Paris, pour la version française

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.


Vintages :

1990 (95) - The 1990 may be the most complete and richest of recent Raymond-Lafon. It possesses a light to medium gold color, with massive, full-bodied, honeyed flavors. Anticipated maturity : 2002-2025. Last tasted 3/96.


1989 (91+) - The 1989 exhibits aromas of honeyed pineapple/tropical fruit and toasty new oak, as well as an exotic, flashy perfume that is not as pronounced in either the 1990 or 1988. The 1989 exhibits less botrytis than the other two vintages. All three wines share opulent, full-bodied, exotic, Iavishly rich personalities, moderate sweetness (the 1990 is the sweetest), and huge quantities of extract, glycerin, and alcohol in their finishes. The 1990 appears to be the richest. Anticipated maturity : 2000-2025. Last tasted, 3/96.


1988 (92+) - The 1988 offers the most refined aromatic profile and the tightest structure, and the 1989 tastes the most restrained. All of these wines can be drunk now, but purchasers are advised to wait until the turn of the century and enjoy them over the following 2 decades. Last tasted, 11/94.


1987 (84) - Very light, with straightforward, fruity, slightly sweet flavors, this would make an attractive but lowbrow apéritif wine. It does not have the requisite weight, sweetness, or complexity to stand by itself as a dessert wine. Anticipated maturity: Now. Last tasted, 4/91.


1986 (92) - It is hard to believe this wine will eclipse the great 1983, but the differences in the two wines are negligible. I do not believe the 1986 makes quite the impact on the palate that the huge, massive 1983 does, but there is a great deal of botrytis and a profound, penetrating fragrance of sautéed pineapple, vanillin, toast, and honeyed peaches. In the mouth, the wine is more streamlined than the 1983, but lusciously rich and full bodied, with very good acidity and a creamy, intense finish. It will be interesting to compare the 1983 and 1986 as they evolve. My guess is that the 1986 will age faster. Anticipated maturity : Now-2012. Last tasted, 3/90.


1985 (87) - This is one of the best 1985s I have tasted from Sauternes. It is rich and full, and although there is a general absence of any botrytis, the quality of the fruit is impeccably high. There is plenty of citrusy, pear-, peach-, and apricot- scented fruit backed up by some vague notes of roasted almonds. This is a delicious 1985 that should evolve gracefully. Anticipated maturity : Now-2002. last tasted, 3/90.