Sauternes is the icon of sweet Bordeaux wine, or even sweet French wine in general. Produced in the Sauternais region of Graves area in Bordeaux, this nectar offers an extremely sweet and buttery palate and pairs well with French staples such as foie gras and blue cheese. The sweet wine is usually a blend of sémillon and sauvignon blanc (and sometimes muscadelle).
So what makes this wine so special? You can read about it below with a glass of your own Sauternes. And here’s our recommendation: Château Guiraud Sauternes Grand Cru Classé 2004.
How is Sauternes made?
Sauternes is created when the grapes are grown with a “benevolent fungus” called botrytis cinerea, otherwise known as noble rot. The fungus concentrates the sugar and acid in the juice of the grapes, allowing the fermented wine to transform into an intensely rich juice. The wine is prevented from tasting excessively sweet through the strong flavours and acidity.
The Sauternes wine emits a golden, yellow, orange colour so beautiful that it makes you feel like you’re in a royal French castle. Some wine experts believe that the wine’s more complex and mature flavours are only brought out when the wine develops the colour of an old copper coin.
As soon as you open a bottle of Sauternes, a bouquet of sweet aromas will envelope your nose. Typical aromas you may find are apricot, honey, butterscotch, peach, mango, honeydew, marmalade and nuts—upon which you’ll realise that you’re drooling uncontrollably.
When you take a sip, the taste will not disappoint your anticipating nose. Primarily, you’ll taste the honeyed apricot and other sweet fruity flavours that you can find in the nose. What brings it to another level is the mix of nuts, fig, ginger, salted caramel, spices (vanilla) as well as buttery toast (brioche), that balances the full-sweetness. The finish is long and the extreme sweetness resonates on the palate. Overall, the beautiful blend of sweet and earthy notes are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
A classic pairing with Sauternes is with foie gras (duck/goose liver), where the buttery, beefy smooth texture of the foie gras melts in your mouth together with the sweet wine. Cheeses such as Livarot (washed rind cheese – soft and pungent) and Roquefort (blue cheese) also make the Sauternes stand out, while creating a perfect balance on the palate.
Sauternes is a good dessert on its own already, but it goes well with other desserts as well. This can range from ripe fruits such as peaches and nectarines, fruit tarts, lemon-flavoured cakes and creamy desserts such as crème brûlée.
Serving Temperature and Aging
The Bordeaux sweet wine is best served cold at around 10°C, but more mature Sauternes (older than 15 years) are often served a bit warmer. Interestingly, the wine is one of the longest-lived wines, where some exceptional vintages have the potential to age beyond 100 years.
The price of these Sauternais wines are in the upper range of the spectrum. This is because it’s extremely labour-intensive to produce Sauternes and the yield is low. Grapes must be hand-picked and workers have to go through the vineyard numerous times to select the grapes infected by botrytis. Production is a hit-or-miss too: some years, bad weather during harvest season may decrease the yield of the botrytis-infected grapes. Generally, only 2 – 4 vintages per decade make decent Sauternes!
Having said that, 8 May is International Sweet Wine Day – the perfect day to celebrate with a bottle of Sauternes! Purchase our amazing Château Guiraud Sauternes while stocks last!