French Dessert Wine

Bordeaux Region Sauternes is a region of Bordeaux, France, and is well known for its sweet white wines. There are five villages in Graves that make this wine style - Sauternes, Barsac, Preignac, Fargues, and Bommes.

This region is located near a river, and the resulting misty conditions helps breed a "noble rot" - pourriture noble. This is a type of fungus. Early winemakers found that this rot turned the flavor of the grapes into a rich, honey flavor, with a deep brown color. This wine can age almost indefinitely.
Sauternes Riedel wine glass
Sauternes are primary made with the semillon grape, along with small amounts of sauvignon and muscadelle.

It is difficult to make a Sauternes. The rot must be of just the right level, and only the most affected grapes are picked. The grapes get up to 14% alcohol in them - this kills off the yeast, leaving behind much of the sugar that normally would be fermented away.

Flavors in sauternes range from apricot, peach, pineapple, and vanilla. The wines are smooth and creamy. More so than many other wine types, vintage in Sauternes is extremely important. The weather conditions can make or break and entire year's crop in this region.

"First Great Growth" (Premier Cru Supérieur) of Sauternes-Barsac (1855):

"First Growths" (Premiers Crus) of Sauternes-Barsac (1855):
  • Château La Tour-Blanche (Bommes)
  • Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey (Bommes)
  • Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey (Bommes)
  • Château de Rayne-Vigneau (Bommes)
  • Château Suduiraut (Preignac)
  • Château Coutet (Barsac)
  • Château Climens (Barsac)
  • Château Guiraud (Sauternes)
  • Château Rieussec (Fargues)
  • Château Rabaud-Promis (Bommes)
  • Château Sigalas-Rabaud (Bommes)

Sauternes should be served in small glasses at 52F. They are normally drunk on their own as a dessert, but they can also pair well with fruit pastries or mild cheese.

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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.