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For Sweetness Sake

The ”other” Bordeaux wine. Sauternes has always been Bordeaux’s wallflower. All of the other appellations in the famed French wine region are comparable to some degree, but Sauternes stands alone and too often gets overlooked. We shine the spotlight on Sauternes today, with two mixed cases of very highly rated sweet wines that don’t cost a fortune and bring nothing but indulgent fun to every table of food.

Dear Reader,

The sweet wines of Sauternes happen to be some of the world’s longest-living wines, with the ability to sit happy in a cellar and outlive most of us. But, they are only made possible by particular local growing conditions, a special kind of fungus and winemaking technique.

Situated in the southwestern corner of Bordeaux’s left bank, Sauternes vineyards get blanketed by mist that forms along the River Ciron during autumn evenings, and which last until a little after dawn. It is during this time that a special kind of mould known as Botrytis cinerea, or most commonly ”noble rot”, forms on the grapes of Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle, and then proceeds to multiply during the course of the day when temperatures rise. This noble rot shrinks the grape skins, turning them brown and concentrating the juices inside. Harvesting these grapes is a costly exercise as it requires teams of pickers passing through the vineyards several times over between September and October to hand-select grapes at the optimal moment.

Production levels of Sauternes are painstakingly low. The average annual production at the most famous of the Sauternes estates, Château d’Yquem, is around 100,000 bottles. A classed growth estate in the Médoc produces at least three times this amount each year. As an aside, Sauternes was the only area outside of the Médoc to be classed in 1855. Five communes, including Sauternes itself, are entitled to use the name on the wine label. Barsac, the largest of these communes, has the choice of labelling wines either Sauternes or Barsac.

Below we have two mixed cases of Sauternes available. The one is dedicated to the legendary Château de Fargues, which is run by the Lur-Saluces family who used to own Yquem. The second case is comprised of a handful of top estates and across vintages. All of the wines have been rated very highly and we include mention of these points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate below.

Château de Fargues 6-bottle case

Château de Fargues Lur-Saluces Sauternes 1998
x 3 bottles – 94 pts. RP

Château de Fargues Lur-Saluces Sauternes 2005
x 3 bottles – 95 pts. RP

R 8,970

Only 3 cases available

Sauternes and Barsac 6-bottle case

Château Coutet Sauternes-Barsac 2015 (375ml)
x 2 bottles- 95 pts. RP

Château Doisy Daëne Barsac 2014
x 1 bottle – 95-97 pts. RP

Château Doisy-Védrines Sauternes 2014
x 1 bottle – 94-96 pts. RP

Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes 2007
x 1 bottle – 93 pts. RP

Château Rieussec Sauternes 2011
x 1 bottle – 95 pts. RP

R 3,835

Only 10 cases available

Pairing food with Sauternes

We understand that not everyone is a fan of sweeter styles of wine, but Sauternes is not just any sweet wine. They offer incredible qualitative value and, as mentioned already, age wonderfully. We highly recommend picking up some wine today and planning some meals with family and friends. When it comes to the younger Sauternes, have these as an apéritif and then keep the older ones for meal time. Young Sauternes has taut acidity and lots of freshness, while the older wines have evolved and become more complex and layered.

Here are some food pairing suggestions:
Thin slices of Parma ham or jamón ibérico puro – marriage of salty and sweet!
Pizza! The tomato’s acidity is balanced by the wine’s sweetness.
Spicy food. The sugar in Sauternes stands up well to the heat of Thai, Indian cuisine etc.
You can’t go wrong with oysters. Dress them with something spicy and crispy shallots and enjoy with a younger vintage of Sauternes.

So, for sweetness sake, make sure to add some Sauternes to your cellar – it deserves a space in it.