Trying new wines can be fun, but it can also be a bit overwhelming if you're new to the wine world. It can take many years and many bottles of wine to get a feel for the different varieties and the subtle nuances for the same type of wine in an appellation, the protected geographical location, legally defined, that is used to identify where the grapes for a specific wine were grown. Experimenting is half the fun, though. Most beginners eventually tire of the familiar chardonnays, Rieslings, Cabernets, and other more common wines. These are certainly worthwhile and valuable wines, and they are all perfect introductory wines, but sooner or later, the would-be oenophile or wine lover, wants to expand his or her horizons and start trying less popular types. Here is a primer on Sauternes.
What Is A Sauternes?
Sauternes, pronounced "sew-tairn," is a sweet white wine from the Bordeaux region of southwestern France. It is often referred to as a dessert wine because of is sugar content. A Sauternes is made from three different types of grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle. A sauterne is a similar wine produced in the United States.
Sauternes production also utilizes "noble rot." This is caused by the fungus Bortrytis cinereal. Grapes are left on the vine past when they would normally be harvested, and this is when, if climatic conditions are right, the fungus sets in. This fungus isn't a guarantee; it must be consistently cool and foggy for it to appear, making some vintages better than others. The grapes begin drying, becoming like raisins on the vine. They lose water but retain the sugar content, giving a Sauternes its sweet taste and higher alcohol content. Because the grapes have less water, however, more grapes are required to produce a bottle, hence the higher price point. The luscious, succulent result is well worth it.
What Does A Sauternes Taste Like?
Each vintner and each year will produce a different result, but in general, a Sauternes will be sweet, with undertones of honey, peaches, apricots, and a slightly, vague nutty flavor.
How Is A Sauternes Served?
A Sauternes, like most white wines, should be served chilled. However, you don't want it ice cold like other white wines or Champagne. Take it out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving, and don't put it in an ice bucket. It pairs well with smoked or spicy foods, Roquefort cheese, and raw oysters. It is meant to be sipped.