A wine loving group of top sommeliers, wine writers like myself, and movers and shakers in the wine business recently sipped eight sweet Bordeaux wines during our virtual tasting and chat with Fred Swan, renowned wine educator, and the powers that be at Snooth. As you may expect, we learned a wealth of fascinating information about the region, the producers, and the palate profile of the wines. I had my fair share of “ah-ha!” moments, one in particular: Sweet Bordeaux is meant to be enjoyed with a plethora of foods, not just those for dessert!
Mon Dieu!! Who knew?? For savvy wine aficionados, this trend is quickly becoming a tradition. I’m in!
A Quick Sweet Bordeaux Overview
Sauternes, the most recognizable region for sweet Bordeaux wines, is located southeast from the center of Bordeaux and towards the southern end of Graves. The area, with about 2000 hectares of vineyards, includes five communes, each with their own terroir. The small chateaux of Sauternes, Barsac, Bommes, Fragues, and Preignac produce almost 500,000 cases per year; Sauternes and Barsac produce the most wines and tend to be quite expensive.
The wines our group tasted were not only from Sauternes, but from other sweet wine regions in Bordeaux: Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Loupiac, Cadillac, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Graves Supérieures, Côtes de Bordeaux Saint-Macaire, Cérons, and Bordeaux Supérieur. In these wines we found incredible value and an exceptional palate profile.
By law, only white grapes Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle may be produced in sweet Bordeaux wines. The vast majority in the blend is of thin-skinned Semillon, a difficult grape to grow. However, it’s optimal for producing sweet wine thanks to its ability to withstand attacks of botrytis. Sauvignon Blanc adds a fair amount of freshness and food friendly acidity to the sweet wines of Bordeaux. Often, a hint of Muscadelle, a grape appreciated for its floral notes, is added to the final blend.
What puts the “sweet” in Sweet Bordeaux? Botrytis Cineria, also known as noble rot, is a “good” fungus that grows on ripe grapes in the vineyard when conditions are humid and warm. In this region, the fungus attacks the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, causing them to shrivel like a raisin, resulting in a rich concentration of flavors, acidity, and sugars.
Sweet Bordeaux and Food Pairings
A luscious, chilled Sweet Bordeaux is found in a variety of styles and flavors. Notes of citrus, nuts, dried fruit, minerality, earth, and honey are just a few descriptors of the wines I tasted. A common misconception is that Sweet Bordeaux, with its high sugar content, should only be paired with dessert. Not so fast! You’ll now find me complementing salty cheeses, spicy foods, smoked meat, my favorite fish and chicken dishes, rich and savory appetizers, and perhaps my favorite, Foie Gras, with a lovely bottle of Sweet Bordeaux. I’ll be making this trend my new tradition.
Following is a brief note of each memorable wine and a link to its producer’s website for more information. Start your new tradition now!
Château Manos Cadillac 2015 ($12.99) – Pure aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, apricot, honey, pineapples, apples, and pears were refreshing and complex.
Château du Cros Loupiac 2014 ($15) – A delicate nose and palate with notes of fresh stone and tropical fruits, green tea, and jasmine led to a long clean finish.
Château La Rame Sainte Croix du Mont 2014 ($20) – I craved each sip of this incredibly balanced Sweet Bordeaux with its rich notes of oak, ripe pineapple, juicy fruit and bright acidity.
Château Filhot Sauternes 2009 ($40) – A high quality sweet wine boasted ripe, flavorful notes of apricot, oak, and sugar without losing its acidity.
Château Lapinesse Bordeaux Sauternes 2014 ($39.99) – Flowers, beeswax, yellow peaches, melon, apricot, and brilliant acidity came through with each sip of this balanced wine.
Château Lauvignac Cuvee Sahucs Sauternes ($18.99) – Honey and acacia, finesse and balance converged to present a brilliant and refreshing palate profile and a lingering finish.
Château Dauphine Rondillon Loupiac ($28) – Notes of dried apricots, earth, smoke, and minerality were structured and balanced.
Haut Charmes Sauternes 2015 ($20) – Soft, elegant notes of candied fruit, apricots, and honey led to a rich mouthfeel and a lasting finish.
Cheers! ~ Cindy