Over the years, sweet wines have fallen out of fashion. Unfortunately, this means many people are missing out on exceptional dessert wines and are unfamiliar with the tips and tricks to best experience this sippable treat. Read on to learn all about France’s favorite dessert wine: Sauternes.

Sauternes: A Background on the French Dessert Wine of Choice

Many consider Sauternes to be the best sweet wine in the world, and at somMailier, we tend to agree. Famous oenophiles of history, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, loved this sweet white wine from Bordeaux.

The appellation of Sauternes lies between the Garonne River and the Landes Pine Forest. The majority of the vineyards in this area remain family-owned and operated and have been for generations. For example, Patrick and Hervé Lamothe of Château Haut Bergeron come from a long line of winemakers and are the 8th generation in Bordeaux. The 4-hectare plot of land that their delicious dessert wine, L’ilot de Haut Bergeron, has been in the family since 1990.

Grapes with Noble Rot: A necessary part of making Sauternes

The Making of Sauternes

This luscious French dessert wine comes from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes. Even though the wine ends up tasting sweet with notes of honey, its beginnings are less glamorous. A fungus called botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot, plays a key role in the making of Sauternes.

The fungus attacks the grape’s skin, making tiny holes that dehydrate the grapes, resulting in more concentrated sugar levels. While the noble rot leads to some unattractive looking grape clusters, once vinified, the resulting wine boasts gorgeous, deep, golden hues.

Sauternes Tasting Notes & Aging

Tasting Notes & Aging

Typical tasting notes of Sauternes include apricot, honey, peaches, ginger, tropical fruit, honeysuckle, butterscotch, and toasted baking spices. Fresh acidity to balance out the sweetness of the dessert wine in addition to a decent amount of alcohol makes Sauternes delightfully complex.

Depending on the vintage, Sauternes can be aged from 5 to 40+ years and sometimes even over 100 years. As the wine ages, the golden-yellow color deepens and darkens. Some wine experts even believe this dessert wine begins to truly develop its more complex, mature flavors once the color reaches a copper color.

Serving Sauternes

How to Serve Sauternes

Like most white wines, Sauternes should be served chill. A temperature range of 42-50F (6-10C) is ideal.

Before you pour a glass of Sauternes, be aware that large servings of sweet dessert wines can overwhelm your palate. The ideal serving size is around 2 ounces for you to sip and savor. As a result, dessert wine glasses tend to be smaller. Sauternes glasses tend to be curved to emphasize the aromas of the wine.

Since the serving size for dessert wines is smaller than that of other wines, it’s not unusual to not be able to finish the bottle during one meal. Due to the high sugar and alcohol content of the wine, Sauternes lasts longer than the average wine after opening. Re-cork the bottle and keep it in your refrigerator to prolong its lifetime. This will allow you to save the wine for at least 5 days and even up to several weeks.

What to Pair with Sauternes - Dessert Wine from France

What to Pair with Sauternes

Rich, sweet, and complex, Sauternes makes a phenomenal dessert when sipped all on its own, but it can also be great paired with food.

One of the biggest mistakes people make with Sauternes is believing that the dessert wine should be paired with a sweet dessert. The key to pairing Sauternes with food is contrast and balance. Due to the high levels of sugar in the wine, you should avoid pairing it with rich, sweet desserts. Instead, opt for cheesecake, lemon tart, or meringue to provide enough balance and complexity when serving Sauternes with your dessert course.

The classic pairing for Sauternes is foie gras in a tart sauce where the meaty, rich, buttery food contrasts and balances the sweet wine. Because Sauternes strikes a balance of sweetness and acidity, it pairs well with savory dishes, including roast chicken, blue cheese and spicy cuisine. You can also match this wine with Chinese and other Asian dishes such as lacquered pork. Fresh fruits will also go very well with young Sauternes. According to Food & Wine, “dishes with components that are creamy (cream sauces, high-fat cheeses), salty (cured hams), briny (seafood), mineral (oysters), acidic (lemons) and even spicy (chiles) make fine matches. Similarly, the right textures cut through the wine’s honey-like body: dense, flavorful fruits (pineapples, apricots), beef, meaty fish and crunchy fried foods all do the job beautifully.”

Sauternes - (sweet) – L’Ilot de Haut Bergeron 2016

Enjoy a Taste of Sauternes

Interested in trying this luscious treat or ordering a few bottles for your cellar? We only have a few bottles left of the Sauternes – L’ilot de Haut Bergeron 2016 for $38/bottle.

As always, you can combine this offer with other wines from our wine cellar to take advantage of our free shipping offer on any orders of 12+ bottles. Less than 1,000 cases of this wine are produced per year, and we have limited inventory remaining in our somMailier wine cellar. Click here to order now!

Want to learn more about French wine? We’re here to help! Why not check out our French wine club? Every three months we send direct to your door three, six, or twelve bottles of boutique French wines which have been carefully selected by wine experts in France along with detailed information about each wine and food pairing ideas to help you really discover French wine. And as if that wasn’t enough, we also have a wine club gift option for that special wine lover in your life! For the perfect last minute gift, send one of our digital gift cards.

We are also offering free shipping on 12-bottle orders within the continental US (including our 12-bottle Club Et Voila and Et Voila Gift options). We are also offering 50% off shipping of 12-bottle orders to Hawaii. Mix and match your favorites from our wine cellar, or stock up with 12 bottles of your favorite.

Julia is happy to help with any custom orders. Please reach out to her via email at julia@sommailier.com.