In Bordeaux along the Garonne River, you will find a micro climate so distinct that it is one of the few places in the world that can produce the most illustrious and luscious sweet wines. Sweet Bordeaux wines can enhance and liven a holiday party. These wines can be served as a cocktail, an aperitif or paired with dinner and enjoyed all the way through dessert. These sweet wines are elegant luxurious wines that are a perfect compliment for the holidays and can be drunk year round.
Sweet Bordeaux Appellations
Some of the most greatest wines of the world are sweet wines and many are from the Bordeaux region. Bordeaux has been making some of the greatest sweet wines for centuries(think Chateau d’Yquem). Bordeaux’s major sweet wine producing sites are along both sides of the Garonne River. Most widely known are the wines from Sauternes and Barsac but high quality sweet wines are made in surrounding regions as well. 10 appellations make sweet wines, which include Sauternes, Barsac, Graves Superior, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Loupiac, Cadillac, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Côtes de Bordeaux Saint-Macaire, Cérons, and Bordeaux Supérieur. These AOCs share one common goal and that is to produce the highest quality wines in a range of styles and price points.
Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle are the three main grape varietals used to produce sweet Bordeaux wines. Sémillon is the key grape as it is particularly susceptible to Botrytis. Sémillon provides the power and richness on the palate with its honey and apricot notes. Sauvignon Blanc adds exotic fruit flavors and acidity and the rare grape Muscadelle adds floral and fruit aromas to the blend.
The Garrone and Ciron Rivers provide a very unique and special climate that is exclusively found in the southern region of Bordeaux. The difference in the temperature of these two rivers creates a climate where there is a cool morning mist and fog, and then as the day progresses there is a transition to sunny warm afternoons. This microclimate is extremely conducive for Botrytis. Botrytis, also known as Noble Rot is a fungus that infects the grapes and causes the grapes to shrivel and dry, leaving behind deeply concentrated grapes.
What makes these wines so special is the care, the hand selection and the attention to detail that goes into harvesting the grapes. During harvest each grape(yes each grape not cluster) is picked one at a time. Only those grapes that are ready for picking are harvested. There are several passes made in the vineyards, picking only the best most perfectly shriveled, concentrated grape. Harvest can last several weeks, as there are several passes being made in the fields. If there is such a thing as a custom, hand crafted wines, sweet Bordeauxs are it.
Traditionally sweet wines have always been thought of as dessert wines, but I encourage you to try these wines on their own or paired throughout your meal. The sweet wines of Bordeaux come in a range of styles, due to various microclimates, soils, terroir, and winemaking techniques, making them versatile with many different cuisines. I recently had dinner with the effervescent Berenice Lurton, winemaker and owner of the prestigious Chateau Climens in Barsac. We shared the most enjoyable dinner paired entirely with various vintages of Chateau Climens from beginning to end. We tasted through several vintages of her wines, which are made with 100% Sémillon. Berenice was quite passionate about her wine pairings. She prefers to avoid the term “dessert wines” when referring to Sauternes or Barsac. Berenice stressed that the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac are elegant enough to drink on their own or paired with a meal.
So by now I am sure I have you thinking that I am going to suggest pairing a Sauternes with your Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pies? So I ask you why not? The sweetness and acidity of the wines will pair perfectly with the savory elements of a roasted turkey.
Sweet Bordeaux wines are known to pair with foie gras and bold cheeses, but I encourage you to experiment with other dishes. Sweet wines pair well with spicy Asian dishes, they also pair delectably with Peking duck. One of my new favorite pairings that I recently enjoyed was Chateau Lauvignac Cuvee Sahuc 2014 paired with crispy fried chicken. I especially enjoyed the sweet elements of these wines paired with a savory dish. Also consider pairing Sauternes with seafood, like salmon and oysters.
I recently had the opportunity to taste eight sweet seductive wines with Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth via a virtual online tasting lead by by wine educator Fred Swan and Snooth’s co-founder Mark Angelillo. It was a wonderful opportunity to taste, chat, tweet and explore these beautifully elegant wines with other wine lovers. Below you will find my tasting notes and reviews of the various wines we tasted. All the wines had distinct styles and flavor profiles, there is sure to be one that you will enjoy this holiday season. If you want to explore sweet Bordeaux wines more in depth, click on the link here to listen in on the fun and informative tasting.
This holiday season, stock up on your sweet Bordeaux wines for entertaining and for gifting. Keep in mind sweet Bordeaux wines are perfect any time of the year, so enjoy, explore and sip away. Cheers!
This wine comes from the Cadillac region of Bordeaux. It is primarily Sémillon with a touch of Muscadelle. The wine has a bright beautiful golden color, with tropical notes of honey, pear, baked apple, apricot and spice. The sugar level was relatively low and felt even less sweet on the palate due to the bright acidity. The wine was an elegant, fresh, lighter style of sweet Bordeaux wines.
This wine was unique and special because Sainte Croix du Mont is the highest appellation in the area. Its slopes are aggressive and steep. The soils are limestone and clay which gives the wine its great acidity and minerality. This wine is made with 100% Sémillon. It has wonderful floral notes on the nose. Spicy notes take over the palate with hints of tropical fruit and flowers. The wine has great acidity and a full mouthfeel. A wonderfully rich and elegant wine with dried fruit on the finish.
This wine is a blend of 5% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Muscadelle, and 90% Sémillon. This is a lighter style sweet wine that is fresh and clean. There are notes of stone fruit and peach on the palate. There are hints of dried apricots and honey, which are classic indicators of Botrytis.
Our second wine from Loupiac is made with 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 70% Sémillon. There were hints of candied orange peel with nice zippy acidity. There was a prominent presence of orange zest, spice and floral notes. A wonderful elegant wine that was lighter in style.
This wine was also on the lighter side. Made with 85% Sémillon, 10% Muscadelle and 5% Sauvignon Blanc. It was lighter in style and personality. It had a nice floral and fruit nose due to the high amount of Muscadelle. A light elegant wine with finesse and style.
The wine is made with 100% Sémillon grapes. It had tremendous acidity and incredible mouthfeel. The Lapinesse has notes of stone fruit, honeysuckle and melon. The wine was lively, balanced and extremely food friendly. It can be paired with cheeses, turkey, foie gras and many more.
This wine has a wonderful richness on the palate, made with 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. It has nice round fruit flavors of apricot, pears, and orange peel. A wonderful wines to pair with savory dishes or a chunky aged cheese.
This is a classic luxurious Sauternes with a few years of aging. It is incredibly ripe and aromatic. There is a wonderful creaminess and nice complexity. Not overly sweet due to the bright and lively acidity. There are lovely hints of apricot, lychee, and peaches. The wine is rich with nice fruit and spice on the palate.