What’s old is new…and in-style. Much better made and more readily available.
Sauternes is a famous, sweet wine from the Bordeaux region of France, that is emulated in other wine regions around the globe. But make no mistake, it should not just be sweet, it should have a “just right” acidity, that is imperceptible except that it makes the wine feel light and lively in spite of its richer body. Sauternes is a great partner for treats, desserts, and pates, and like Champagne, it seems festive.
Of course, if you have a favorite “dessert wine”, maybe from near where you live, by all means…serve it!
If you keep the bottle just below cellar temperature…50 degrees or a touch higher, or even at fridge temp, it will keep for days. Guests will appreciate a 2-3 ounce pour, and it will last for a week.
A half bottle of a well-made Sauternes can be found starting about $15-20 (Total Wine, Bev Mo and many local merchants).
One of the best know Sauternes from producers like Suduiraut, Guiraud or Rieussec, will sell for about $49 for a half bottle or $90 for a full bottle. I just picked up a couple of nice “everyday” half-bottles of Petit Guiraud (Guiraud’s 2nd wine) at Costco for only $9.99, and another 750ML bottle of 2009 Guiraud at Total Wine for $79.99.
If money is no object, the pinnacle of Sauternes, Chateau d’Yquem is currently starting at about $400. Expect to pay a lot more for aged bottles with known provenance, and good cellaring.
Great alternatives abound…Late Harvest and “Ice” wines- which are harvested after snowfall has set in and further shriveled and concentrated the grapes. Wines made from Semillon, Reisling, Shiraz, Vidal, Chardonnay, Cab Franc…and many more grapes, can be fabulous if there is enough acidity to balance the sweetness.
But what kind of food should you pair with it?
Sauterne makers would say…everything. I have tried that, and they have a point, but for most of us it might be a little much.
Traditionalists would say foie gras or Roquefort, which may not work with your diet or tastes, or could be a favorite, which it is for me. It sure works with Glazed Spare Ribs, Twice Cooked Pork, Sweet and Sour Pork, Chicken or Tofu, or… a Roast Chicken…all of which I will probably enjoy this season. Right now, I am preparing a chicken liver mousse with a Sauternes-Thyme Gelee on top..it’s a fantastic treat for Liver Pate lovers.
For me, Sauternes works with everything sweet that we prepared during the holidays when I was growing up.
I remember my mother baking with us, and our side table being loaded with sugar or butter cookies, rugelach, short bread, mincemeat tarts, custard tarts, fruit tarts, butter tarts, coffee cake, candies and other sweets ready for guests. Sauternes goes beautifully with all of that!
Here in Scottsdale, I order at a little shop called JL Patisserie, that bakes absolutely fantastic Napoleons (Mille-Feuille), crème brulee, financiers, croissants, macarons, fruit tarts and other surprises.
Along with some Walker’s shortbread, I’m ready if you stop by!