My last two wine posts have each featured examples of the red wine blends for which the famous French wine-growing region of Bordeaux is especially well known. There are also excellent white wines produced in Bordeaux, but they make up only around ten percent of the total wine yield. Like the reds, though, they are chiefly produced as blends, rather than single varietal wines, with the permitted grapes being Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle.
Some Bordeaux white blends are quite crisp and acidic (those will often have Sauvignon Blanc as the dominant varietal), but the region is especially renowned for its sweet desert wines with Sémillon as the primary grape. This varietal is susceptible to a fungus known as Botrytis cinerea, which the French call the ‘noble rot’, and this interesting fungus causes the grapes to wither like raisins and this concentrates the natural sugars to produce a very sweet wine with a very long ageing potential.
One of the wine making districts especially known for its sweet white Bordeaux blends is the Sauternes AOC. Indeed, this district is home to the world-famous Chateau d’Yqem, which has been producing wine since at least 1711. In 2011, one these famed sweet whites dating back to 1811 was sold for a staggering $117,000.00, which is, I think, still the most expensive bottle yet sold. Now, the Sauternes I am featuring today is not quite in the same class as that 1811 Chateau d’Yquem pricewise, but I paid $57.25 for my bottle and was a bit surprised, when it arrived, to discover it was a 375ml bottle rather than the standard 750ml size, which I believe makes it the most expensive wine I have ever purchased outside of a restaurant…
Anyway, this delightful wine contains a startling 120 grams of sugar per liter and is, as you can guess, exceedingly sweet, with only a low moderate acidity as an offset, and a very heavy, almost syrupy mouthfeel. The nose is very aromatic with golden apple, slightly sour apricot and raisin, honey, almond shells, light toast and a faint hint of sweet varnish. There was also a very faint hint of something I couldn’t quite identify, but which I can only describe as being a bit like well-aged Balsamic Vinegar, for want of any better comparison.
On the palate, there is Apricot jam, honey and barley sugar, along with a touch of lemon and almond and, on the whole, the effect is very rich and complex. I am not a big imbiber of desert wines, or very sweet wines of any sort usually, but I did not begrudge the price I paid for sampling a special wine from this prestigious AOC and I very much enjoyed the experience.