Hold this thought: Sauternes is Not Just For Dessert!
Bordeaux has what’s called Portes Ouvertes (Open Door) weekends in most appellations once per month. Many of the wineries within the specific “open” appellation are available for degustation (tasting) without a prior reservation. Because châteaux require reservations, taking advantage of these weekends is a must for those interested in tasting.
We recently spent a Sunday in Sauternes, a sub region of the Graves area, with the couple who own our apartment. Sweet wines are mainly produced but oh, are these wines amazing!!! Here’s why-
Thanks to a fungus, Botrytis cinerea, a.k.a. noble rot, tightly packed bunches of grapes dehydrate, shrivel, and get fuzzy mold due to fall weather consisting of damp, misty mornings followed by warm afternoons. This combination causes the noble rot phenomenon to ensue. For winemakers, there is a financial gamble- will the perfect environmental conditions occur to cause the noble rot? Should the grapes be left on the vines past normal harvest time hoping it will occur? If it does, a Sauternes can be made.
The first winery visited, Château La Bouade is a 20-acre property, owned by the Pauly family since 1914. It’s what we consider a smaller, artisan châteaux; no hoity-toity business but a genuine desire for visitors to experience the wines in a low-key, enjoyable way. Two dynamic winemakers assumed management of the Châteaux in 2009 handling both the winemaking and vineyards.
Until this visit, we thought Sauternes wine was for dessert. It is, however, much more versatile than imagined as a food wine. It’s often drunk as an aperitif accompanied with an appetizer (oysters), or the classic pairing with Foie Gras. But how about spicy curries and Thai dishes, roasted nuts or grilled pineapple, to name a few.
This Châteaux brought a food truck in for the weekend…and we conveniently prolonged our visit. Chef Frédéric presented a pork and duck loaf served with spicy mustard and his house made gherkins, among other nibbles. Guess what? The acid in the wine cuts right through the richness and fat! A pairing we look forward to again. (See the bottom of this post for a list of wines tasted at La Bouade.)
Our next stop was Châteaux Closiot, where we tasted a handful of very nice wines. We particularly liked two: Châteaux Closiot (a blend of Sémillion, Sauvignon Gris, and Muscadelle), and Passion de Closiot (100% Sémillion). A nice amount of refreshing acidity in the Cloisiot made us want to grab tortilla chips with spicy guacamole. The more feminine “Passion” was richer with slightly less acidity. Anyone want to dip an almond biscotti?!?
Our final visit was at a Premiere Grand Cru Classe Château, Chateau Giraud. Unfortunately, our excitement diminished quickly as we were funneled to a row of tasting tables. Understandably, being one of eleven château to hold this designation meant more visitors. And with more visitors, this type of thing happens. The wine didn’t compare to our previous two visits and the tour was a yawn.
Drinking more of these wines with meals is definitely in our future- we look forward to attending the 2016 Portes Ouvertes in Sauternes! Any takers?
Interesting fact: Thomas Jefferson was an admirer of Sauternes wines and brought the famous D’Yquem back to the states with him on more than one occasion.
Château La Bouade wines tasted:
- Sweet Lady – an easier drinking blend of Sémillion and Sauvignon Blanc
- Cuvée Coccinelle or Ladybird – 100% Sémillion
- Cuvée Château – a blend of Sémillion and Sauvignon Blanc
- Clos Mercier – a blend of Sémillion, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle