Sweet Bordeaux Wines Get Savory Pairings #Winophiles

golden Bordeaux sweet wines Loupiac Sainte-Croix-du-MontBordeaux wines with sweetness extend far beyond the famous appellations of Sauternes and its neighbor Barsac. Although together they grab 48% of the spotlight, there are eight other areas in Bordeaux delivering super wines with varying levels of sweetness. Also referred to as golden wines, you may not know they all pair particularly well with a variety of savory foods.

An important reason for that fact is this: their styles are as diverse as their amounts of residual sugar. Even though all the styles- from semi-dry to sticky sweet- are indeed nice with dessert, their spectrum of acidity and rainbow of flavors give us many food choices. Have I piqued your interest?!?

If yes, you’re just in time! If no, I hope we convince you, we being the French #Winophiles group who are tasting and talking sweet Bordeaux wines this month. Linda from My Full Wine Glass shares a nice overview of the ten appellations in her preview article here. And scroll down for a list of November articles from the group. We’ve had a lot of fun thinking out of the pairing box this month thus recipes and ideas galore!

Before I get to the wines and savory food examples let’s talk about what makes these wines sweet.

Golden Wines are a consequence of noble rot, also known as botrytis. It thrives under certain conditions: moist and humid autumn mornings where mist develops followed by warm and dry afternoons. This phenomenon often occurs near creeks, streams and rivers in or next to valleys where fog accumulates. It’s essential the afternoons warm up enough to dissipate the mist which limits fungus grown and warms up the grapes. If it remains too moist, botrytis turns into the undesirable gray rot and the harvest is lost.

Botrytis, aka Noble Rot is a fungusBotrytis attacks grapes by sinking through the grape skin drawing water out. As the grapes shrivel, their sugar content is concentrated. The process is dependent upon the weather and level of botrytis that develops in the vineyards from August to October or November in the northern hemisphere. The quality of the vintage depends on what happens in the vineyard during this time. These wines are a consequence of botrytis.

The primary grapes used to make them are Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, and depending on the appellation, other white grapes too.

Above I mentioned these wines come in a variety of sweetness levels from semi-dry to sweet. They fall into two styles:

Moelleux (m’wah-lou) – From the French word meaning soft and mellow, these are a combination of ripe, over ripe and some noble rot grapes. The wines contain less than 45 g/L of residual sugar. Expect fruitier, lighter and less sweet wines. Sometimes they are labeled semi-dry.

Liquoreux – Harvesting botrytized grapes is an arduous process with several passes to ensure only grapes with ultimate noble rot are harvested. Grapes always contain more than 45 g/L of residual sugar. As a comparison, Coke has about 108 g/L of sugar per can. Depending on the location of the vineyard, some grapes have higher acidity that makes the wine seem less sweet. All liquoreux wines tend to be more complex with overall sweetness depending on the level of botrytis in a given vintage.

The winemaker’s goal with both styles is balancing acidity and residual sugar such that flavors seamlessly sing. This doesn’t always happen but when it does, it makes them favorably versatile food wines.

Pairing Golden Wines With FoodComplementing and Contrasting

Sauternes and salty, blue-vein cheeses like Roquefort are a classic contrast of flavors that works with every level of golden Bordeaux. If the blues aren’t your thing, stronger washed-rind cheese like Tallegio or Époisses work as long as you don’t mind the stink. Others that play well with include Manchego, Parmegiano Regianno, Brie and aged Gouda.

food wine pairing sweet Bordeaux

Mini cauliflower cheesecake are quite delicious with sweet wines of Bordeaux!

Savory cheesecake or flan made small and served as pop in your mouth appetizers are super. Adding flavors that echo those in the wine (coconut, vanilla, lemongrass and dates, to name a few) combined with the soft mouth feel of both the wine and food works well. Or contrasting flavors like the cheeses mentioned above, or some found in Asian cuisine.

Here, the cauliflower cheesecakes are set on wheat toast rounds, topped with whipped Gorgonzola and egg whites then finished with caramelized shallot sauce and crispy fried shallots. My idea came from this flan recipe which would also be super with these wines too!

Beyond the above mentioned foods, those having an inherently sweet edge work well and complement flavors in the wines. Think scallops, crab and lobster… especially grilled. And tropical fruits like mango and papaya with meats such as duck, pork, quail and chicken, the later two are nice roasted and basted with the wine while cooking.

Finally vegetables with sweetness or that develop sweetness while cooking. Think corn, carrots, fennel, parsnips, sweet potatoes and winter squash. Preparing these as confit or as sweet relish and including in dishes can help bridge a pairing.

Keep in mind most foods with a caramelized quality work well. An absolutely delicious, easy to make pairing is Duck a l’Orange (photo above left) where the meat is seared resulting in a crusty surface. When you cut into it you get that slightly caramelized crust in every bite with the savory, orange sauce to bring it all together.

A Variety of Bordeaux Sweet Wines

Disclosure: These wines were provided as media samples. All thoughts are my own and I received no compensation.

Chateau La Harge AOP Bordeaux Blanc MoelleuxChâteau La Hargue 2019 | AOC Bordeaux Blanc

They take the environment and their footprint seriously undertaking both High Environmental Value (HEV) and ISO certification at Ducourt, the family that owns La Hargue. The Château is located in a small village in the heart of Entre-Deux-Mers, southeast of Bordeaux city and produces just this wine, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (57%), Sauvignon Gris (29%) and Semillon (14%) bottled as Bordeaux AOC Moelleux. Chatting with Jonathan Ducourt he shared they “…voluntarily keep lower residual sugar (25.1g/l) than the usual Bordeaux moelleux. This is reason why on the label we indicate “Semi Dry” and not “Semi Sweet.”

Pale straw in color, it made me think of dreamsicle (remember those ice cream bars?) with creamy mixed citrus, passion fruit and floral hints. In addition, the palate has peach, papaya, orange hints and a mild steely, citrus character. A nice level of acidity keeps the body spunky in a soft way as the finish lingers. Such a delight it pairs seamlessly with lentil and sweet potato red curry with broccoli and crispy garbanzos.

Price: from $11 to $18 – Alcohol: 11% – Website

Chateau Tanesse Moelleux Bordeaux wineChateau Tanesse Palissades| AOC Premières Côtes de Bordeaux Moelleux 2018

The Gonfrier family owns several wineries including Tanesse in the Entre-Deux-Mers. They hold Terra Vitis (from the vintage 2018) and HVE certifications. This wine, made from 85% Muscadelle and 15% Sauvignon Blanc, is darker than the La Hargue pouring pale gold.

The aromas started with ripe stone fruit and light floral notes then moved to honey and slightly burnt orange as it warmed in the glass. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and off-sweet with very mellow acidity and a supple, round texture. It shows flavors of ripe peach, apricot, pineapple, and honey with a hint of spice. Medium finish.

Price: $16 – Alcohol: 12.5% – Website

Both the La Hargue and Tanesse worked with this vegetarian curry dish due to their complimentary characteristics. We preferred the La Hargue as its contrasting spunky acidity elevated each bite.

Chateau de Rame sweet BordeauxChateau La Rame | AOC Sainte-Croix-du-Mont 2016 |Vin Liquoreux

This is one of two wineries owned by the Armand family, members of Vignerons Independent. This wine is 100% Sémillon from 16 hectares of vines averaging 50 years of age.

Gold in color with pronounced aromas of ripe stone and tropical fruits, honeyed character with floral notes and spicy vanilla. A concentrated, almost full bodied palate with ample acidity and length. Lighter on its feet than I expected and delicious with pear and gorgonzola topped pancakes.

Price: $35 – Alcohol: 13.2% – Website

Chateau du Cros Loupiac 2014 Bordeaux sweet wineChâteau du Cros | AOC Loupiac 2014|Vin Liquoreux

Château du Cros vineyards spread over the slopes of the right bank of the Garonne in Loupiac, 40 km south of Bordeaux. Established in 1917, the average age of their vineyards are sixty years. The fourth generation of the Boyer family produces fourteen wines on their HEV (Haute Valeur Environnementale) certified estate. This wine is a blend of 90% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon, and 5% Muscadelle.

Medium gold in color, intense aromas are complex and ripe (citrus, candied stone fruits, caramel, and chamomile). Palate flavors reflect those on the nose. Mouthfeel is velvety soft, concentrated and well-balanced. The wine lingers with dried apricot notes surfacing.

Loupiac golden bordeaux sweet wines food pairing savory dishes

An Umami filled, Japanese-inspired dish with soba, mushrooms and sesame was a super pairing with Chateau du Cros Loupiac.

We enjoyed this wine with smoky grilled chicken topped with mango peach relish (see photo above). And also buckwheat soba noodles with caramelized shiitake and cremini mushrooms, and sesame sauce. The wine had ample acidity to cut through the rich, earthiness of the dish. The dish made the wine seem less sweet.

Due to lockdown, I couldn’t make it to take a photo myself! Photo source: Chateau du Cros.

Historic Side Note! A twelfth century castle on the property was inhabited until 1940 when partly destroyed in World War II. The remains, perched atop a hill, are a great place to take in the Garonne River.  

Price: $30 (top value!) – Alcohol: 14% – Website

2020 has certainly been like no other, and personally for Mark and me very difficult. It’s our credo to live better, slower, more joyously, and to do it with a glass of Sauternes available at all times. And if we do this with people we love, both friends and family, that’s an excellent pairing!

Join the #Winophiles Twitter chat Saturday, November 18th at 8am PT, 11am ET and 17:00 CET.

To read  more, here are my previous articles about golden sweet Bordeaux wines:




17 thoughts on “Sweet Bordeaux Wines Get Savory Pairings #Winophiles

  1. Jane

    Love all your pairing suggestions! A sweet potato red curry and grilled chicken with mango peach relish are in my future. More Sweet Bordeaux wines please!
    May we all live better, slower, with more joy and a glass of Sauternes in hand! Cheers

  2. Linda Whipple, CSW

    Great pairing advice for sweet wines, Lynn, and your credo “to live better, slower, more joyously” is one we all should adopt. Sorry your 2020 was so difficult. Hoping for better times ahead.

    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks Linda, we love sweet wines to change things up. I think 2020 was a bit difficult for many people. My optimistic hat is always on!

    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks Kat… the recipe from Hank Shaw is actually an easier way to make Duck à l’Orange too!

  3. Martin Redmond

    I love how you laid out the complement v contrast pairings idea Lynn. Hadn’t that about a savory cheesecake (especially a small bit) but that’s a great idea! Cheers!

  4. Lauren

    Savory cauliflower cheesecake? Yes, please. And that smoky chicken with peach relish is going in my rotation! What fun you had with these pairings. Thanks for sharing your experiments with us!

    1. Lynn Post author

      The savory cheesecake was a hit at a before covid gathering served with sweet Bordeaux, perhaps I’ll post the recipe. The peach mango relish was a spontaneous creation having to process fruit before it went bad. Hope you’re able to find some (or make it yourself ;-D

  5. robincgc

    Oops…I have been pronouncing Moelleux wrong! Thank you so much for enlightening me!
    Your pairings look and sound delicious. The curry and the soba noodles are making me hungry right now!
    I actually had a friend send me a post this morning about breakfast pancake boards asking about what wine would pair and I thought of this post! Sweet Sauternes with a breakfast board (like a cheese board with fruit, sausage, cheese and pancakes etc) would be pretty perfect!

    I needed to hear ” to live better, slower, more joyously”. It is the perfect reminder.

    1. Lynn Post author

      You don’t know how many times I double check on french spellings Robin. While we ate the pancakes for dinner, they’d be great for breakfast and brunch too. And I love your idea adding them to a cheese board!

  6. Nicole Ruiz-Hudson

    I just got so hungry reading this post! I want so many of these dishes! I love the idea of the pancakes with gorgonzola and pears. You’ve given me a ton of ideas for pairings for the remainder of my wines.

  7. Payal

    I love your pairings and ideas – the cauliflower cheesecake bites look divine! And on a nerdy note, I really love the photo of grape berries with various stages of botrytis infection. Science in action!

  8. Pingback: Sweet Bordeaux Wines Aren’t Just for Dessert | #Winophiles – L'OCCASION

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