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A gentle Sauvignon Blanc and an introduction to Sauternes!

2 Jun

Chateau de Fontaine-Audon 2010. A pale straw color, very fresh & light white, nose of lemon and grapefruit, slight lemon forward on the palate. It’s subtle, gentle (all Sauv blanc grapes) with minerality that really tastes of flint, from the local terroir of the eastern Loire valley. It’s yummy, delicate- a real apertif wine. Pairs well with milder cheeses, crudite, dried or cut fruit and can go with entrees but best on its own before the meal (hence apertif) or with an appetizer course. I served this recently for cocktails and it was perfect, everyone enjoyed it and as we started dinner we moved to a Sauvignon Blanc from another region with more punch to pair well with the meal. A lovely bottle when you need something gentle, sophisticated, and relaxed. About $20/bottle. Pictured on the left of the photograph.

On the right side of the photo is 2007 Domaine de Grange Neuve Monbazillac, a Sauternes– a wine I enjoy, yet I don’t drink very often. Still, I should take an opportunity to mention to those of you who don’t know this wine:

Sauternes is a classic “dessert” wine even thought it’s famous for being served at the start of a meal during a savory appetizer course. It’s a very sweet wine, grapes are grown specifically to grow the fungus Botrytis Cinerea which causes the grapes to partially raisin- also known as ‘noble rot’. To make this sweet wine, the maker stops the yeast’s process mid-fermentation which allows a high sugar content in the mixture.

-This wine is classically paired with either dessert course, or early in the meal in a small and savory course with a specific, rich flavor- such as fois gras- (goose liver pate) as an appetizer, where I feel it has its greatest appeal for pairing. Cleansing the palate after a very rich bite, a Sauternes has sweetness and crisp acidity which demonstrates the massive difference between the two – and the mouth’s response to the savory and it’s shocked reaction to the sweet- is a spectacular human reaction which can cause great joy especially in foodies! It’s an amazing combination, and when fine restaurants offer fois gras as a course they often offer a Sauternes by the glass to pair- and this is absolutely the best time to try this pairing–  in a restaurant that has spent careful time evaluating a great pairing to provide success!

-Sauternes wines are made from familiar grapes (Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle) in the area just southeast of Bordeaux region of France along the river Garonne. The production and quality creation of this rare wine is very costly and the wines can be highly expensive as a result. Many Sauternes are sold by the half bottle (375ml) but I find a glass to be an even better buy- sometimes as low as $13/glass in a restaurant, when pairing I’m happy to have just a few sips and you might choose to share the tasting process with your fellow dining partners.

-Color is one of the obvious factors of a Sauternes. Expect to see either a rich amber, a deep yellow moving into yellow, or the color may drift as far from sunlight towards brass even as far as a deep, aging copper- much like a quality single malt scotch, and the wine is usually paired with an obviously sugary nose. I have been on this tangent too long! Allow me to return to the note!

The 2007 Domaine de Grange Neuve Monbazillac is a Sauternes and I saw that it won best in class in ’05 and ’07, then I noticed it was being sold in a 750ml bottle for $19.99- a steal for a decent Sauternes. So I bought it, and tried that night with a blue cheese. Color was amber with a hint of orange sunset. With a nose of honeysuckle, the palate is first gently and then fully sweet, with hints of pear, apricot, and lots of clover honey and gentle acidity for a crisp finish. It’s a very well made Sauternes and is a bargain in the world of French delicacies, when a Chateau d’Yquem starts around $400 for a half bottle, but the lower tier starts for passable examples around $40- so you can see, I find this an excellent bargain at $20/bottle, and a great treat to share. Remember with a sweet wine, a little goes a long way and it’s ideal to pour a ½ serving with a savory course just for a little couple of tastes. I paired this with several blue cheeses and enjoyed it fully, but only for a half glass before I was sated by the sweetness- much like eating a Godiva truffle, a little goes a long way!


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