Wine Talk

Snooth User: jjdento


Posted by jjdento, Oct 3, 2011.


Hello all!

I am proud to be a wine lover, but an amateur at best. To improve my knowledge I have been studying (God bless my university's library!) as much as I can about regions, varietals, etc. through books and whatnot. Recently, I came across a sub-region in the Bordeaux appellation called Sauternes. The way my book (Zraly's wine course...) described Sauternes' wine gave me chills of excitement! With Botrytis cinerea (a miraculous fungus) concentrating those distinct flavors made this wine stand out compared to the normal varietal or regional wines of the world.

Unfortunately, when I went to the wine and liquor stores I was devastated not find my prized vino! Ordering the wine online is out of the question too (Oklahoma laws, need I say more). 

I wish to know what makes this wine special compared to other wines, and if it is worth the trouble of locating and purchasing. 



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Reply by ScottLauraH, Oct 3, 2011.

Jordan, I certainly sympathize with your plight regarding Oklahoma liquor laws.  I grew up there and went to college there....

I have been a wine lover for several years, and have also read Zraly's Window's on The World Wine Course and his description of Sauternes.  Unfortunately, I have yet to have the opportunity to drink a Sauternes wine myself, though I can say with some certainty that there is a Snoother out there who has that can share their experiece with us. 

I can only presume it's going to be very difficult to find, as I work in a very nice wine shop that carries more than 500 different wines.  While we have a great selection of French wines, we don't have one Sauternes.  How close are you to Tulsa?  There used to be a very nice wine store next to Petty's Fine Foods that my parents used to buy their wine from.  I will ask them to see if they remember the name. 

Reply by JonDerry, Oct 3, 2011.

Welcome Jordan,

Sauternes are very much worth seeking out Jordan, but keep in mind the results of the Botrytis (noble rot) can vary widely, so it's a good idea to make sure the vintage and producer got it right before trying any sauternes. Make sure to check out and read up with Bill Blatch, as he's pretty much the only critic i've heard of that dedicates his work on Sauternes.

Too bad about your remote location...sounds like a drive to the nearest big city or finding a friend who can ship a package to you is your best bet. I saw an offer from Rare Wine Company not too long ago with some interesting Sauternes that wouldn't necessarily break most people's banks. 

Would also recommend looking in to Tokaji from Hungary, that also uses the same Botrytis process to make their sweet wines. There is a longer history in this region, and since Hungary is less celebrated than France, (in terms of wine and in general), you can sometimes find some good value here. They produce a lot of different sweet and dry wines in the Tokaji-Hegyalja region but Azsu is world famous sweet wine.  One similarity between Sauternes and Tokaji is that they use one dominant grape in their blends (Semillon for Sauternes, Furmint in Hungary), and also a main secondary grape (Sauvignon Blanc, Harslevelu) for acidity and balancing purposes. 

Glad you brought this up actually...I had been tempted to start a thread recently on sweet wines since i've rarely enjoyed Port but almost always enjoy Tokaji.  One more thing about Tokaji, they measure the density of the wine in "puttonyos", 3 is low and 6 is highest.  Would recommend trying a 5 to help ensure you're trying a good example of what these wines have to offer.

Reply by 1 jayjay, Oct 3, 2011.

Sauternes as far as i can remember was the first wine that i ever tasted, at the age of about 8 years old it was then a christmas drink of my teatotal mother and father As i can remember a very sweet wine as i am going back 30 years i can do no justice to this wine, but now i know i must find it and try it again thanks jjdento for the memories

Reply by EMark, Oct 3, 2011.

You difficulty in finding examples is very unfortunate.  Let's hope you can find a source.

I enjoy botrytis-affected wines and think it is well worth your seeking them out.  When you do find a purveyor, I might suggest that you consider buying half-bottles rather than full 750 ml bottles.  These wines are quite rich--a little goes a long way.  These wines can also be a tad spendy.  At this point I think you're in exploratory mode.  So, before you shell out a couple hundred for a full bottle of d'Yquem, try a half-bottle of something like Suduiraut or Riessec, or Tokaji, or, even a domestic botrytis-affected wine. 

I can't leave a conversation about Sauternes without mentioning my favorite accompaniment:  poached pears stuffed with blue-veined cheese (Roquefort, Bleu, Humbolt Fog, anything--they all work for me).  The salty in the cheese is a terrific contrast to the sweet of the wine.  If you don't want to fuss with the poaching process, just use a fresh pear.  Cut it in half, core it out and fill the cavity you just created with a spoonful of the cheese.

Reply by JonDerry, Oct 3, 2011.

Great dessert rec Mark, now that's something I can make at home.

Reply by duncan 906, Oct 4, 2011.

Like Jayjay I can remember Sauternes as my Mother's Christmas tipple.It is also my Sister's favourite wine and when I visit her up in Scotland I always take a few bottles of wine with me but if I do not include a bottle of Sauternes then she thinks she is being short-changed.I have tried her on other desert wines such as a German Icewein and a Jurancon Grappe-D'Or but she prefers Sauternes.It is a very sweet wine,best served chilled,with notes of honey,apricot and vanilla.I am also very partial to a glass but it can be expensive.There are also other White Bordeaux wines made from the same Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc blend in the same way that are less expensive.Last night I had some bread and blue cheese and I opened a bottle of 2004 Chateau Loupiac-Gaudiet from the Loupiac Appellation which is not far from the Sauternes Appellation.It tastes exactly like a Sauternes but only cost me five pounds on shall finish the bottle this evening with my apple pie

Reply by playedwhatihad, Oct 4, 2011.

I need a little help with a Sauternes wine.  My cousin and I are trying to find out about an old wooden crate of wine we came across.  It has old bottles of wine labeled Sauternes F.Chauvenet Vin de Bordeaux.  The crate is also stamped Negociant A Margaux (Gridone). Still Wine Sauternes  The were imported by Corillon Importers New York.  The Illinois Tax Stamps that are on the bottles date them between the late 1930's and early 1950's.  I have pictures if someone needs those to help me. If you would rather answer me via email  ANY information is appreciated.

Reply by amour, Mar 23, 2012.

Here in Miami, Florida, I can purchase great French Sauternes.

I cannot help but encourage you to get a glass of that stuff  to your lips...divine!

Reply by amour, Mar 23, 2012.

While I generally  pair my Sauternes with foie gras, pairing with a simple fruit salad is rewarding, I am told.

I have also paired Sauternes with chausson feuillete au Roquefort (thin pastry with roquefort cheese) or simply with a few slivers of Roquefort cheese, with much joy!

Let me know if you ever managed tolocate the Sauternes to begin with!

Your trip to my beloved France, may well be long overdue!

Reply by Matt Walker, Mar 24, 2012.

A lot of great answers here already.  I'll try to provide a few fun facts your book may or may not have mentioned.

The Noble Rot (called Grey Rot when you don't want it, say on your Cabernet) is not removed until filtration just before bottling does add its own flavor to the wine.

The Hungarian desser wine Tokaji (sometimes spelled Tokay, pronounced Toe-KEYE) is also a botrytis wine.  Its sweetness level is measured in Puttonyos (1 being least 6 being most, plus two additional rare types Aszu Essencia and Essencia).  A Sauternes would come in at about a 4 in the Puttonyos scale.  In fact the 1999 Royal Tokay Co. Tokay Essencia was the 1st wine to recieve a perfect score by Wine Spectator.  Tokay Essencia is the sweetest wine in the world sometimes taking years to ferment to only about 3% abv.

Barsac is a region right next door to Sauternes and makes the same type of wine.  One famous chateau, Chateau Climens, comes from there.  (I highly recommend Climnes if you've got about $90 lying around).

Chateau d'Yqeum is the greatest of all Sautrenes (frequently getting 100pt scores) and is given its very own special classification: Premier Cru Superieur (1st Superier Growth)  The rest can by either Premier Cru or Deuxieme Cru.  Premier Crus to watch out for include Climens, Suduiraut, and Rieussec.

In my opinon the best value in Sauternes is the 2nd growth, Doisy-Vedrines.  There wines are quite good and only go for about $30 a bottle even for the best vinatges.

There are dry Sauternes and Yquem started the tradition of naming the wines after the first letter of the chateau's name.  So Chateau d'Yquem's dry wine is called Y (pronounced EE-grek)

Good luck on your search for great dessert wines!

Reply by duncan 906, Mar 25, 2012.

If you do go to France you will find that most of the supermarkets do a branded/negociant version for about 8-10 euros.This is more than acceptable

Reply by shsim, Mar 26, 2012.

This is great! I have been in the sweet wine phase for awhile, riesling from Germany, port, late harvests.. This tread just makes me want to get a Sauternes and make poached pear stuffed with cheese (Thanks EMark!). Although, theres a reason why I haven gotten one. They get pretty pricey at the local store... Oh well Im glad to learn from you guys though before I make a smart purchase!

Reply by EMark, Mar 27, 2012.


You can save a lot of money if you look for half-bottles.  I am of the opinion that a little dessert wine goes a long way.  You should be able to find half-bottles of Sauternes for less than $20.  I know you're on a stipend.  So, even that may be a bit pricey.

Also, since I know you live in San Diego, you can look for domestic dessert wines (not Sauternes, but an amazing simulation).  Quady has a very reasonably priced Orange Muscat.  (No, it is not orange flavored or made from oranges.)  In addition to "Late Harvest," look for labels that say "Botrytis Affected."

Reply by shsim, Mar 27, 2012.

Thanks for the advice EMark, I definitely tend to overspent and need to watch my budget more.

I just check Quady out! I'll keep a lookout for them in the local stores. I just wonder what the price different will be compared to getting a half bottle of Sauternes. I might as well save up the two bottles for the one Sauternes at some point. I would get a half bottle of dessert anyway. Doubt I can handle a whole 750 unless im having a dessert party.

Reply by EMark, Mar 27, 2012.

Shi, let me suggest a fun experiment.  Call on a couple of friends to pool your resources.  Buy a half-bottle of domestic dessert wine (and I think the Quady would be a fun one to try since it is quite inexpensive) and a half-bottle of Sauternes.  I would think that a place like BevMo would have something in the lower price range.  Then go to Von's or the grocery store of your choice and buy some fresh pears and some blue-veined cheese.  Again, here you can work with your budget.  I do not believe that you have to break the bank on the cheese. 

Now the cool thing is that the shape of these two bottles of wine should be very similar.  Have one person in your group take the bottles into another room, remove the foil capsules from each of the bottles and, then, wrap the bottles in aluminum foil.  The idea is to wrap the bottles in such a way that they appear to be identical.  Have the wrapping person leave the bottles in the other room and rejoin the group.  Have a second person go into the bottle room and attached a colored ribbon to the neck of each bottle.  If it is not obvious, the idea is to attach a different colored ribbon to each bottle--say, pink and blue.  If you don't want to use ribbons, use different colored stickers or different numbered stickers or something like that.  While the bottles are being prepared, you can also attached pink and blue ribbons (or stickers) to pairs of glasses.  So, each person gets a pink glass and each person gets a blue glass.  Here is the somewhat tricky part.  The person who removes the corks from the disguised bottles has to do so in a fashion that nobody, including the cork puller, sees the logos on the corks.  This is really not too hard.  Just close one hand around the cork as the other hand pulls it out.  Once it is out, keep it in the closed hand while removing the corkscrew and jam it in your pocket without looking at it.

Pour some sips from each bottle into the appropriately ribboned glasses and start tasting.  I would suggest that you just discuss your impressions with your friends and just enjoy the wine.  Then, try it with pear/cheese dish.  See if your opinions about either wine change.  Feel free to try it with other things--nuts, figs.

When you are ready, remove the aluminum foil from the bottles to see which was which.

Don't be surprised or disappointed about whatever you learn.  It's not terribly scientific, it's just meant to be fun.

If you do try this, come back and tell us how it went.


Reply by shsim, Mar 29, 2012.

Haha this sounds like fun! :D

I have always wanted to blind taste a bunch of stuff to find out if i know what I am tasting but dont really have many friends who are interested! That is the tough part actually. But I am sure it wouldnt be difficult to get a few people. This is when the boyfren comes in handy ;)

Should I skin the pears? and figs and nuts sound good. I might do a roasted figs with blue cheese and walnuts drizzled with a little honey.

Reply by EMark, Mar 29, 2012.

Shi, if you are going to poach the pears, I would peal them.  The poaching process should soften the pears suffieciently so that you can slice off a bite with a spoon.  Otherwise, I think you will need a knife to gracefully slice through the skin.  If you are just going to halve them, core them out and fill the cavity with cheese, then I would say that it is up to you whether you peal them or not.  Unless it is a really, really ripe pair, I think it would be easiest to use a knife on it with or without the skin.

Your honey idea sounds outstanding.  If you have a handy Greek/Middle Eastern store, I think Baklava would be great, also.

Reply by shsim, Mar 29, 2012.

Thanks EMark, sounds like im going to be poaching some pears! I have never done it before so this will be fun!

Oh baklava is a great idea! Plenty of middle eastern stores and east european store sell them too!

Hopefully I can report back soon!

Reply by Bsberlin22, Mar 30, 2012.

I think that you need to hunt down this wine and taste it for yourself. everyones palate is different and it sounds like this could be a foodie adventure (my favorite type)!


Reply by shsim, Mar 30, 2012.

Yea, I would enjoy having friends with an interest in wine over and experience this together. It would also be cost effective! And I enjoy cooking and making good desserts! :D

The big part is the cost though. I was over budget this month and it just sucks.

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