A Sweeter Side to Bordeaux, France!

This October I had the extreme pleasure of visiting Bordeaux, France to explore the world of Sauternes and Sweet Bordeaux wines! Many know the region of Bordeaux for their high-end dry wines, however, this region is so much more than that. Here in Bordeaux, you will find young wines, meant to be consumed within the next five years or sooner, as well as a sweet wine category. Sauternes have been known as dessert wines, due to their sweetness, but upon my recent trip, I found out that they are slowly moving away from that stigma, and are branching out to produce young and fresh wines, perfect for daytime sipping!

We traveled through Sauternes, Barsac, and Graves where we tasted many beautiful wines and paired them with savory foods. I was amazed to learn that there was so much more to this area than I thought, and as a Sommelier, it was a nice surprise to learn these “Golden Bordeaux Wines” easily pair well with raw fish, mushrooms, cream sauces, and vegetables. The trip consisted of daily visits to some of Bordeaux’s top wineries producing these fruity wines, learning in depth about Botrytis and how it affects these wines, and pairing them with savory foods. It was a wonderful trip where I learned so much about these bold and underappreciated wines.

I am guilty of it myself, I too put these wines into the dessert wine category for so long, and am excited to share my top five favorite pairings from the trip.

  1. Château du Cros 2007 Loupiac wines paired with Salmon Sashimi with Ginger and Yuzu Sauce. I would have never thought that fresh fish and Sauternes would pair so well together, but it actually enhances the salinity in the wine, while also giving way to the beautiful minerality notes which come from the soils in the region. On the finish, it’s smooth and fruity, which nicely complemented the freshly grated ginger, lime, and yuzu sauce.

2.  Chateau Fargues Sauternes paired first with Oysters and dill, which played nicely with the salty undertones in Sauternes, while also highlighting the herbal notes you may find in these wines. Once the lunch started, we paired some older vintages from the ’90s and the 2000s which went beautifully with Mushrooms in a cream sauce over crusty bread. To my surprise again, I was so intrigued by how much I enjoyed cream sauces and mushrooms with these sweeter Bordeaux wines.

3.  Chateau Sigalas Ribaud 2017 Le 5 Sigalas paired with a Beet and Mushroom Tart was one of my favorite pairings. Here at the stunning winery, we enjoyed a five-course vegetarian meal made mainly of mushrooms. This showed how earthy and healthy foods can easily be incorporated into wine tastings, and be a one of a kind experience. Alongside, some other favorite wines with this dish were 2015 Lieutenant De Sigalas Sauternes and the 2016 La Sémillante de Sigalas!

4. Chateau Gillette 1975 paired with Little Neck Clams topped with Orange Zest. I had the pleasure of dining at the home of the winemaker Julie and her family. We tasted a number of wines paired with a delicious home-cooked meal in which we devoured some Scallop Crudo, Foie Gras, and Beef Stew! After a comforting meal, we went straight for Sauternes and cheeses, in which I had Black Brie for the first time, which is a very aged brie that’s pungent yet delicious and really good with some red Bordeaux wines as well as the very old yet fresh sauternes.

5. Château De Lestiac 2015 Summum, of Château de Langoiran, which I know is not a sweet Bordeaux wine, but it’s one of the wines that was my absolute favorite in the tasting! This winery is near the Garrone River and you will find some stunning wines here that pair beautifully with local cuisine and cheese! We had a private cheese expert meet us at the winery for a full-on three-course cheese dinner, paired with some amazing dry Bordeaux wines. My favorite was a Camembert paired with this bold, juicy, spice-driven red wine as well as a Roquefort, which easily paired with the red fruit forward notes in the wine.

For those of you looking to learn more about Sauternes and the sweeter side to Bordeaux, I highly recommend trying some of these fresher styles with some savory food pairings. Some of my other favorite wineries we tasted at, where I enjoyed some younger styles of these unique wines were Château La Rame (Sainte Croix Du Mont), Château Manos (Haux), Château Bastor Lamontagne, and Château Rayne Vigneau.

Always remember, eat what you like and drink what you love. Please pair responsibly! 

Sara Lehman

About Sara Lehman

Sommelier, Private Chef, & Food and Wine Pairing Expert in NYC! Sara is a Wine Writer, Wine Ambassador, and Wine Consultant specializing in pairings, parties, entertaining and education.

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