Last year, when I delved into Sweet Bordeaux wines with Snooth, it become very clear that I had some stereotypes that needed to be changed. First, all sweet Bordeaux wines were not Sauternes – in fact only 43% of the dessert wines produced in the region are classified as Sauternes and there are ten Bordeaux AOCs that product sweet wines. Second, these wines were ready to stand-up to foods beyond desserts. For more about that tasting, click here.
This year, the Snooth folks came calling again with another spin on the tasting. I attended a virtual tasting with Owner Mark Angelillo, and Master of Wine, Mary Gorman McAdams. A very cool thing was we were provided with a cornucopia of snacks which ranged from sweet potato and beet crackers to salami, sweet and hot jerky, sriracha cashews and jalapeno chicken crisps. All savory snacks that I would never ever think to pair with a sweet wine, but some of these worked wonders. Favorite pairing ideas during our discussion included raw oysters, fried chicken, Indian curries, Thai, Ethiopian, and Chinese, Korean BBQ, lobster rolls, pasta carbonara, potato chips, roasted duck, chicken or pork.
Back to a little more history on the ten Bordeaux AOCs that produce these sweet wines. Those regions are: Sauternes, Barsac, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Loupiac, Cadillac, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Graves Supérieures, Côtes de Bordeaux Saint-Macaire, Cérons, and Bordeaux Supérieur. You all know that Bordeaux is known for the elegant red and white wines that are amongst the world’s most coveted. Sweet wine production makes up less than three percent of Bordeaux’s total vineyard area.
These wines are created through a process called Botrytis Cinerea or “Noble Rot,” which is also the fungus that gives us Stilton, the famous blue cheese. It is a perfect climatic storm in which a fungus attacks the entire metabolism of the grape resulting from the morning foggy mists from nearby bodies of water to the warm and dry afternoons with the sun beating overhead. This fungus causes the grapes to over ripen and then shrivel, so the sugar content is concentrated. Each grape is hand harvested by cluster and because there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, harvest can take months.
There are three grapes that are blended into these wines – Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. The thin-skin of the Semillon dominates the blend. Mary mentioned that Semillon is “king” in Bordeaux. These thin-skinned grapes give texture and richness. The Sauvignon blended in brings freshness and acidity while the Muscadelle gives it a little body and spice. We tried wines from a few of the appellations of this region including Cadillac, Loupiac and Sauternes. Mary said that, “In the Medoc, it takes a vine to make a bottle of wine and in Sauternes it takes a vine to make a glass of wine”.
For those of you interested in aging these Sweet Bordeaux, Mary recommended the 2001, 2007 and 2011 vintages.
We tried eight wines:
2016 Chateau Manos Cadillac
This was a blend of 98% Semillon, 1% Muscadelle and 1% Sauvignon. I tasted notes of honey, citrus, tropical fruits and stone fruit. SRP $14
2014 Chateau du Cros Loupiac
This was a blend of 90% Semillon, 5% Sauvignon and 5% Muscadelle. I tasted more concentrated fruit with notes of tropical citrus and candied fruit with a hint of spice. SRP $23
2016 Chateau Loupiac-Gaudiet
This was a blend of 80% Semillon with 20% Sauvignon. This wine had notes of peaches, citrus and was the lightest of the wines tried with a hint of spice. SRP $20
2011 Chateau Dauphine Rondillon Loupiac
This was a blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon and was the oldest vintage that we tried proving the ageability of these wines. I tasted orange, flowers, honey, spice and minerality. This was a complex and rich wine. SRP $28
2015 Chateau La Rame Sainte Croix-du-Mont
This is a blend of 75% Semillon and 25% Sauvignon. I tasted orange, flowers, vanilla, stone fruit and honey. SRP $20
2015 Chateau Filhot Sauternes
This is a blend of 60% Semillon, 36% Sauvignon and 4% Muscadelle. I tasted notes of Orange Julius (think Orange Creamsicle), acacia flower, vanilla, stone fruit and minerality. SRP $30
2016 Chateau Lapinesse Sauternes
This is 100% Semillon was aromatic with notes of lemon, stone fruit and spice with a nice minerality. SRP $20
2006 Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes
This was a blend of 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon. I tasted notes of stone fruit, vanilla, spice and almost a crème brulee finish. SRP $45