Sauternes and Barsac

I helped out at a trade event in London devoted to Sauternes and Barsac the other week. Entitled “Sweeties with Savouries” it set out to show how both Sauternes and Barsac can be drunk not only with the usual foie gras and desserts but also with all the courses of a complete meal. With courses ranging from roquefort crème brulee with figs (see picture) through roast Moroccan quail with sweet potato mash to blue cheese cheesecake, the food was absolutely wonderful. sauternes-event.jpgAttendees were then asked to vote for which wine made the best match with which course. There was quite a lot of agreement about which of the 16 wines went with which of the 5 courses but there were also many individual opinions. As with wine tasting there is no definitive answer in the area of food and wine matching.

Tasting through the 16 wines was an education in itself. Considering they were all the recently bottled 2005 vintage, there was a range of aromas from honey, peach, minerals and smoke to flavours on the palate of marmalade, peach, citrus and honey. There were also subtle but significant differences in the weight and texture on the palate. The differences can be understood when looking at the percentages of grapes with everything from 90% semillon and 10% sauvignon of the premier cru classe Chateau Clos Haut-Peyraguey through to the 70% semillon, 25% sauvignon and 5% muscadelle of Chateau d’Armajan des Ormes. ch-haut-peraguey.jpgThe aging process whilst broadly similar in length of between 18 and 24 months, varies according to the percentage of new barrels used.

The key to good Sauternes and Barsac, apart from the terrroir, is the botrytis that is required to shrivel up the grapes and concentrate the sugar in the grapes. From talking to several of the producers the 2007 vintage was going to be a worry as the summer was cool. However the autumn was as hoped with cool misty mornings followed by sunny afternoons, the perfect environment for the “mushroom” spores of botrytis cinerea to develop.

There is a much history associated with the ownership of the chateau in Sauternes with many of them having been in the same family for generations. Check out the web site of Chateau Dudon if you want some history of a typical family owned Sauternes producing chateau.

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