When you think Bordeaux, your imagination takes you to big bold red wines, and when you think “Sweet Bordeaux” you most likely think of Sauternes. You would not be wrong in these presumptions, but there is more to sweet Bordeaux than Sauternes. Sweet Bordeaux wines are versatile, fun and lusciously enjoyable.
There are eight protected appellations that produce sweet Bordeaux wines. The wide range of styles and varying levels of sweetness from these eight appellations make it ideal for food pairings, from savory to spicy, to sweet desserts. These golden wines are sweet, fresh and have mouthwatering acidity with flavors of honey, candied orange and apricot. The texture on the mouth is rich, seductive and opulent, making any meal a celebration.
I had the opportunity to spend a week in Bordeaux discovering their sweet wines. It was impressive to witness the passion and dedication the winemakers have towards producing these wines. There is a great degree of craftsmanship, patience and dedication required to produce this golden nectar. So if you haven’t had the sweet wines of Bordeaux, here are 10 reasons you should be drinking them now.
Versatile Food Pairings
Sweet Bordeaux wines are traditionally known to pair delectably with foie gras and bold cheeses, but I encourage you to experiment with other dishes and cuisines. Sweet wines pair well with spicy Asian dishes like Thai and Indian. The fruity flavors of sweet Bordeaux wines cool the spiciness of Asian dishes.
Japanese cuisine is another great pairing. These sweet Bordeaux wines pair delectably with Japanese cuisine, the umami flavors often found in Japanese cuisines complement the sweetness and acidity of the wine. Sushi is also an ideal pairing with sweet Bordeaux wines, as the acidity of the wines cut through the fat of the fish.
Makes A Great Cocktail
Spice up your next cocktail hour with sweet Bordeaux wines. Fill a large wine glass with ice and pour 8 ounces of a sweet and fruity Bordeaux from Loupiac or Sainte Croix du Mont. Add a twist of orange, lemon or lime with crushed mint leaves. Top with two ounces of sparkling water. This makes for a perfectly refreshing and fruity cocktail. Serve with a cheese platter or charcuterie.
Eight Unique Protected Appellations
Some of the greatest wines of the world are sweet wines and many are from the Bordeaux region. Bordeaux has been making some of the greatest sweet wines for centuries. Here the vines grow amongst a picturesque landscape of historic fortresses, citadels, manors and chateaux.
Eight appellations make sweet wines, which include Bordeaux Moelleux, Cérons, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Cadillac, Loupiac, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Saint-Macaire and Bordeaux Supérieur. These AOPs share one common goal and that is to produce the highest quality wines in a range of styles and price points.
Great Price Points
The golden wines of Bordeaux are incredibly affordable. The labor intensity, the patience and the expertise required to make these intoxicating wines would make you think they were quite expensive. But quite the contrary, sweet Bordeaux wines are affordable and offer great value(many wines are priced between $15-$40). These price points make it a great opportunity to try something that is exceptional and unique.
Custom Blend of Unique Grape Varieties
Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle are the three main grape varietals used to produce sweet Bordeaux wines. Sémillon is the key grape as it is particularly susceptible to Botrytis. Sémillon provides power and richness on the palate with its honey and apricot notes. Sauvignon Blanc adds exotic fruit flavors, structure and acidity and the rare grape Muscadelle adds floral aromas. Each grape variety adds its own personality to create a unique blend found only in Bordeaux.
Very specific conditions are required to make sweet Bordeaux wines. The Garrone and Ciron Rivers provide a very unique and special terroir that is exclusively found in the southern region of Bordeaux. The difference in the temperature of these two rivers creates a climate where there is a cool morning mist and fog, and then as the day progresses there is a transition to sunny warm afternoons. These are the ideal conditions for developing Botrytis. The gently rolling hills and slopes are mainly gravel, chalk, clay and limestone. These soils impart nice minerality into these sweet wines.
Noble Rot – The Magic Of Nature
The microclimate in Bordeaux is extremely conducive for Noble Rot. Botrytis Cinerea is the magic required to make sweet Bordeaux wines. Botrytis is also known as Noble Rot, a fungus that infects the grapes and causes the grapes to shrivel and dry, leaving behind deeply concentrated grapes. Noble rot not only concentrates sweetness but also increases the complexity of flavors.
Hand Crafted Wines
What makes these wines so special is the care, the hand selection, and the attention to detail that goes into harvesting the grapes. During harvest, each grape is picked one at a time. Only those grapes that are ready for picking are harvested. There are several passes made in the vineyards, picking only the best most perfectly shriveled, concentrated grape. Harvest can last several weeks, as there are several passes being made in the fields. If there is such a thing as custom, handcrafted wines, sweet Bordeauxs are it.
Bordeaux is renowned for producing some of the most extraordinary sweet wines in the world. They also have a large drinking window and can age for an extended period of time. Drink these golden wines young for freshness and notes of tropical fruit and honey with zippy acidity. Over time, the wines mature, creating dark amber or copper hues. Secondary charactertics develop with notes of caramel, almonds, butterscotch, honey, nutmeg and saffron.
Beyond Just Dessert
One of my favorite pairings with sweet Bordeaux wines is chocolate souffle but the diversity and versatility of these wines make it an ideal for an aperitif. You can also enjoy sweet Bordeaux in cocktails, or paired alongside your favorite meal. The wines are perfect with or without food or at the beginning or end of your meal.