Sauternes (pronounced as soh-TEHRN, not soh-tehr-nes) is a delicately sweet French dessert wine originating from the Sauternais region of Bordeaux’s Graves subsection. It is made from three different wine grapes (Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle) that are infected by the pourriture noble, or the noble rot, a form of the gray fungus, Botrytis cinerea. Sauternes should not be confused with Sauterne (although not pronounced, take great note of the absence of the plural ‘s’), as Sauternes is the golden luxurious wine that originates from France and is strictly made with the 3 previously mentioned grapes. Sauterne, on the other hand is a cheap, dry and semisweet white wine that was made in California using combinations of different available grapes.
You should never cook with Sauternes, as it must be enjoyed on its own, with its classic pairing of foie gras or with different food that brings out the sweet and delicate flavor of the wine.
Sauternes should not just be served straight from the wine chiller or from the wine cellar, as this might devoid it of the complex flavors it possesses. If you want to enjoy your Sauternes, here is how to do it the right way.
- Take note of the temperature. Sauternes is best enjoyed below room temperature. Make sure that your bottle of Sauternes is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 11 degrees Celsius. Sauternes will lose much of its sweet flavor when it is served too cold. On the other hand, it will taste too sweet if it is served too warm. Opt to have your Sauternes warmer rather than cooler in temperature if you can’t achieve exactly or nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Uncork it early. Allow 2 hours after you uncork an aged Sauternes bottle before you serve it. You must allow a stored wine to breathe for a while before serving.
- Choose the right wine glass. As its flavors are quite unique, Sauternes specifically has its own specific glass for serving: the Sauternes glass (this is available online for around $80 for a set of 4). If no Sauternes glass is immediately available, Sauternes can be enjoyed with a dessert glass to bring out its delicate and sweet taste.
- Pour the right amount. As Sauternes is a sweet dessert wine, it must be slowly to allow yourself to enjoy its taste. Pour around 2 to 3 ounces of Sauternes in each glass.
- Enjoy it with food, or by itself. As the Sauternes is sweet, it can be paired with something salty to complement its sweetness. Sauternes, as written above, is usually paired with the French delicacy foie gras. Sauternes can also be served with salty cheeses such as Roquefort or blue cheese. Never pair Sauternes with something sweet, as the combined sweetness can be too overwhelming.
- Serve at the right time. Never serve Sauternes before other red wines or white wines. Sauternes must be served at the end of the evening because of its richness in taste.
- Enjoy your wine. Sauternes is a unique and popular wine that can be enjoyed in different occasions. Knowing when and how to enjoy it properly will give you maximum enjoyment.