Betty's Wine Musings

Is Sauternes Liquid Gold? Yes!

I’ve enjoyed Sauternes for many years. This past week, I introduced it to my sister, who was delighted by this wine that I think of as liquid gold. Today, we’re going to explore this amazing dessert wine. Thanks to Wine Folly, Wine-Searcher and SomMailier for their help with this article.


Sauternes: Liquid Gold
Sauternes: Liquid Gold

Where Is Sauternes From?

The Sauternes region is located 25 miles southeast of the city of Bordeaux, along the Garonne river and its tributary, the Ciron. This village is famous for its high-quality sweet wines. It is surrounded on all sides by vineyards, the best of which produce some of the world’s most prestigious, long-lived and expensive dessert wines.


Amidst its neighbors, Barsac, Preignac, Bommes and Fargues, Sauternes is one of the five different communes in Girondes district responsible for the production of Sauternes wine.

What Grapes Are in this Wine?

This delicious French dessert wine is made up of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes.


According to Sommailier, “Even though the wine ends up tasting sweet with notes of honey, its beginnings are less glamorous. A fungus called botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot, plays a key role in the making of Sauternes. The fungus attacks the grape’s skin, making tiny holes that dehydrate the grapes, resulting in more concentrated sugar levels. While the noble rot leads to some unattractive-looking grape clusters, once vinified, the resulting wine boasts gorgeous, deep, golden hues.” Sémillon’s thin-skinned structure makes it an easy target for noble rot.


Grapes impacted by noble rot
Grapes impacted by noble rot

Tasting Notes

Typical tasting notes of Sauternes include apricot, honey, peaches, ginger, tropical fruit, honeysuckle, butterscotch, and toasted baking spices.


Sauvignon Blanc contributes a generous dose of acidity, balancing out the lower acidity of Sémillon. Muscadelle, which is only sometimes included, offers lovely floral notes.


Depending on the vintage, Sauternes can be aged from 5 to 40+ years and sometimes even over 100 years. As the wine ages, the golden-yellow color deepens and darkens. Some wine experts even believe this dessert wine begins to truly develop its more complex, mature flavors once the color reaches a copper color.

Food Pairing

While Sauternes is great with desserts such as cheesecake, almond tart, lemon tart, meringues, and custards, it also pairs wonderfully with savory dishes, including Roquefort cheese and caramelized onions.


Because the wine is so sweet, I like it better with savory dishes. the combo of sweet wine and savory food is truly amazing.


Savory pairings are a big treat
Savory pairings are a big treat

Why is Sauternes So Expensive?

A half-bottle of top-quality, aged Sauternes wine from a good vintage can command prices in excess of $1000. Château d’Yquem, one of the most sought-after wines, starts at $500.


For a number of reasons, Sauternes’ wines are extremely expensive to make. First, there is no guarantee that botrytis will develop in the vineyards. Second, the wine is aged in expensive barrels for up to 36 months. Third, all kinds of risks are involved with the grape growing, including. bad weather and leaving ripe grapes on the vines for an extended period of time. Finally, skilled grape pickers need to search multiple times for grape bunches affected by botrytis.

As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

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