The famous sweet wines of Château d'Yquem hail from Sauternes and although not every one can stretch to their prices there are other delicious wines from this area which make wonderful apéritifs – after all it does have 4,500 acres of vines to choose from!
Sauternes lies in the hollow where the river Garonne and its tributary the Ciron converge and its vineyards span 4,500 acres. The source of the Ciron is a spring which has cooler waters than the Garonne. In the autumn, when the climate is warm and dry, the different temperatures from the two river meet to produce mist that descends upon the vineyards from dusk till dawn. The mist helps the development of the botrytis cinerea fungus (known as noble rot). Noble Rot makes the the grape concentrate the flavours and sugars whilst keeping a high level of acidity. By mid day, the warm sun will help dissipate the mist and dry the grapes to keep them from developing less favourable rot.
The grapes grown in Sauternes are those which make White Bordeaux – Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Unlike White Bordeaux Sémillon,makes up most of the blend as it is easily infected with Noble Rot. Sauvignon Blanc provides acidity to counter balance the sweetness and Muscadelle contributes fragrance. Although these are dessert wines their sweetness is not cloying due to their zesty acidity. Flavours can include apricots, peaches, dried pineapple, nuts and honey and the finish lasts on the palate for a long time. Their colour is gold which darkens with time to a deep copper. The wine should be served chilled at around 11ºC. Wines from Barsac are lighter and have a fresher style.
Hopefully this has given you some inspiring ideas for taking some time out, watching the world go by and enjoying a drink before dinner!
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