What we’re drinking: Sauternes

Mary writes:

At a recent tasting put on by a long time friend and collector, a bunch of us tasted a vertical of Clerc Milon, a wine from the Paulliac region of Bordeaux. The wines were from 1996 through 2000.

This commune produces four of the five first growth Bordeaux wines.

Vertical tastings are really enlightening. You are given the opportunity to taste the differences in wine made by the same winemaker from identical vineyards and with the same cellar techniques. The only difference you taste is what hand Mother Nature dealt each year.

To show my appreciation for the invite, I brought along a little gem from my cellar, another Bordeaux but very, very different in so many ways. First, it was white; second, it was in a half, or split, bottle; third, it was sweet.

In France, the labels for sweet white wines from this region are known as Sauternes. In other wine regions, notably the U.S., a sweet white wine would be known as sauterne without the “s” at the end and not capitalized. However, French being French, the pronunciations for both are the same: “saw turn.”

The wine I brought was a Chateau Coutet. This lies within Barsac, located southeast of the city of Bordeaux where most of the white grapes are cultivated. Barsac lies within the Sauternes commune and is entitled to use either name on its labels. Other communes that can only use their own name are Monbazillac, Cérons, Loupiac and Cadillac.

Grape varieties used in the region are Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.

My 15-year-old bottle had a lovely golden color and aromas of honey, ripe peach and apricots. And that indescribable aroma of botrytis cinerea. The flavors were dense, elegant and integrated with a weighty mouthfeel.

I loved the concentrated caramelized notes bouncing off the honeyed fruit flavors. The clean finish of mango and orange was long and luscious.