Sauternes, from a top Château, can be a wine of immeasurable complexity. On the nose there may be a thousand and one aromas, including honey, apricot, peach, passion fruit, mango, marmalade, toffee apple, barley sugar, butterscotch, ginger, nuts and honeysuckle. The palate will have a lush sweetness, with a hint of underlying earthiness, but kept fresh by a balanced, zesty acidity. And the finish may last from now, into next week. Truly a gift of the gods, crafted by artists.
I said at the beginning of this piece, if you don't like sweet wines, nothing I write will change your mind. Or can I? I am heartened that on many, many occasions when I present a top class Sauternes to a sceptic, they suddenly see the light. True, to appreciate the wine you have to understand the wine, just as with art and music. But Sauternes has another obstacle to be surmounted: the perception that it is a 'pudding' wine.
There are some desserts which, in my subjective opinion, do not marry well with Sauternes. These include chocolate (a soft, rich red can work oh so well here), waffles and crepes. Tarte tatin, fruit flans, and strawberries are matches made in heaven. Many cheeses, both hard and soft work really well - French people like Roquefort, but I find the acidity and saltiness of this cheese fights with the wine. However, it is time to open your mind to the main course possibilities: duck, roast, fried and Cajun chicken, pork served with roasted carrots and sweet potatoes, Thai and other pacific rim dishes are just a few of the possibilities. With starters, the wines can be great with scallops, patés , Charente or Galia melon, and air-cured hams, particularly Parma, Serrano or Iberico. Of course Sauternes makes the most brilliant aperitif.
Now, just one last and really important point. Never, ever, ever, buy a bottle of high quality Sauternes from a supermarket shelf. Chances are it will have been damaged by UV light. Always ask for one from the box, and when storing at home, please, please keep the bottle in the dark!
Now, I need to head for for the wine cellar............