Last year in November, the French #Winophiles did a little virtual visit to Bordeaux. No, not to sip on those famous Cabernet/Merlot blends, but rather to discover some of the underrated sweet wines of the region.
These are not the Sauternes or wine of Barsac. Those are delicious too, but they can be pricey! These wines are more approachable and affordable and are for more than just special occasion dessert wines. You can read the piece I wrote last fall and check out the pairings – Sweet Bordeaux Wines and Pairings from Opposite sides of the Globe.
The Wine Media Conference 2021
The Wine Media Conference is for the Wine Industry Media. The Conference itself is paid for primarily through the sponsors. The turnaround is that attendees have promised to write about the sponsors and their experience. You will see more content to fulfill our obligation for posts, but quite honestly, there is so much to write about, that you will see more than our requirement. Please note that all opinions are our own.
(The conference content and wine for tasting at the sessions and excursions were provided by the sponsors, travel, hotel and most meals were paid for by attendees.)
The Charming Taste of Europe
One of the sessions at the 2021 Wine Media Conference was focused on these wines and I was happy to revisit them. The session was led by Kayt Mathers founder of Play Nice Public Relations, in coordination with “The Charming Taste of Europe”. A project linking the wines of Italy and France and fresh fruit from Greece and bringing these flavors to the US and Canada.
As we walked in and took our seat with 4 glasses and a plate containing, BBQ potato chips, wasabi, almonds, dried apricots, and blue cheese. I knew at once that Michael would regret not coming to this one (he loves doing food and wine bite pairings).
Unions des Vins Doux de Bordeaux
The Union de Vin Doux de Bordeaux is an association of four organizations:
- ODG des Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supériurs
- ODG des Premières Côtes de Bordeaux et Cadillac
- ODG des Liquoreux de Bordeaux
- ODG des Côtes de Bordeaux Saint Macaire
In 2009 they created the brand “Sweet Bordeaux” to include 8 Appellations for sweet wines, each with their own interpretation.
The Appellations and their styles include:
- Bordeaux Moelleux
- fresh and medium sweet
- Bordeaux Supérieur
- medium sweet and delicate
- subtle and richly sweet
- Very sweet and refined
- Côtes de Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire
- medium sweet+ and with a tang
- richly sweet with spicy notes
- Premières Côtes de Bordeaux
- medium sweet and elegant
- richly sweet and full
These 8 AOCs cover 1800 hectares along the Garonne River taking up 2% of the Bordeaux area and accounting for just 1% of the volume of wine from Bordeaux.
So now, with all 4 wines poured before us, we went through, (attempting to be systematic) tasting each wine with each flavor to find the best pairing for each. Again we had BBQ potato chips, dried apricots, almonds, wasabi and blue cheese.
These items were to help us see how the wines paired with: Salt, Pepper, Spices, Citrus and vinegar. They shared a pairings list that included: Basil, wasabi, ginger, sesame oil, chili oil, cloves, lemongrass, strong, mature cheeses, charcuterie and oysters. (Many of these flavors we had incorporated into our pairings last November).
For this tasting, we sampled 4 wines in varying levels of sweetness. All the wines were various blends of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc and most develop botrytis. Botrytis is grey mold that under the right circumstances (humid damp mornings and dry afternoons), turns the grapes into golden nectar. (Think of it as happy mold, like with blue cheese!). When it does that, it is elevated from the name “grey mold” to “Noble rot”. Each of the wines was from a different region.
Château La Hargue
This wine hails from the Entre-Deux-Mers, the large region of Bordeaux that lies between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers (“between the seas”). A blend led by Sauvignon blanc with Sauvignon Gris and Sémillon it sees only Stainless Steel, no oak.
When we did our tasting last fall, this was one of the wines we tasted. I found some of my notes…
“In 1954 Henri DuCourt acquired this property with vineyards of white grapes planted on loamy soils, in the Entre-Deux-Mers. They have 26 hectares here at Château La Hargue planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Sauvignon Gris.”
This wine had floral notes with honey tones and honeysuckle nectar. I found it went best with the dried apricot and the BBQ chips. This wine was lighter in style than the others and was just overripe grapes with no botrytis. $11 SRP – 11% abv – (Imported by Baystate Wine & Spirits, Terreaneo and Laville Imports)
2017 Château des Arroucats
Château des Arroucats is located in the in the Saint-Croix-du-Mont Appellation. This AOC sits on steep hillsides over the Garonne River (on the right bank so the side to the east of the Garonne). The 26-hectare vineyard’s elevation is over 300 feet and the soils here are limestone with fossilized oysters. Vines here average 40 years old.
The blend is 92% Sémillon and 8% Sauvignon Blanc.
Here we got into a richer wine that incorporated botrytis. You got rounded tones of honey and nuts. I found I liked this best with the apricot. $15 SRP – 13.5% abv – (Imported by Vintage Wine Marketing)
Château du Cros 2016
The wines of Loupiac are primarily made with Sémillon, but Savignon and Muscadelle are allowed.
These vines are planted on the right bank facing the Garonne in gravelly chalky clay. They are known for citrus and liquorice notes. This very old region is the site of Saint-Romain, a Gallo-Roman Villa whose original construction began in the 1st Century AD. https://villadeloupiac.wixsite.com/villa-gallo-romaine/visites
The wine is made by Famille Boyer and Château du Cros has a story, that I found while researching the 2014 vintage of this wine that we tasted in the fall.
“The backstory…in 1196 Richard the Lionheart allow the construction of the “Vieux Chateau du Cros. During the Hundred Years’ War, it was partially destroyed. Built back over time it passed finally to Francois Thevenot in 1921. It was inhabited until 1940 when it was requisitioned by the German Army, it was damaged during the German occupation and fell to ruin.”
The 2016 vintage was hand-harvested with lots of successive sortings. It ages 12 months in 1/3 new French Oak. The blend is 90% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon Gris and 5% Sauvignon Blanc
This wine from Loupiac was saltier and more concentrated with a nice bit of acid to keep it from being cloying. I liked it with the almond that pulled out the nutty notes in the wine as well as with the blue cheese. $22 SRP – 13.5% abv (Imported by Calvert Woodley Fine Wines)
Château La Rame 2017
This AOC was established in 1972 in the heart of the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux. Again on the right bank of the Garonne, the vineyards for this wine are 2.5 hectares with clay and limestone and a subsoil of fossilized oysters. Vines average 45 years and the blend is 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon.
We tasted another of the wines from this Château in our fall tasting, the 2016 Sainte-Croix-du-Mont Grand Vin from Y. Armand & Fils a few notes on the house
“Produced by Y. Armand & Fils. The Armand family owns Château La Rame and Château La Caussande. This is a family affair. Between the 2 Chateaux, they have 50 hectares of vines over 6 AOCs, making sweet white wines from 2 AOC’s Cadillac and Sainte Croix du Mont. Our wine came from Sainte Croix du Mont.
There are 8 hectares of vines in a clay-limestone soil that has a unique sub-soil with fossilized oyster beds dating back to the 1st tertiary era (22 million years ago).”
This nose had more stewed white fruits and white syrup notes. This was easy drinking and went well with the almond, blue cheese and had a sweetness to tone the wasabi and make that pleasurable. $30 SRP – 13.5% abv – (Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant)
Kayt did mention to us that these are wines that are meant to serve AS dessert, not necessarily PAIR with dessert. Today in France there is a trend to serve these with an ice cube and an orange peel (or wheel) and a spirit or bitter.
At these prices, using these for a cocktail is easy and affordable. All 4 of these wines are currently imported to the US through various importers and are well worth looking for.
An added bonus is that after opening these wines will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in your fridge!
For more information on the wines of Sweet Bordeaux visit https://www.sweetbordeaux.com/en
More on Sweet Bordeaux by Crushed Grape Chronicles
You might be interested in some of the recipes we paired with the Sweet Bordeaux wines last fall.
We did an Asian flavor inspired lunch with Thai Pumpkin Soup with Spring Onion & Ginger Cod with Fried Noodles, a French lunch of -Gratin de butternut a la d’Auvergne & Carmelized Fennel Salad, and a dessert of peach crumble
Here is the link!
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.