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Sauternes a perfect match for foie gras

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Some years ago someone paid £78,105 for a bottle of 1811 Chateau d’Yquem which Robert Parker rated 100/100

There are two things that should be remembered about the wine known as sauternes: always put the “s” on the end, even if you are referring to a single bottle and never pronounce the final “s”.

In the Sauternes region of Bordeaux, Sémillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle grapes are used to make our world’s best-known sweet dessert wine and the production is unique.

First, the grapes are left on the vines well past normal picking times; the hope is that they will become infected by a fungus that forms a grey mould on their skins.

The official name is Botrytis cinerea or noble rot. The grapes shrivel, become raisin-like, and chemical changes take place.

A good sauternes will offer up honeysuckle, honeyed apricot, caramel, butterscotch, mango, marmalade and even coconut.

Our taste buds start to signal sweetness when the sugar in a liquid exceeds five grams per litre (half of one per cent).

These wines can vary from just over 100 grams per litre to just over 200, so no worries about detecting the sweet component.

Although I may have concerns about such sweetness at the start of a meal, a very traditional match is with foie gras.

You may try ending the meal with a strong cheese such as Roquefort or even cheesecake, as well as lemon tarts and custards.

I also like them with a fresh bowl of fruit; more than 100 years ago these wines were all the rage during the meal, with roasted poultry and spicy foods.

Some years ago, someone paid £78,105 for a bottle of 1811 Chateau d’Yquem, which is the most famous of them all.

Robert Parker tasted it in 1995 and rated it 100/100. Sugar is an excellent preserver and because of this, we can offer you a few choices that are quite old for a white wine.

As it is so intense, a little goes a long way and we have quite a few in half-bottles.

Let us start with Chateau Guiraud 2005 1er Grand Cru Classé that received exceptional scores, such as 97/100 from James Suckling.

He wrote: “This appears to be the synthesis of the fabulous 2001 and 2003. It shows wonderful aromas of botrytis spice, honey and citrus rind. Lots of fruit with a tropical fruit undertone of mango and papaya on the palate. Intense finish. Too excellent not to drink.”

It also garnered 97/100 from Wine Spectator.

Wines & Spirits, who rated it 95/100, said: “Seething with power, there’s baritone richness to this wine’s complex fruit, a deeper tone to the surface of honey and citrus. It feels clean, fresh and bright, the structure holding the wine’s complexity tight for now, waiting to release it with age.” $50.20 for a half-bottle.

A half of the 2009 goes for $49.20 and it rates 96/100 with Wine Spectator.

Many great wines have a second label that is far less expensive and this is because only the most perfect grapes go into their flagship.

There may be younger vines producing fruit that has not developed to its full complexity and potential.

We stock Petit Guiraud 2013 that rates 88/100. It is yours for only $17 for the half-bottle, but you still get dried apricots, yellow flowers and honeysuckle.

One of the icons of sauternes is Chateau Rieussec 1er Grand Cru Sauternes that was acquired by Domaines Barons de Rothchild in 1984.

Chateau Rieussec’s second wine is selected according to the same standards as the first wine. Its character consistently reveals a beautiful aromatic range dominated by citrus flavours.

Carmes de Rieussec’s name is a reference to the Carmelite monks in Langon, who owned the Rieussec estate in the 18th century.

2009 was an outstanding year in Bordeaux in general and we have this second wine in stock from this tremendous vintage.

You may feel that you do not need a full-bottle size, unless you are having eight to ten for dinner, but please know that a sweet wine like this will last for at least a week in the fridge before showing any deterioration.

Or, if you have an empty half-bottle just fill it, cork it, and it will keep a very long time. A bottle of Carmes de Rieussec 2009 sells for $39.30.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm

As part of the sauternes production process, the grapes are left on the vines well past normal picking times; the hope is that they will become infected by a fungus that forms a grey mould on their skins