Sauternes is one of the famous white wines of the Bordeaux region, and is acclaimed as a great dessert wine. Always make sure that you are buying Sauternes and not Sauterne. Sauterne is used by other country winemakers to designate their dessert wine, but it is not Sauternes. Sauternes and Barsac are adjacent and each has its own Appelation, though some Barsac wines list themselves as Sauternes. You may also see a designation Haut-Sauternes; this is not a legal designation or reference to a geographic area, usually just a marketing method to mean a sweeter wine from the regular wine.
Sauternes wines are produced differently from other Bordeaux wines. There is a mold, referred to as the “noble rot” which creates shriveled grapes with a higher concentration of sugar per grape (and this does not occur every year). When this occurs the production of wine diminishes, but the finished product is legendary. Even if you don’t like sweet wines, a Sauternes/Barsac wine should be tried at least once in your tasting life.
Sauternes for years was traditionally served with fish dinners in France and Great Britain, for the most part this pairing has ceased, and it is now customary to serve with dessert. It is a wine with a long heritage and had its own Classification of 1855 for Sauternes and Barsac.
Grand Premier Cru (First Great Growth)
Premiers Crus (First Growths)
Chateau La Tour-Blanche
Chateau de Rayne-Vigneau
Chateau de Suduiraut
Deuxiemes Crus (Second Growths)
Chateau de Malle
You may also find some Petite Chateaus that were not listed in the classification, but deserving of a taste.