A few weeks ago a dear friend got married. Yay! The wedding was in Florida and we were home in California, but we watched the whole thing. The Greek Orthodox Church has become super hip. They do live-streams y'all! Nai. Modern Greek for "yes". It was every bit as ceremonious as you might expect. However Gabe and I were kicked back at home, watching while I madly texted with my Kentucky peeps, representing various time zones, who were also tuning in. It was a very 21st Century experience. Texting with my friends made it feel like we were in community and bearing witness as our cherished friend made a monumental commitment. For the onlookers, there was no travel, no budget busting, no drama (unless you count my open weeping, tears of joy!). And all this happened in our living room while pleasantly nibbling on sliced apples, walnuts, Stilton and Roquefort cheeses. Accompanied by none other than Sauternes. That my friends, is not something provided by The Greek Orthodox Church.
Why not Champers?
Now some of you may be thinking, it was a wedding, the customary libation is bubbles. Right. I agree! I love bubbles like no other. Being inclined towards the celebratory, I quaff them oft. I read an article recently which implored us all to slow down on our culture's newfound "anniversary" overload: our "date-versary", my "work-a-versary", your cat's "6 and 3/5 months since being adopted-versary"etc. Her valid point was that lest we pump the brakes on this "have a party, bring a gift, social media post for every damn thing" phenomena, what will ever be special anymore? Point well taken. Thankfully weddings, to say nothing of marriages, still have a place for occasion. And Sauternes, I would argue, fits the same bill. These are not everyday occurrences, weddings and drinking Sauternes. One or either, may happen only once in a lifetime. Although I really hope that all of you will do your due diligence to drink Sauternes a little more often than get married, but to each their own.
That phrase always sounded downright medieval to me. In all the bad ways. Let's deal with this: Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc & Muscadelle grapes that have botrytis, which is a mould. Now, as you might expect, Sauternes comes from France, and only France, land of many gourmet fungal delights. This desired affliction, makes the grapes partially raisined, imparting deep, particular and desirable flavors to the wine. In fact the wine is a sweet wine, decidedly dissimilar to rot. And it is a very special wine. It comes from the Graves section of Bordeaux, most associated with Cabernet Sauvignon, a red wine of girth. Not to say that Sauternes can't bring its own brawn, but the two are most divergent.
Sauternes is a "stickie" as they refer to dessert wines in Australia, but a traditional pairing is not dessert. The wine brings such vigor and flavor, that it is most treasured alongside a savory. Think blue-veined cheeses, baked into pears sprinkled with nuts and honey. Or foie-gras with a zingy sauce. Vegans, go with something like a nut loaf drizzled in a tangy gravy. Decadent. Rich foods. Sauternes can cut it, boasting a formidable and refreshing acidity. As we approach the holiday season, consider incorporating a Sauternes into your rotation. It is impressive as a wine, generally, and you can bone up on some knowledge to share. A little bit goes a long way, and as such, it is often sold in a half bottle (a split or 2.5 glasses). Sauternes is generally 13.5%-14.5% alcohol by volume, so it is higher than other sweet wines. And though it is luscious and you will want to luxuriate with it, you won't want it all night long. It is sweet after all and meant for smaller doses.
2011 Vignobles Roumazeilles Chateau Grillon, Sauternes, France
Retails for: $22-$26 for a half bottle (375ml) online options
Tasting notes: Honeyed pears on the nose. Drinks like apricot nectar, sprinkled with powdered ginger and sweetened with love. The finish begins viscous but elongates into a crisp bite of apple, kept fresh with squeezes of citrus. Sweet and refreshing!