by Paige Donner
Christmastime is the perfect time to enjoy a bottle of AOC Barsac, a French appellation devoted to the production of sweet wine, with a distinguishing accent of freshness. Château Coutet is one of the region’s outstanding wine producers and what’s more, this French wine has soul.
Mind you, many French wines do. Have soul that is. But this one is especially solid, and especially for the holidays. And, by the way, it is a 1ère Grand Cru Classé 1855, too. AND it (the 2014 vintage) was N° 3 in Wine Spec’s Top 10 of 2017.
The appellation “Barsac”, located on the left bank of the Ciron, is also part of the Sauternes appellation. This means that all Barsacs are Sauternes, but not all Sauternes are entitled to the appellation Barsac. An original soil characteristic justifies the existence of this appellation and the fact that it is being differentiated from other Sauternes… (Microclimate): At the end of summer, the combination of the rivers’ cold water and winds creates a thick fog in the morning, covering the vineyards and being retained by the Landes forest, farther south. Thanks to the humidity it brings, this fog promotes the development of the famous fungus, Botrytis cinerea, in the vines and on ripe berries. At midday, the fog evaporates by the action of sunlight and wind, and thus allows for the berries to dry and for their sugar to concentrate. This so-called “Noble Rot” is the result of this peculiar phenomenon occurring in the Sauternes appellation.
What To Pair?
People often think of sweet wines as the go-to pairing with desserts. But, frankly, that is often a bit too much sweet-on-sweet. Best to pair these stellar wines with the aperitif, while cracking walnuts, Brazil nuts and almonds-in-the-shell while you sit by the fire with friends and family.
To really dazzle, you can serve with a dish of perfectly succulent St. Jacques (scallops) or lobster, basted richly in their juices – at least that is what Philippe Baly, owner and GM of this esteemed estate, assures. I will have to try that pairing one day soon for myself… Or pair with some nice cheese, like a Roquefort or an aged Comté. If you must try pairing with a dessert, go for a less sweet nut tart or lightly sweetened fruit such as a stewed pear in honey for example. For me, this wine is the dessert. So either I enjoy it as an aperitif, while the smells of the roasting, honey basted ham is still wafting from the warm kitchen (every lady knows that dessert can and often does come before the meal) , or I sip it instead of dessert, as a sweet finish to my meal. If you do this, try tantalizing the tastebuds even further with a square of dark, minimum 70% cacao, dark chocolate.
|White grape varieties||Sémillon: native to Sauternes, apricot & smoky aromas
Sauvignon blanc: citrus notes
Muscadelle: spiciness for complexity
Château de Fargues harvests their nobly rotted bounty grape by grape. And you can tell instantly in the glass. Honeyed elixir, candied apricots… this is a classic, beautiful Sauternes. Château Doisy-Védrines is another example of gold in a glass and also is a Grand Cru Classé en 1855.
For the most part, Sauternes wines have a more intense liquor, a deeper opulence, a richer sweetness (than their Barsac neighbors) – all largely due to the way their gravel soils catch the heat of the sun and reflect it back up to the grapes.
In France, the classic holiday pairing is Sauternes with foie gras. And when you serve that foie gras on little wedges of spice cake, a breadier form of our gingerbread, well, then you know you are respecting tradition, and all for good reason. Add just a tiny dab of fig confiture and Voilà… you will feel to the manor borne…
These two Sauternes are excellent choices and perfect accompaniment for holiday meals. And the ever so nice thing about these French wines with soul is that they are even more enjoyable when shared with loved ones (or at least good friends).
Château de Fargues was first constructed in the 14th c. by Cardinal Raymond-Guilhem de Fargues in the village of Fargues, Sauternes, Bordeaux.
Château Doisy-Védrines Grand Cru Classé en 1855
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