Many people equate Bordeaux with the excellent red wines found in the wine regions of Medoc and Saint-Emilion. But if you can, you should also try the white dry and gold sweet wines of the nearby Graves wine region.
Graves is particularly known for the subregion of Sauternes, which is where sweet Sauternes wines are produced, Sauternes wines are made from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis (noble rot), the fungus which concentrates the amount of sugar in the berry.
Sauternes wine is more expensive to purchase than many other wines because it’s more expensive to produce. Some Sauternes fields are harvested five to six times in a season, depending on the maturity of the grapes. Moreover, the yield is low; one vine produces only one glass of wine (in contrast, one vine of a Grand Cru wine can yield a bottle of wine and a vine of inexpensive red wine can yield about two bottles). Sauternes wines also have to be aged, sometimes for several years.
Sauternes is often seen as a wine to serve with dessert because of its sweetness. However, the wine producers we met told us that Sauternes wine is actually better as an aperitive, or with fish, sushi, and spicy dishes. It could also be served alone as the dessert itself. Good to know!
We had a great experience touring the region with Xavier of 33Tour Bordeaux & Chateaux, a small, local company specializing in wine and Cognac tours. This was a high-end event. All of our visits were private. Here are three don’t-miss wineries in Graves and Sauternes we recommend.
1. Chateau Suduiraut
Our first visit was to Chateau Suduiraut, one of the great historic vineyards of the region. The estate was founded in 1580 and is now owned by a French insurance company. It produces both dry white wines and Sauternes wines. Some of its vines are more than 80 years old.
Blanc Sec de Suduirant 2019, a dry white wine 😊++
Castelnau de Suduirant Sauternes 2014 😊++
Chateau Suduirant Premier Cru Classe en 1855 Sauternes 2014 😊😊+
2. Chateau d’Yquem
The epitome of Sauternes is the legendary Chateau d’Yquem, which is literally in a class by itself, “Premier Cru Superior.” The estate, which is gorgeous and opulent, once belonged to the King of England in the Middle Ages; winemaking and late harvesting already existed on the property in the 1500s. Thomas Jefferson owned several bottles from the 1784 vintage. Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton bought the chateau in 1999.
Since it’s at the top of a hill, it has its own micro terroir. One can visit the gardens for free; you need a special appointment to enter the tasting room. These wines can age 100 years, according to Anne, our guide around the property (but don’t wait that long; you’ll want to enjoy it!)
We had a very generous pour of the Chateau d’Yquem 2017. It was out of this world. I’m not even sure how to rate it. To put it in perspective, it costs 500 euros a bottle. Some vintages are even more expensive.
3. Chateau de Cerons
For a little variety, we also visited Chateau de Cerons, a winery that does not produce Sauternes wine. It’s a little different for this area in that it’s a family-owned winery and it produces a variety of wine, including orange wine. Its chateau, which dates from the 17th Century, was built Versailles style. We even had the opportunity to meet owner Xavier Perromat.
Chateau de Cerons AOC Graves White 2020, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, and Semillon 😊++
Chateau de Cerons AOC Graves Red 2019, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot 😊++
Chateau de Cerons, AOC Cerons 2018, a sweet white made from Semillon and Muscadelle. It’s different from Sauternes wine because it has more acidity 😊😊
We hope you consider visiting these three don’t-miss wineries in Graves and Sauternes. For more information on how to spend your time in the Bordeaux area, see our article about prioritizing your Bordeaux wine experience. À votre santé!
Do you have any additional wineries in Graves and Sauternes you suggest we visit? Let us know! We’re at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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