If you haven’t discovered the world of Golden Sweet Bordeaux wines, I urge you to try them for a sensory delight that will have you sipping them as an aperitif and pairing them with your main course, cheese course, and dessert. Sweet Bordeaux wines can be “moelleux” – medium sweet or “liquoreux” – very sweet. They are made from primarily three grape varieties; Sémillon brings color, finesse, and richness, Sauvignon Blanc adds fresh aromatic richness and acidity, and Muscadelle provides powerful floral aromas, low acidity, and roundness. The sensory thrill of sipping these wines comes from the balance between sweetness and fresh acidity.
This month the French Winophiles take that sensory journey to the region in Bordeaux where sweet wines are produced. See what we learned, tasted, and paired with these golden sweet wines of Bordeaux. Join our Twitter chat Saturday, November 21, 2020, at 11:00 AM ET (using hashtag #winophiles to join and follow the conversation) and check out more articles on Sweet Bordeaux wines at the end of this post.
Fast Facts about Sweet Bordeaux Wines
- Bordeaux’s sweet wine region is located 20 miles south of the city of Bordeaux on both sides of the Garonne River.
- Only 2% of Bordeaux’s wine production is sweet wines.
- There are eleven appellations of Sweet Bordeaux: Sauternes, Barsac, Bordeaux Supérieur, Cadillac, Cérons, Côtes de Bordeaux-Sainte-Macaire, Graves Supérieurs, Loupiac, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, and Sainte Foy-Côte de Bordeaux
- The microclimate, especially along the Ciron River (a tributary of the Garonne River), misty autumn mornings, and warm, windy afternoons are the perfect conditions for botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot.
- The botrytis cinerea penetrates the grape’s skin, evaporates the water inside the grape, and concentrates the sugars, acids, and flavors that make Sweet Bordeaux wines taste so sublime.
- Sémillon is the Sweet Bordeaux wines’ primary grape followed by Sauvignon Blanc, usually making up less than 20% of the blend, and finally Muscadelle never more than 5%.
- The grapes for Sweet Bordeaux wines are harvested late, usually September -November.
- Moelleaux wines, also known as medium-sweet or semi-sweet are harvested with one pass using ripe, overripe, and botrytized grapes. These wines tend to be fruity with residual sugar of fewer than 45 grams per liter.
- Liquoruex wines are luscious sweet wines harvested with 3 to 6 passes through the vineyards, only selecting the most botrytized grapes and eliminating any damaged grapes. The harvest can last for up to 2 months. The residual sugar is more than 45 grams per liter. These wines will keep up to one month once opened in the refrigerator because the sugar and acidity act as a preservative and are slow to oxidize.
- The wines make for versatile food pairings because of their varying sugar levels and the balance of acidity.
My Wine Tasting and Pairing Notes
Disclosure: The wines were provided to me as media samples. All opinions are my own.
Vin Moelleux Bordeaux Wines
2019 Château La Hargue, Bordeaux Blanc Moelleux, Entre-Deux-Mers, France
11% abv | ~$18.00 (sample) | Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Muscadelle, Sauvignon Gris
Henri Ducourt acquired Château La Hargue in 1954. It is planted to only white varietals on loamy soils. The grapes are machine harvested; alcoholic fermentation starts at low temperatures (12 degrees C) and then increased to 20 degrees C to finish fermentation. Aging takes place on its lees in thermo-regulated stainless steel vats.
Pale straw in color. Aromas of fresh apple, pear, and lime. On the palate, off-dry, medium(-) body, medium(+) acidity, and low alcohol. Flavor notes of lime, golden apple, and pear. A soft round texture balanced with refreshing acidity.
Food Pairings: I paired the Château La Hargue with a Persian Saffron and Fennel Chicken Stew (recipe below). The pairing was spot on and one I look forward to having again soon. The wine’s lower alcohol matched the weight of the lighter, cleaner tasting components of the dish – a light broth with chicken breasts and fennel. The slight sweetness in the wine was echoed with sweeter flavors like saffron, cinnamon, honey, orange juice, raisins, and even the fennel. The acidity in the wine balanced the overall pairing, refreshing the palate with each sip.
Other pairing suggestions: Fish with a natural hint of sweetness like crab, mildly spicy Indian and Asian dishes, Caribbean or tropical preparations. Cheeses that are not too salty. A fresh goat cheese, a creamy blue cheese like Point Reyes Blue, and Manchego.
2019 Lion de Tanesse, Bordeaux Blanc Moelleux, Bordeaux, France
11% abv | ~ $15.00 (sample) | 85% Sémillon and 15% Sauvignon Blanc
Château Tanesse is located in the Langoiran district of Bordeaux. The vineyard soils are clayey-limestone on the slopes and gravelly on the plateau. The average vineyard age is 20 years. The grapes are vinified to a residual sugar of about 34 grams per liter. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks.
Pale yellow in color. A slight hint of white flowers and apricot. On the palate, off-dry, medium(-) body, medium(-) acidity, and low alcohol. Flavor notes of apricot, honey, and pear.
Food Pairings: Similar pairings that work with Château La Hargue could also work with Lion de Tanesse. I found the Lion de Tanesse to have a richer texture and mouthfeel because of the higher percentage of Sémillon. Pairings that would complement that round texture are dishes that also have buttery and creamy textures.
Vin Liquoreaux Bordeaux Wines
2016 Château La Rame, Sainte-Croix du Mont, Bordeaux, France
13% abv | ~$24.00 375ml. (sample) | 95% Sémillon and 5% Sauvignon Blanc
Château La Rame is one of the oldest and most renowned estates in the Sainte Croix du Mont appellations. The south-facing hillside vineyards overlook the Garonne River. The soils are clay-limestone with some sand topsoils. The average vineyard age is 50 years. Fermentation starts with indigenous yeasts in 50% stainless steel tanks and 50% 225-l barrels (30% new). The wine is racked off its lees after fermentation, followed by spontaneous malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged for 18-24 months in 80% stainless-steel and 30% 225-l oak barrels (30% new).
Medium gold in color. Aromas of apricots, honey, honeysuckle, and marmalade. On the palate sweet, medium(+) body, medium (+) acidity, and medium (+) alcohol. Flavor notes of apricot, honey, peach, and a hint of vanilla. Fresh minerality with a soft texture and a lingering finish.
2015 Château Dauphiné Rondillon Loupiac, Bordeaux , France
13% abv | ~ $15.00 375ml. (sample) | 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc
Château Dauphiné-Rondillon dates back to 1929 and is owned by the Darriet Family. The vineyards are planted in limestone, clay, and gravel soils. The gravel section of the vineyards is located at the top of the slope and faces both west and south. The limestone sections are also at the top of the hill and face east. Grapes are harvested by hand, up to five times over a six week period. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks with native yeasts. The finished wine reaches a residual sugar of 117 grams per liter (no chaptalization).
Medium(+) gold in color. Aromas of apricot, honey, and citrus. On the palate sweet, medium (+) body, acidity, and alcohol. The wine is nicely balanced with a round texture, luscious sweetness, and refreshing acidity – flavor notes of apricots, citrus, peach, and honey.
Food Pairings: I paired the Château La Rame and the Château Dauphiné wines with Baked Apples (recipe below) stuffed with raisins, toasted hazelnuts, sugar, and a drizzle of the vin liquoreaux wine. The apples were then topped off with mascarpone infused with vin liquoreaux wine and honey. A heavenly pairing of complementary fruit flavors, acidity, and overall richness.
Other pairing suggestions: Fruit desserts, crème brûlée, fruit and cheese platters with blue cheese, almonds, orange, and apricot, slightly spicy curries, tagines, and Colombo (I have a recipe for chicken Colombo here).
Persian Saffron and Fennel Chicken Stew
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large white onions, diced
- 4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
- 1 generous pinch saffron threads
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 oranges, juiced
- kosher sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large fennel bulbs, ends trimmed and quartered
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- In a large dutch oven like Le Creuset, add the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are translucent and slightly golden, about 7-10 minutes. Add the chicken breasts, turning to coat them in the onion mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is turning golden in color.
- Grind the saffron between your fingers as you sprinkle it over the chicken. Stir to mix. Then add the cumin, cinnamon, orange juice, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Pour enough boiling water over the chicken to just cover the chicken. Add the fennel and honey. Cover the pot with a lid, reduce the temperature to low, and simmer for 1 hour, after 30 minutes stir the pot to prevent sticking on the bottom.
- Soak the raisins in the lemon juice.
- After 1 hour, stir in the raisins with the lemon juice and continue to cook covered for 1 more hour.
- Serve with basmati rice and a glass of semi-sweet white Bordeaux wine.
Baked Apples with Sweet Bordeaux Wine
- 2 + tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 large Firm sweet-tart apples, like Pink Lady
- 4 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
- 4 teaspoons dark and golden raisins
- 1 cup vin liquoreux Bordeaux wine
- 1/2 cup mascarpone
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 375 F
- Butter a 9-inch square baker (should be large enough so apples do not touch). Using a paring knife or apple corer, cut three-fourths of the way into each apple making a one inch wide opening. Make 5 1-inch slits around the opening of the apple to prevent the skin from exploding.
- Spoon a teaspoon of sugar into each hole, followed by a teaspoon of hazelnuts, and then raisins. Top with 1/2 tablespoon of butter in each apple hole and a drizzle of sweet wine. Pour a little sweet wine in the baking dish, reserving 2 tablespoons for the mascarpone.
- Bake for about 45 minutes or until a paring knife easily pierces the apple. Add extra wine or water if the liquid evaporates on the bottom of the baking dish.
- While the apples bake, in a small bowl mix the mascarpone, 2 tablespoons of the sweet wine, honey, and vanilla.
- To serve, cut each apple in half, drizzle any pan juices over the apple and a dollop of the mascarpone sauce.
More on Sweet Bordeaux wines from the French Winophiles ~
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Surprise! Pairing Spicy and Savory Dishes with Sweet Bordeaux”
- Terri at Our Good Life: “Spicy Hot Tacos and Sweet Bordeaux”
- Martin at ENOFYLZ: “Pairing Golden Bordeaux with Southern Fare”
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish: “Golden Bordeaux Meets Savory Pumpkin and Smoked Bacon Tart: a Delicious Thanksgiving Twist!”
- David at Cooking Chat: “Pairings for Sweet Bordeaux Wine”
- Katrina at The Corkscrew Concierge: “Golden Bordeaux Delights in Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole Cuisine”
- Payal at Keep the Peas: “Four Sweet Bordeaux Wines with Four Courses”
- Jane at Always Ravenous: “Golden Sweet Bordeaux Wines: Tasting and Pairings”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm: “Hot Chocolate and Halva Pudding paired with Lion De Tanesse L’Amour”
- Jeff at foodwineclick!: “Sweet Bordeaux Meets the Smoke”
- Jill at L’OCCASION: “Sweet Bordeaux Wines Aren’t Just for Dessert”
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest: “Sweet Bordeaux Wines Get Savory Pairings”
- Rupal at Syrah Queen: “Sweet Bordeaux Is A Sweet Delight – Savor These Perfect Food Pairings”
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles: “Sweet Bordeaux Wines and pairings from opposite sides of the globe”
- Pinny at Chinese Food & Wine Pairings: “Sweet Bordeaux Paired with Asian Carbs – Chinese Sticky Rice and Korean Japchae”
- Susannah at avvinare: “Delightful Sweet Wines from Bordeaux”
- Nicole at Somm’s Table: “Château Loupiac Gaudiet with Cinnamon Apple Crème Brûlée”
- Gwendolyn at wine predator: “Successful Pairings of Salty and Savory with Sweet Semi-Dry Bordeaux”
- Jennifer at Vino Travels: “A Look into the Sweeter Side of Bordeaux Wines”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass: “Appetizer, entrées and yes, dessert please, with sweet Bordeaux”