Most folks, when they think of Bordeaux, think of the richly flavored red wines made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Not many are familiar with Bordeaux white wines typically made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (and more recently Sauvignon Gris), and even fewer with the sweet wines from the region.
Arguably the most famous sweet white wine appellation in Bordeaux is Sauternes. But Sauternes can be expensive, for many reasons. Primarily, it is due to the low yields of the vines, as the grapes are picked after the grapes for both the dry white wines and the reds are harvested, and, if Mother Nature is kind, the grapes are affected by a fungus called Botrytis cinerea or more commonly the Noble Rot, a disaster for red grapes if affected, but hoped for in Sauternes as this fungus has a unique affect on the white grapes by cracking the grape skins and allowing the water in the grape to evaporate thus concentrating the juice. A vine of Semillon, unaffected by the noble rot, can produce up to 8 glasses of wine per vine, but an affected vine will produce only one. What's more, the grapes are harvested only at maximum ripeness, and since no two grape clusters ripen (both fruit and noble rot) at the same rate, there is often 4 or even 7 passes through the vineyard for harvest, ALL BY HAND. This takes time and manpower, thus a high price at offering.
However, due to the strong demand for Sauternes, market dynamics over-value the wine, for those of us looking for good values. Luck for us there are alternatives. My favorite is Sainte Croix-du-Mont, literally just across the Garonne river from Sauternes. These wines are delicious and very affordable. I have been working with Chateau Crabitan Bellevue for the last 16 years and their wines never disappoint.
Some of the wine is vinified in vat,
and some is aged in oak barrels to aid in maturation and flavor.
And all of this is lorded over by Nicolas Solane, one of a generational line to make wine on the property.
And Nicolas is always has a warm welcome in his modest tasting room for those visiting the property.
You can find the Crabitan Bellevue 2007 Saint Croix-du-Mont at many Binny's Depot locations in Chicagoland for less than $20. As I said, a great value and if this is your glass of wine, a must find. Try it with blue cheeses, you know, salt/sweet is a great blend. You can also use wine like this for a delicious preparation of duck. Visit my website for the recipe.