Wines of appellation Sauternes
Wines of appellation Sauternes

Appellation Sauternes

The appellation extends on the left bank of the Garonne. Between plateaus and valleys, it covers a wide variety of soils composed of sands, gravels and clays. It is on the gravelly ridges that are implanted the most famous châteaux. In Bordeaux, the most prestigious sweet wine in the world is undoubtedly Château d‘Yquem. Derived from noble rot and gold color in their youth, large sauternes over time take amber tones darker and darker, while their bouquet becomes more complex. The older ones have an exceptional aging potential of up to a century! The aromatic palette is very large with scents of honey, hazelnut, candied orange, quince, white flowers and toasty notes. On the palate, the wine is powerful, fat and very elegant. Sauternes are the only white wines to have been classified in 1855. Twenty-seven estates are included in the 1855 ranking of white wines.

>> see our article ‘Official classification of 1855

Among the biggest châteaux of Sauternes the essential are Yquem, Climens, Coutet, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Rieussec, Gilette, Suduiraut, La Tour Blanche.

Area: 1700 ha / Soils: gravelly, clay-limestone, limestone / Grape varieties: sémillon, sauvignon, muscadelle / aging potential: 20 years and older (up to 100 years for the biggest vintages)

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The best vintages of the Sauternes appellation

The greatest vintages of the Sauternes appellation are as follows: Sauternes 1921, 1929, 1937, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1959, 1990, 2005 and 2009.

Sauternes appellation‘s greatest châteaux

Sauternes‘ greatest estates include Yquem, Climens, Coutet, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Rieussec, GiletteSuduiraut and La Tour Blanche.

What are the characteristics of the Sauternes appellation?

Sauternes is mainly composed of 80% Semillon, 15% Sauvignon and 5% Muscadelle. Semillon contributes power, Sauvignon vivacity and freshness, while Muscadelle, although in small quantities, adds aromatic richness. Semillon is the emblematic grape variety of Sauternes, widely appreciated for its many qualities: good resistance to mildew and powdery mildew, which enabled it to outperform Sauvignon during the epidemics of 1851 to 1885. Its thin skin allows botrytis to develop perfectly in good years. However, during rainy harvests, grey rot can quickly attack the grapes, compromising the harvest. Semillon is a delicate grape variety with uncertain yields. Its juices give off a slightly musky flavor and great aromatic finesse, revealing notes of apricot, orange or smoke, heralding the wine‘s full promise.

The Sauternes region is mainly underlain by asteriated limestone, which is largely covered by alluvial deposits forming terraces with gentle slopes. Near the Garonne, in Barsac and Preignac, a few plots are planted on more recent alluvial deposits known as "palus clays", but the majority of the vineyards are located on the lower terraces, with a layer of limestone at a depth of around twelve meters.

South of Preignac and north of Bommes, Sauternes and Fargues, we find the middle terrace, which dates back to the Mindel period (Lower Pleistocene). This terrace is made up of feldspathic sands of low clay content, with gravels and pebbles covered by silts. Here we find estates such as Suduiraut, the lower part of Yquem and Sigalas-Rabaud.

Finally, to the south of the Sauternes region, we find the high terrace, which dates back to the Günz period. This terrace is composed of sands, gravels and a yellowish clay matrix. Here we find estates such as Rieussec, Guiraud, Filhot and the upper part of Yquem.

There‘s a unique microclimate that favors morning mists in autumn, followed by warm, sunny days.

The particular climate is the result of the meeting of the cold waters of the small Ciron river with the warmer waters of the Garonne. At the end of September, morning fog from both rivers slowly rises, dissipating a few hours later to make way for sunshine and mild weather. Because of the obstacle formed by the Landes forest, these mists cover the vineyard, which is essential for the development of botrytis cinerea.

Food and wine pairing

The pairing of foie gras and Sauternes sweet wines is recognized by all gourmets. As for cheeses, the combination of the two "noble rots" penicilium roqueforti from Roquefort and botrytis from Sauternes is also an excellent choice, as are pressed cooked cheeses such as Comté (24 months maturing). Finally, fruit-based desserts also go well with Sauternes sweet wines.

Where does Sauternes come from?

Legend has it that it all began in 1836, when the German-born merchant Focke, who also owned Château de la Tour Blanche, decided to wait until after an autumn rain to harvest his grapes. Miraculously, the sun appeared after the rain, creating favorable conditions for the development of Botrytis Cinerea. The berries then dried out, concentrating sugars and producing an exquisite sweet wine. However, it is also said that in 1847, the Marquis de Lur-Saluces, former owner of the famous Château d‘Yquem, went hunting in Russia and was delayed. He ordered us to wait for his return before harvesting. During his absence, the crop had time to ripen perfectly, and noble rot set in. Despite the uncertainty, he decided to go ahead with the harvest. The noble rot was exceptional that year, as was his wine.

But the true origins of the sweet wines of the Sauternes appellation are much more down-to-earth. In the 17th century, the Dutch had a strong presence in Bordeaux, playing an essential role in the wine trade. Fervent fans of white wines. They supported our production and added sugar, alcohol and syrups to meet the demands of our northern European customers.

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