Drinking and Pairing Sauternes/Barsac with FoodSauternes is a sub-district found within the Bordeaux region of southwest France. Both Sauternes and neighboring Barsac are world famous for their intensely sweet dessert wines produced from Sémillon, Sauvignon, and Muscadelle grapes that have been attacked by a special type of natural mold known as botrytis. Botrytis, aka "pourriture noble" (noble rot), causes the grapes to shrivel up, allowing water to evaporate, which concentrates their sugars. Botrytis results in a particular flavor that some describe as a "honeyed earthiness." Botrytis is common in Sauternes and Barsac due to their unique microclimates of river mist and humidity. The best wines are hand-harvested over the course of several weeks with individual berries picked at their peak of ripeness and dehydration. Château Yquem is by far the most famous of these wines and is extremely expensive, but good value can be found in Barsac as well as in Loupiac directly opposite Sauternes on the other side of the River Garonne.
Sauternes and Barsac are classic with foie gras and blue-veined cheeses where they act as a counterbalance to those foods' richness and saltiness. Sauternes can also be excellent with custards as well as fruits containing fruit and caramel.