We know many people who think that, like champagne, Bordeaux wine has to be an expensive affair for grand dinners or kept locked up for years to age. The truth is that great values can be had for all types of wine, and Bordeaux is no exception. Over the next couple of days, we’ll be sharing three selections—a red, a rosé, and a dessert wine—from Today’s Bordeaux, a hand-picked selection of wines between $9 and $55.
One of the most opulent wines from Bordeaux is, surprisingly, not a bold red wine, but a sweet dessert wine from the Sauternes region. Sauternes is a gravelly region in the Graves section in Bordeaux, situated close to the Garonne River. While Sauternes produces both red and white wines, they’re perhaps most famous for their eponymous dessert wines.
Sauternes wines are made from three grape varietals: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle, that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as “noble rot”. This disease causes the grapes to lose moisture while retaining sugar, resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavored wines.
Due to its climate, Sauternes is one of the few wine regions where noble rot is a frequent occurrence. Since it can be hard to have enough grapes be both affected by the rot and still be useable, some producers may go years without releasing a vintage. This makes many Sauternes very rare and hard to find, but, as we’ve pointed out earlier, there are many bargains to be found and it isn’t too difficult to find a half bottle of Sauternes for under $20.
One of the wines in this price range is the Castlenau de Suduirat, a “second” wine from Château Suduirat, one Sauternes’ best producers. Like most Sauternes, the Castlenau de Suduirat has a syrup-like texture and taste, with notes of honey. Surprisingly, while the best Sauternes are incredibly sweet, they’re never cloying, making them an excellent pairing for everything from foie gras to a dessert pastry.
We paired our Sauternes with a jam and almond shortbread tart, a mildly sweet dessert that benefitted from the extra “punch” of the wine’s sweetness. The recipe—a remarkably easy one that I found on Food52—was elevated by the addition of excellent wine, making the entire combination perfectly effortless for a dinner party.
Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta)
Adapted from Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 c. jam (I used a mixed berry jam, made with wine)
1/3 c. almonds, coarsely chopped
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position an oven rack in the center of oven.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix on medium speed until the mixture is very light in color, about 3 to 4 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the almond extract and blend well, another 30 seconds.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine on a low speed just until the dough is thoroughly combined. Measure out 1/2 c. of the dough and set it on a small plate, then place the plate in the freezer.
4. Press the remaining dough into a tart pan in an even layer. Use the back of a spoon to spread the jam in a thin, even layer over the surface of the dough, leaving a border of about 1-inch around the edges.
6. Remove the reserved dough from the freezer and crumble it into small pieces over the layer of the jam, allowing some of the jam to peek through. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly over the top of the tart.
7. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the topping is a beautiful golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely. Serve with fresh whipped cream.
Thank you to The Bordeaux Wine Council for providing the wine for this series. As always, all opinions are our own.