When one thinks of sweet wines from Bordeaux, a single region/style comes to mind: Sauternes, which are some of the most iconic and collectible wines produced anywhere. But it turns out that sweet wines — or semi-sweet wines, at least — are made throughout the region, with 8 different appellations of sweet white wines produced here outside of the usual Sauternes and Barsac. The grapes are the same as those used in Sauternes — Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. Most of these wines are born on the Right Bank; check out the map on the Sweet Bordeaux website for details.
Recently we checked out four bottlings from different appellations, all of which undergo “noble rot” botrytis but which are designed for everyday sipping and even for use in cocktails. I tried them all solo. Thoughts follow.
2014 Chateau du Cros Loupiac – From a tiny region in the heart of the Right Bank. Immediately earthy and a bit woody and nutty, considerably less sweet than a Sauternes, though notes of honey smolder as the wine develops in the glass. An orange peel and dried apricot note emerges toward the finish, which pairs nicely with the gentle honey character up front and gives the wine a lively acidity and balance. B+ / $13 (half bottle)
2016 Chateau La Rame Sainte-Croix-du-Mont – “The holy cross of the mount” is next door to Loupiac. There’s more fruit and more sweetness in this wine than the du Cros bottling, again showing heavy with apricots but also bold with peaches. It comes across as a considerably closer approximation of Sauternes with a more straightforward honey note — but it lacks the overbearing syrupy character that you can some of the bolder expressions. Nice spice kick on the finish. A- / $23
2016 Chateau Loupiac-Gaudiet Loupiac – Perhaps the most Sauternes-like wine of the bunch. Lots of honey, quite floral, and with a significant orange peel note. That said, the finish is on the dry side, without the intense sweetness found in the typical Sauternes. This allows a vaguely nutty character to come to the fore, adding complexity. A- / $19
2019 Chateau La Hargue Moelleux Bordeaux Semi-Dry – This wine is from the broadest region in the area, which spans all of Bordeaux. (“Moelleux” means “soft.”) A harmless and indeed semi-dry/semi-sweet experience, it’s got a muscat-like character that runs to honey, applesauce, and finally sweet lemon curd on the finish. Gently floral at times, with a lingering but not overpowering sweetness on the finish. B / $22