By Paul Caputo

Sauternes, the highly prestigious sweet white wine, is produced 40km upstream of Bordeaux in a region nestling between the left bank of the Garonne river and the immense Landes forest. This noble area of about 2,200 hectares is divided among the villages of Sauternes, Bommes, Fargues, Preignac and Barsac. Although they can all properly claim the famous Sauternes appellation, producers in Barsac can choose between the Sauternes AOC and its sister appellation, Barsac AOC.

Sauternes, on its day, is undoubtedly the best sweet wine in the world. The microclimate that prevails in this little area south of Bordeaux is conducive to producing naturally sweet, complex wines, some of which are amongst the most expensive wines in the world. Golden in colour with pronounced nuances of honey, apricot, and dried fruits the best wines are capable of ageing for over 100 years.

The reason for such high quality in these wines is due to the three grape varieties grown here, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. These grapes are particularly sensitive to a desirable form of rot induced by the morning fogs that descend on villages of Sauternes and Barsac. The moist, humid atmosphere is followed by drier, sunnier afternoons and thus creates the perfect conditions for Botrytis Cinerea. This grey mould shrivels the berries and consequently radically increases the ratio of sugar to water, hence the final wine is accordingly sweet.