Perhaps the most famous and renowned of all sweet wines, Sauternes, with its complex, honeyed flavors, is almost impossible not to love. While it is a wine of Bordeaux, it’s so different from every other wine produced there. Usually a blend of mostly Sémillon and a smaller part of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauternes is produced from the Graves region, which is alongside the Garonne and Ciron rivers. In early Autumn, during the ripening season, mists off the rivers blanket the vineyards during the nights creating a humid environment that promotes the botrytis cinerea mold. This mold can be harmful to grapes if it strikes too early, but when it occurs later in ripening when the grapes have sufficient sugar, it serves to shrivel the skin, evaporate some of the water, and concentrate remaining sugar and acids, while transforming their character into something ambrosia-like and impossibly delicious. And this nectar only improves with age, with top wines lasting 30 years or more. Château d'Arche is a top producer, classified as a second growth meaning that this concentrated, intense wine will be delicious now as well as mature beautifully for decades.
The bouquet offers scents of heady peach, honey, and marmalade with hints of vanilla cream.
Creamy and viscous in the mouth, this Sauternes is packed with flavor. The taste of ripe apricot mingles with brighter hints of lemon honey and candied orange peel, while concealing notes of flowers, beeswax, sweet cream and pear.
The Château d'Arche makes a lovely wine with dessert, though the key to pairing is to match it with dishes that are less sweet than the wine. Fruit pies and tarts that are low in sugar will be nice, as would shortbread cookies or simple vanilla ice cream with fresh berries or peaches. However, there's also a great tradition of matching Sauternes with rich, savory food. More rustic goose or chicken liver pâtés will make lovely matches, as will any number of tangy cow or sheep cheeses. The wine will be terrific with savory dishes like Crostini with Chicken Liver Pâté or a dessert like Caramelized Nut Tart; find the recipes at williamsonoma.com.
Serve well chilled: refrigerate the bottle for 45 minutes before serving.