When most people think of Bordeaux, a hearty great red wine comes to mind. However, semi-sweet and mellow white wines have been produced in Bordeaux since the 16the century. Long considered a simple after-dinner drink, like a Sauternes Mild or Barsac, there is another section of Bordeaux that is starting to gain more attention for its sweet wines, especially among young consumers and gourmets. Created in 2009 by the Union of Great Sweet Bordeaux Wines, the 8 appellations that make up ‘Bordeaux Soft White‘are gaining ground in Europe and making inroads into the American market.
“We are seeing that our wines are very popular with young consumers in France and Germany,” said Arthur Fournier, director of operations at Château de Birot, during an online tasting of a dozen sweet and semi-sweet wines. of the region. “We’re starting to see a similar trend in other places.”
Youmna Asseily, co-owner of Château Biac, agrees. “We see a lot of young people attracted to our wines. It is normal for the young palate to appreciate sweet wines. Another appreciated aspect, these wines keep for 3 weeks in the refrigerator after opening.
This preference for sweet wines is also supported by a recent American study showing that one in three new wine consumers begins their wine journey with a sweet wine. Another one to study illustrated that many wine consumers start with a preference for sweet wine and then, as they age, move on to drier styles – however, around 30% of consumers never switch to drier styles, preferring stay with sweeter wines. So perhaps the entry of sweeter Bordeaux white wine offers into the US market is timely.
About the Eight Bordeaux Doux Appellations
The eight appellations that are part of the “Sweet White Bordeaux” brand are located to the south and west of the city of Bordeaux, but do not include the more well-known appellations of Sauternes and Barsac. Each one focuses on a slightly different interpretation of sweetness, depending on its terroir:
1) Cadillac AOP – Soft and subtle, opulent
2) AOP Loupiac – Soft and sensual, opulent
3) AOP Bordeaux Moelleux – Soft and fresh, semi-sweet
4) AOP Cerons – Sweet and refined, opulent
5) AOP Bordeaux Supérieur – Soft and diaphanous, semi-sweet
6) AOP Premiers Côtes de Bordeaux – Sweet and elegant, semi-sweet
7) AOP Saint-Macaire – Sweet and tangy, semi-sweet
8) AOP Croix-du-Mont – Sweet and generous, opulent
The sweet white wines of Bordeaux are made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle grape varieties. They range from pale yellow to bronze orange, and taste like honey and white flowers, with hints of citrus and candied aromas. There are 350 wineries in the region, and together they produce around 9 million bottles of sweet and semi-sweet wine each year – 35% of which is currently exported.
Prices for entry-level 750ml wines can be surprisingly affordable, such as Monsieur Ducourt’s White at $ 12 a bottle and Château de Birot ‘Blanc de Birot’ for $ 16. Although premium wines can run up to $ 80 per 350ml bottle, like the Secret of Biac from the Château de Biac. Wines are relatively easy to find in Europe in grocery stores and wine merchants, but can currently only be found in a few US states and online. The region’s exports have been hampered in the past by U.S. tariffs and inconsistent marketing efforts, but are now preparing to expand to other states.
Pairing sweet white Bordeaux wines with the kitchen
Another surprising aspect of Bordeaux sweet white wines is that foodies and chefs alike are increasingly associating them with innovative cuisine choices – going beyond classic blue cheese and foie gras.
“We have developed many recipes to accompany the sweet white wines of our region,” Asseily specifies. “Some of my favorites are Lebanese sea bass Tageen with tahini and Seville orange sauce, braised Gammon with autumn fruits and Grand Marnier marinade, fennel pie, carrot and coconut milk soup, green shrimp curry and cream. burnt with clementine. “
Indeed, wines go particularly well with spicy dishes, such as Asian, Thai, Lebanese, Mexican, Indian and Chinese cuisine. Sushi is a particularly popular pairing. Many recipes to combine sweet wines with cooking are offered by SweetBordeaux.com. Asseily, a talented chef herself, describes how to prepare chicken with candied lemons to accompany one of her sweet wines:
“For this recipe, I’m sort of throwing things away,” she says. “So get some good quality chicken pieces, rub them with ‘five spices’ and put them in a baking dish. If you have any white wine left, pour a generous spoonful over the chicken; then add a few unpeeled garlic cloves, pitted black olives, green “Basque” olives, a few shallots, salt and pepper and, finally, put the candied lemons in slices. Bake at low temperature. Serve with baked potatoes cut into squares sprinkled with fresh thyme… and, of course, a mellow white Bordeaux wine.
Solutions Needed for Sugar Level Labels on Bordeaux White Wines
One problem that plagues sweet white Bordeaux wine is the lack of a system to indicate the sugar level of wines on the label. It is not always clear to consumers that the wine is really sweet. Since there are many dry white Bordeaux wines from appellations such as Graves, this is of great concern. Additionally, sugar levels can range from 25 grams per liter (lpg) for semi-sweet wines in a 750ml bottle, up to 99 gpl of sugar in a 350ml bottle for sweeter and opulent styles. . The front and / or back labels often do not mention that the wine is sweet.
In order to be fully transparent for consumers, the region needs to develop a system similar to that of the International Riesling Foundation. They have developed a chart that is used on the back of wine labels to show consumers where the wine stands in terms of sweetness. The scale starts dry then changes to semi-dry, semi-soft then to fully soft. Despite this drawback, the wines of these eight appellations have a great deal of historical and taste appeal. They can also serve as an additional ramp for new wine drinkers and an intriguing challenge for foodies and chefs.