Is it a crime to mix Sauternes? Master of Malt’s very own digital marketing assistant and wine expert (WSET level 3, no less) Loukia Xinari looks at whether it’s heresy to put a fine sweet wine like Sauternes in a cocktail. Spoiler alert, it is, and there’s two delicious recipes at the bottom.
Hello wine buddies!
This is a blog on how to “respectfully” kill a beautifully-created gold-coloured glass of Sauternes.. or maybe not? Unpopular opinions are more than welcome! After all, this is why we all love the wine world.
A load of old rot
Sauternes takes time, patience, effort and certainly a lot of money to make. On the west bank of Garonne in Bordeaux, the vineyards need the perfect microclimatic conditions with humid misty mornings and sunny dry afternoons, to allow botrytis cinerea to grow on our healthy grapes. Botrytis is a rot that punctuates the grape skin and leaves tiny holes on it causing the grape water to evaporate. Although it might not sound that appealing, this is what concentrates the acids, flavours and sugar of the grape and gives the amazing result. Hand picked and handled with care, skilled producers in Sauternes offer a sweet delight which I would refer to as the nectar of Gods: apricot and peach jam, citrus peel and honey aromas beautifully balanced with refreshing acidity. Regardless, sweet wines are a tough sell. Is it the price? Is it the level of sweetness? Whatever that is, wine producers, educators and lovers are doing their best to make people buy them, drink them and love them. How do they do that? Make cocktails out of it! Everyone loves a refreshing, light cocktail especially during the hot summer days.
Mixology with Sauternes has been a trend for the last few years. But not everyone is so keen. It’s debatable – some people are brave enough to try it, while others find the brave once to be audacious. The former owner of well known Château d’Yquem, Count Alexandre de Lur Saluces expressed his anger and frustration against using mixology with Sauternes, saying that it is “arrogant” to believe that such a wine could be enhanced through mixology.
Before knowing all these, and as a non mixologist who just loves to enjoy Sauternes in a glass, I attended a wine tasting in London called “The lighter side of Bordeaux”. After trying several rosé and Entre-deux-Mers wines, it was Sauternes’ turn. The educator pours it in our glass, I swirl it, I smell it and take a sip. Then we get into discussions and this cocktail recipe is thrown on the table. I won’t lie, I was in absolute denial – but what do I know? After all, the world needs innovators and rebels to make the difference. But apparently, Sauternes and mixology have a long history together – a cocktail book from 1902 gives a twisted Old Fashioned with the sweet wine.
At the tasting I was offered the following cocktail: a glass with ice, Sauternes, blood orange juice topped with champagne. At first, a voice in my head was whispering not to do this, even adding ice in my wine felt uncomfortable. Then I couldn’t resist but trying it. Refreshing and light, I could have it for breakfast (drink responsibly buddies)! Would I make it myself or order it at a bar? That’s a completely different story, and let me say this. Maybe I’m not one of those rebels and I enjoy the old traditional way of enjoying Sauternes.
So is it worth blending Sauternes and Champagne for a cocktail? Is introducing mixology in Sauternes a crime or an innovation? Well I mean, I wouldn’t use my best Yquem or vintage Krug, but a bottle of Clos Le Comte 2018 would be great in a cocktail!
Let me know what you think, but first try these before you decide!
Two Sauternes cocktails
The Pineapple Touch
Pour all ingredients (except Champagne) in a shaker with ice and shake until well mixed. Pour into a glass and top up with the Champagne. Garnish with a pineapple slice and serve.
Sauternes Cobbler (adapted from The Cocktail Book)
Fill a large wine glass or Highball with shaved or crushed ice. Add all the ingredients. Stir well and garnish with an orange slice and some seasonal berries or a maraschino cherry.