There’s something about the sweetness of a Sauternes that pairs particularly well with the mirth and merriment of the Christmas and Hanukkah season. A great Sauternes (saw-tehrn) has honey sweetness with depth. Not just sweet for the sake of being sweet—like many a cloying salesperson we’ve run into at the mall aggressively trying to upsell you more items—rather, a great Sauternes has earned its sweetness, through rain and through storm and left rotting solitarily on the vine while all the other neighboring fruit has already been picked and moved on to brighter pastures. See, it is through this transfiguration—a natural rotting process of the Semillon grape—from which the resulting Sauternes wine gains its nobility. The grape only achieves its noble sweetness after it is allowed to rot. A truly great Sauternes, like the CHATEAU GUIRAUD Sauternes, captures the poignancy of this transformation from rot to golden liquid in breathtaking, not to mention awesomely delicious, measures.
On the nose and the palate, we are saturated with notes of ripe pineapple, French vanilla, sweet apricot and yellow peach. Try not to be seduced right from the start by the wine’s deep golden-yellow hue. The texture of this elixir is wonderfully syrupy—rich, viscous and super smooth. Complex, expressive tannins gain power as the wine’s long finish unhurriedly comes to a close. In 2011, one of the great vintages for the Bordeaux region of Sauternes, the Chateau Guiraud stands authoritatively, and poignantly, as one of the great expressions of sweet Bordeaux. –J.M.