Other than the judicious choice of grape varieties, it is the painstaking care that goes into the picking and winemaking, and above all this privileged region's nature and climate, that make Sauternes wine exceptional. It’s marvellous color and clarity, sweetness and special, unique, incomparable depth make Sauternes more than a wine: it is a liqueur, an essence, a nectar that can be compared to nothing but other Sauternes wines. Whatever their size or reputation, the vineyards are tended carefully so that during the harvest—no matter what surprises the weather might hold—grapes can be picked that are perfectly healthy and botrytized, which is essential for rich and concentrated must.
The Sauternes AOC currently has twenty-seven crus classified in 1855, ten of these in the Barsac commune: one Premier Cru Supérieur, Chateau dYquem, eleven Premiers Crus including Chateau Guiraud and Chateau La Tour Blanche, and five Seconds Crus. Other crus produce high-quality wines, such as Chateaux de Fargues, Raymond-Lafon, Haut-Bergeron, and Saint-Amand.
Despite their diversity—the result of their terroirs and growers—these wines are characterized by their deep gold color, their smoothness, roundness and calm power, and an unusual roasted quality. Their aromas bring to mind citrus, acacia, and apricot in a complex symphony.
Rich in glycerol and other sugars, they are very sweet, and often leave "pearls" on the side of the glass. In fact this is the ideal sweet white wine—as one poet put it, it is "extravagantly perfect." These are wines that need to be put in the cellar and forgotten: over the years, they acquire a smoothness, body, and breeding that is uniquely their own. However, they can also be appreciated in their youth (after at least three years) for their liveliness, vigor, and fruit.
Great sweet wines can be enjoyed on their own, without food, as an aperitif or for sheer pleasure. Contrary to what many people believe, though, sweet wines and especially Sauternes can also accompany an entire meal.
These wines complement many foods: foie gras, delicate fish, butter and cream sauces, poultry and other white meats, blue and washed-rind cheeses, and desserts that are not too sweet.