Founded on April 17, 1948 by a group of key personalities among the merchants and growers, the Académie du Vin de Bordeaux (Bordeaux Wine Academy) is uniquely qualified to preserve and promote the spirit, history, and culture of Bordeaux wine in France and abroad. The cultivation of the vine in Bordeaux has not only produced wines which are universally recognized, but has also profoundly shaped the lifestyle of the Gironde. The result is a particular form of humanism, a spirit, an ethic, and a striving for perfection that can be felt the world over.
Like the prestigious Académie Française in Paris, the Bordeaux Academy—the most prestigious representative of Bordeaux wines has forty members. Among these are the owners of the most celebrated crus in Bordeaux, but there are also two members of the Académie Française, writers, artists, scholars, and university professors.
The region defined by the Sauternes AOC consists of five communes: Sauternes, Fargues, Bommes, Preignac, and Barsac. This is the region that produces the precious nectar known throughout the world as Sauternes, considered by many enthusiasts to be the world's best white wine. The ultimate Sauternes wine is Chateau d'Yquem, which in 1855 was the only Gironde wine to be awarded the title Premier Cru Supérieur.
Like Cérons, this wine-growing region is included in the southern part of Graves. It is separated from the Graves region on the west by the pleasant, green Ciron valley, which serves as a border for the Sauternes, Bommes, and Preignac communes. On the north, this valley separates Preignac from Barsac. The type of soil and subsoil gives a particular character to the wine produced, which explains the slight differences between wines of different crus. Workers pick the grapes bunch by bunch, selecting the fruit that has been affected by the famous "noble rot", which is the key to Sauternes wines. This rot is caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea.
Late harvesting of grapes is a practice that is carried on throughout Europe. The practice was already used by the Greeks and Romans, long before a single drop of Sauterne was made. Botrytis was probably already present in the area before the first French wines were made. The process is a natural one that can only occur where the climate is warm and humid.
Botrytis is a stubborn, unreliable fungus though, that cannot be relied upon to appear in the same way in the same place each year. Sometimes it does not occur at all. Producing really fine sweet wines is very labour intensive and painstaking work that also requires a great deal of good luck. French wine-growers consider themselves blessed if the overripe grapes become infected by botrytis. The water in the grape is eviscerated by the fungus and evaporates in the warm air. The concentration of aromatic substances and sugars increases as the grape shrivels. This French wine derived from such grapes is very aromatic, full, comforting, powerful, and very alcoholic.