Sandrine Garbay, winemaker at Sauternes premier cru supérieur Château d’Yquem, advises overall: ‘When matching Sauternes and Barsac to foods, just remember to consider the vintage, age of the wine, presence or not of noble rot, and specific estate style, then you’ll never go incorrect.’
Alexandra de Vazeilles, owner of the outstanding Château de Bachelards estate, says ‘When friends come over, I often offer a glass with thin slices of Parma ham or jamón ibérico puro. The alliance of the Sauternes’ sweetness and ham’s saltiness is optimum, as one balances the additional perfectly.’
De Vazeilles also suggests ‘You can also pair it with pizza, as the tomato’s acidity will be balanced by Sauternes. Fresh vegetables as
Reckon about the presence of noble rot in each vintage; heavily marked vintages include 1976, 1989, 1997, 2001 and 2007, which are complex, deep and tasty, with notes of varnish and smoke, says Ian D’Agata. In vintages where there is small or none (1983, 1992, 2004), the wines have a more straightforward character – therefore what you might pair with one food in one vintage may require a really different match in another.
Bear in mind that acidity levels are also vintage-dependant: in high-acid vintages, wines seem much lighter and fresher. Gianpaolo Paterlini, chef/coowner of San Francisco restaurants Acquerello and 1760, says: ‘During a meal, I prefer vintages that are lower in botrytis and higher in acidity – 2010, 2006, and 2004 are all recent vintages that offer more freshness than concentration. I would liken the experience to drinking a German spätlese Riesling with high residual sugar, a more common food pairing in California.’
Will Predhomme, one of the best sommeliers
Don’t be worried of hot food – ‘At our new restaurant 1760, while we call the food “modern, ingredient-driven”, dishes have an Asian influence and therefore spicy heat,’ says Paterlini. ‘Sauternes from lighter vintages complements some of our food well. Right now we have 2006 Rieussec on the list.’
Griselda Rehe, head sommelier at Juvia in Miami, suggests an ancient dependable: ‘Oysters! Perk them up with a small spicy chilli black bean sauce and crispy shallots, and try a mediumrich Lafaurie-Peyraguey. The acid balances the sweetness and fruitfulness, building the wine more accommodating than you might reckon.’
Kathy Morgan MS, wine director at Bryan Voltaggio’s Range and Aggio restaurants in Washington
So it should now be apparent that matching food to your choice of Sauternes/Barsac isn’t the one-way street of cheese or dessert it used to be. There are myriad possibilities, provided you do a small research and know a thing or two about the bottle you are plotting to uncork.
Award-winning wine writer Ian D’Agata roofed Sauternes and Barsac for Decanter in the 2014 vintage en primeur tastings. The full version of this article appeared in the Decanter Bordeaux 2015 guide – subscribe to Decanter magazine here.
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