Popular Posts

Saturday 10 July 2021

The CWB French Sticky-Off

Two dessert wines from France - Waitrose and Daniel Lambert / The Wine Society

I have always loved dessert wines; I can't quite say why, but I have always had a sweet tooth. Maybe it's my '70s upbringing. Or just a preference for the sweeter things in life.

But it's not mere sweetness; I also like umami (aka "savouriness") and a bit of freshness in the mix, too.

The best dessert wines walk a tightrope of sweet, fresh and savoury - with a touch of complex bitterness added in.

One region, one grape and one phenomenon dominate here: botrytised Semillon from the Bordeaux sub-region of Sauternes. Nobly-rotten grapes are expensive to produce and expensive to vinify, yet relatively inexpensive to buy due to being largely unfashionable.

Sweet wines are Bordeaux's secret wine hiding in plain sight; delicious, fresh and complex, most command nothing like the premium of their illustrious red wine counterparts.

The best sweet wines of Sauternes are a dessert in their own right and need minimal food accompaniment; a Crème brûlée or blue cheese is often the best match.

Elsewhere in South West France, Petit Manseng also makes delicious dessert wines in Jurancon: it is aromatic with high sweetness and high, natural acidity and complex candied fruit, with exotic flavours.

Domaine Cabidos, Petit Manseng Doux, Jurancon 2015 (£9.95, The Wine Society, independents)

For bragging rights, Domaine du Chateau de Cabidos Petit Manseng Doux is the only known* 100% Petit Manseng dessert wine; it comes from a family producer in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

What's more, Tim Atkin MW puts Petit Manseng in his list of world-class white grapes.

Beeswax, roasted stone fruits, honeysuckle and sweet spices; fresh and juicy with tropical fruits, pineapple, candied fruit, honey and overripe peaches; with high acidity, it finishes almost dry despite the sweetness. 

Very Good and Good Value.

Serve as an aperitif or match with a fruit cheesecake or blue cheese.

Also consider sea-food such as scallops and lobster, and all white meat, for example turkey with cranberry sauce. It also goes well with aged hard ewe’s milk cheese.

SO Sauternes, Bastor-Lamontagne (£9.99, 37.5cl, Waitrose) 

An organic sweet wine that shows off its straw-gold colour beautifully 

Aromas of roasted buttery peaches with vanilla sugar, honeysuckle, beeswax and orange blossom; sweet, waxy and viscous with apricotty-peachy sweetness, sweet spices, ginger and tropical citrus freshness. Long, savoury and complex. And utterly delicious.

Very Good and Good Value.

Pour as an apéritif with tapas, or later in the meal with cheese and sweet puddings.


Update 11/07/21: several people contacted me to let me know that various other wineries make a varietal Petit Manseng dessert wine:


The viticultural domaine of the Château of Cabidos is family owned and consists of twenty acres located just below the village of Cabidos, in the north of the Béarn, near the famous slopes of Jurançon in south-western France.

The family wine business was revived by Isabelle de Nazelle in 1992 and developed by her son Vivien, with his wife Maleine and brother Edouard, together with Jean-Michel Novelle, a Swiss oenologist of international renown. In 2002, an air-conditioned cellar was built to ensure the wine was properly stored and in 2007, Mrs. Méo Sakorn-Sériès became the Maitre de Chai, or Cellar Master, who is the person responsible for making and ageing the wine.

Méo Sakorn-Sériès is unique in being the only Thai woman to be a director of a vineyard and winery in the whole of France. In 2015, new owners acquired Château de Cabidos with the aim of continuing its legacy and traditions and producing more of its exceptionally prized wines.

The Petit Manseng grape, which comes from the Pyrenean region of France, is the predominant variety occupying 16 acres of our vineyards, and produces both sweet and dry white wines. The vineyard also has an acre of Chardonnay and an acre of Sauvignon, which work well as a dry blend. The fourth grape is Syrah grown on 2 acres to produce our red wine.

It is so popular that we have been gradually increasing the acreage. Petit Manseng is a grape that ripens late in the season and is particularly well suited for the production of great, sweet wines. It is an aromatic variety, which is distinguished in its youth by notes of peach, citrus and medlar, with a hint of cinnamon.

It is remarkable for its ability to concentrate the sugar in the berries during maturation, whilst maintaining a high, natural acidity. It is an ideal grape for the climate in the Béarn because we are blessed with long, sunny autumns that allow ‘passerillage’. That is to say, the grapes can dry naturally on the vine, which gives them a high sugar concentration and the development of complex aromas of candied fruit, ideal for exquisite sweet wines.

It has very exotic flavours, such as pineapple and mango, and with time the wine reveals aromas of white truffles.

No comments:

Post a Comment