About Sauternes and Barsac(saw-TURN & BAR-sak)
The regions of Sauternes & Barsac are both located southeast of Graves, almost directly south of St-Émilion, and hug the Garonne River as it curves. Both areas are dedicated to producing sweet, white wines. The rains, the mists, the humidity and the climate, all help foster the necessary mold that leads to the unfortified, but lusciously sweet wines produced there.
Semillon is the primary grape here as it takes well to bortrytis, also known as "noble rot." Sauvignon Blanc is used in the blend to add acidity to the richer, thicker Semillon. The process for making the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac is long, labored and costly. After it has reached maximum ripeness, the Semillon grapes are left on the vine until they are infected with botrytis. This helpful mold then shrivels the grapes, concentrating the sugars but maintaining the acids. Weather is not always agreeable and berries must be picked at just the right moment, all by hand. The grapes yield less juice than dry wines, due to their shriveled and concentrated state. Some houses, like the famed Chateau d'Yquem, will not make a wine in a less-than-perfect year. All these factors lead to highly prized, and often expensive, wine. However, the taste is well worth it. In the palate the wines of Sauternes & Barsac are luscious and sweet, yet with the balanced acidity to keep them from being too cloying or candied.Wines with the Sauternes AC must be sweet - dry wines are labeled under the Graves or Bordeaux AC. Barsac wines may be labeled either Barsac AC or Sauternes AC. Typically, Barsac wines are a little lighter in body and less intense than Sauternes.
About France - Other regionsWhen it comes to wine, France is a classic. Classic blends, grapes and styles began in the country and they still remain. Think about it - people ask for a Burgundian style Pinot Noir, they refer to wines as Bordeaux or Rhone blends - Champagne even had to pass a law to stop international wineries from putting their region on the label of all sparkling wine.
The top regions of France are: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire, Rhone. And these regions are so diverse! It makes sense that wine regions throughout the world try to emulate their style. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are no longer French varieties, but international varieties. They may not be the leader of cutting edge technology or value-priced wines, but there is no doubt that they are still producing wines of great quality and diversity.