Sauternes, the world's most famous sweet wines

the story of an exceptional vineyard

The Sauternes wine appellation has a rich and captivating history going back many centuries. Located in the Bordeaux wine region, south-east of Bordeaux, the Sauternes vineyards are renowned for producing sweet wines of exceptional quality. The history of Sauternes is littered with stories of visionary winemakers who harnessed nature’s blessings to create exceptional wines. To discover the fascinating history of Sauternes is to delve into the secrets of this miraculous vineyard and understand the factors that have contributed to its international renown.

Botrytis, a miraculous mushroom

So what is so special about this vineyard? Botrytis Cinerea is a mushroom that thrives in specific climatic conditions, where morning humidity and fog, blessed by the River Ciron, meet ripe grapes. Botrytis affects the skin of grapes, causing small lesions that lead to evaporation of water and concentration of sugars. This high sugar content is essential for making sweet and liquorous Sauternes wines, giving the palate its characteristic sweetness and richness. In terms of sensory details, these wines present notes of honey, apricot, exotic fruit and flowers, offering a rich, seductive aromatic palette.

Bunch of grapes affected by Bortytis


The grapes used to produce Sauternes wines are white, mainly Sémillon, with a small proportion of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Harvesting is selective, picking only grapes affected by noble rot. After harvesting, the grapes are carefully sorted so that a second selection can be made to retain the affected bunches.

This guarantees the quality and concentration of the grapes used for vinification. The third stage involves gentle pressing to preserve the aromas and characteristics of the grapes. Then the mixture is transferred to the alcoholic fermentation tank to transform the sugars into alcohol. Fermentation times vary from one winery to another.

Once this stage has been validated, the wine is transferred to oak barrels, where it ages for a variable period, generally from 18 to 36 months. After barrel aging, the different batches of wine from the different parcels are blended to create the final wine. The blend may include wines from different years to maintain a consistent style and quality.

Finally, for most Sauternes cuvées, tasting does not take place immediately after bottling. Sauternes wines are often aged in bottles for several years before they are released on the market. This additional aging allows the aromas and flavors to develop further, creating more complex, balanced wines.

Grapes into a fermentation tank
Barrique en cristal remplie du vin du château Lafaurie-Peyraguey à Sauternes à l'occasion des 400 ans du domaine.
Crystal cask filled with wine from Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey in Sauternes to celebrate the estate's 400th anniversary.
Château Guiraud wine bottles

Sauternes grands crus

But then, how can we talk about Sauternes wines without mentioning its major figures First and foremost, Château d’Yquem. This is surely the most famous and prestigious estate in Sauternes. It is renowned for producing exceptional sweet wines and is considered the greatest Sauternes wine. Its wines are renowned for their richness, complexity and ageing capacity, as we have just learned. Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, located in Bommes, is a historic Sauternes estate dating back to the 13th century! The château has had different owners over the centuries, but is currently owned by Silvio Denz, a Swiss entrepreneur with a passion for wine. Lafaurie-Peyraguey wines are renowned for their richness, complexity and elegance. Finally, Wine Cab recommends the famous Château Sigalas-Rabaud, also located in Bommes. Sigalas-Rabaud wines are renowned for their elegance, freshness and aromatic complexity, with surprising notes of exotic fruits, honey and spices.

Château d'Yquem, Sauternes appellation
One of our cabs in Sauternes


Too often overshadowed by the great names such as Saint-Émilion or Médoc, Sauternes wines are still not recognized for their true worth. 

That’s why Wine Cab offers you the chance to discover these vineyards with visits to châteaux selected for the quality of their wines and their history. If you’re looking for an exclusive tour off the beaten track, and are drawn to delicate, flavorful wines of great elegance, contact us so we can create a tailor-made tour for you.

Book your wine tour of the prestigious Sauternes estates now and enjoy an unforgettable Bordeaux wine tasting experience.