Add Sweet Bordeaux to Your Holiday Table

Take your pick from just off-dry to lusciously sweet, there is a sweet Bordeaux for your holiday table!

Disclosure: all the wines in this post were provided as media samples for a Snooth Virtual Tasting. All opinions expressed are mine.

Sweet Wines Deserve a Place at the Table, Too
It’s a shame that sweet wines have fallen out of favor and outside wine drinkers’ attention. There are many occasions when a sweet wine will be welcome by all and perhaps even secretly desired by some. Surprisingly Bordeaux is a great source, offering a full spectrum of off-dry to deliciously unctuous sweet wines. There is something for every palate!

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Sweet white wines from Bordeaux come from the southern reaches of the region. The grapes are blends of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and sometimes Muscadelle. These wines do not have sugar added, the fermentation is stopped before the wine is completely dry, leaving a bit of naturally derived sweetness. Some vineyards are positioned close to the Garonne river or one of its’ tributaries. In the fall, these rivers bring morning fog to the nearby vineyards, encouraging the growth of botrytis cinerea, a fungus which attacks ripening grapes. When the conditions are just right, the fungus causes the grapes to lose moisture and shrivel up. This concentrates their sugars and leaves the acidity intact. Wines made from botrytis-affected grapes show increased intensity and deep color with intriguing aromas of orange peel, ginger, honeysuckle. The grapes contain so much sugar, they naturally stop fermenting before dryness. Botrytis develops irregularly, so not every vineyard experiences it every year. Even individual bunches of grapes are affected at different rates. Multiple passes through the vineyard are required to bring the grapes in at the right level of botrytis.


Like most of France, the primary name on the bottle will be the village and not the grapes as is the case in the US. Sauternes is the most famous of the villages, but there are others offering a range of wines. Here are your main hints for decoding the label:

  • Village Name –  some villages only produce sweet wines, so the village name is your indication. There will likely not be any further sweetness indication. The most famous is Sauternes over on the left bank of the Garonne. The wines we feature today are all from the right bank, from the Entre-Duex-Mers, the region between the two “seas” of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Look for Cadillac, Loupiac, Saint Macaire, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Première Côtes de Bordeaux
  • Moelleux – found on the front label, marking the wine as off-dry. That is, a white wine with a perceptible sweetness. The wine color is usually pale, similar to its’ dry counterparts.
  • Demi-Sec – found on the front label, marking the wine as more sweet than moelleux, but not dessert level sweet. These wines will typically be pale in color with a bit more color showing.
  • Doux – markedly dessert level sweet. Note that this designation will only be used if the village produces both dry and sweet styles of wine.

Sweet Bordeaux wines carry flavors of citrus and ripe tropical fruits

During the upcoming holiday season, add sweet wines from Bordeaux to your festivities in several roles:

  • Apertif – when guests arrive, serve a palate whetting off-dry wine. This is where the Moelleux and demi-sec wines shine. While sweet, they are refreshing and help prepare for a coming meal.
  • Appetizers / social time – charcuterie, cheeses are all delicious paired with sweet wines. If you haven’t tried this before, you’ll be impressed. If you’re serving pate or even foie gras, one of the botrytis affected wines is a classic pairing. Look for a deeply colored Loupiac, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont or Cadillac.
  • Dessert – another place the botrytis affected deeply sweet wines shine. If you enjoy wine with your dessert, these are best with cream & fruit based desserts, especially if the dessert isn’t overly sweet. They are also particularly good with blue cheese, so you could try finishing the meal with cheese and a sweet Bordeaux. Finally, you might enjoy the wine as your dessert, nothing further needed!
  • Main course – Not for everyone and not for every meal, however, you might have have friends and family members who secretly prefer sweet wines. In todays’ “dry-only” environment, they may be embarassed to speak up. Offer them a great choice!  You might even enjoy them with spicy dishes, Asian and Middle Eastern dishes.

Virtual Tasting Sponsored by Sweet Bordeaux Wines and Snooth Media
I’m a fan of Sweet Bordeaux wines so when the opportunity arose to participate in a virtual tasting, I jumped at the chance. Virtual tastings can be a little crazy, as you’re pouring wine, snacking, listening, typing all at once. If you’d like you can have a look at the video and text feed here. The tasting was led by Jean K. Reilly, MW (Master of Wine) and our Snooth Media hosts Mark and Claudia Angelillo.

Need more information? The Vins de Bordeaux website has a wealth of information, here.

The wines for our tasting hail from the Entre-Deux-Mers, roughly, the land between the seas (rivers). The sweet wines come from the region directly across the Garonne River from Sauternes. map courtesy of

We were sent samples of eleven (!) wines and they were all from the Entre-Deux-Mers region, just across the Garonne River from the more famous communities of Sauternes and Barsac. One of the advantages to the consumer: the lesser known villages carry more friendly pricetags! The wines ranged in price (US) from $14 to $40. This holiday season, try adding sweet Bordeaux to your holiday table!



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