How to Buy Sauterne

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Although its name is nearly identical to the sweet white French dessert wine "Sauternes," the singular "Sauterne" is a popular dry to semisweet California white table wine. Color, taste, quality and price can vary significantly, since California Sauterne can be made from many different grapes. The best California Sauternes are made from the same excellent Sauvignon blanc or Semillon grapes used to make French Sauternes.

  • Find a local wine store or look on line for wine sellers who carry California Sauterne.

  • Look for a California Sauterne from a wine grower known for better vintages. There can be significant variation in the quality of the grapes and process involved.

  • Pick the bouquet. Depending on your tastes and on the food being served, you may want a Sauterne that is sweet, dry or a somewhere in between. If you ask for "California Sauterne" you get semi-dry or semi- sweet wine. "California Dry Sauterne" or "California Sweet Sauterne" have characters that are true to their names. If you want a sweeter Sauterne, find "California Haut Sauterne." For the sweetest Sauterne of all, serve "Chateau Sauterne" with dessert--or make it dessert all by itself.

  • Balance the budget of quality versus price tag. California Sauterne can be made from the same fine grapes that produce the French Sauternes or from grapes that can also end their careers as raisins.

  • Chill sweeter California Sauternes at least 3 hours and drier versions at least 2 hours before serving.

  • Enjoy your Sauterne with your meal, as an ingredient in your meal, with dessert, as dessert or all by itself.

Tips & Warnings

  • Although most North American growers use "Sauternes" to refer to the California wine, most use "Sauterne" on their labels.
  • Avoid any wine labeled "Cooking Sauterne." Instead, use the same Sauterne you like to sip in recipes.

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