Photographer's Note

A view of the vineyards that surround the small village of Sauternes in the département of the Gironde in South-West France.

Some information taken from a longer article on Wikipedea about Sauternes wine:

Sauternes is a French dessert wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux. Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. This causes the grapes to become partially raisined, resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavoured wines. Sauternes is one of the few wine regions where infection with noble rot is a frequent occurrence, due to its climate. Even so, production is a hit-or-miss proposition, with widely varying harvests from vintage to vintage. Wines from Sauternes, especially the Premier Cru Supérieur estate Château d'Yquem, can be very expensive, due largely to the very high cost of production. Barsac lies within Sauternes, and is entitled to use either name.

As in most of France, viticulture is believed to have been introduced into Aquitania by the Romans. The earliest evidence of sweet wine production, however, dates only to the 17th century. While the English were Bordeaux's main consumer since the Middle Ages, their primary tastes were for red claret. It was the Dutch traders of the 17th century who first developed an interest in white wine. For years they were active in the trade of German wines but production in Germany began to wane in the 17th century as the popularity of Beer increased. The Dutch saw an opportunity for a new production source in Bordeaux and began investing in the planting of white grape varieties. They introduced to the region German white wine making techniques, such as halting fermentation with the use of sulphur in order to maintain residual sugar levels. One of these techniques involved taking a candle (known as a "brimstone candle") with its wick dipped in the sulphur and burned in the barrel that the wine will be fermenting in. This would leave a presence of sulphur in the barrel that the wine would slowly interact with as it was fermenting. Being an anti-microbial agent, sulphur stuns the yeasts that stimulates fermentation, eventually bring it to a halt with high levels of sugars still in the wine. The Dutch began to identify areas that could produce grapes well suited for white wine production and soon honed in on the area of Sauternes. The wine produced from this area was known as vins liquoreux but it is not clear if the Dutch were actively using nobly rotted grapes at this point.

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Additional Photos by Stephen Nunney (snunney) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 10627 W: 63 N: 29874] (130967)
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