Sauternes for pancakes

pancakes with icecreamAs you squeeze the lemon juice over your pancakes tomorrow will you be contemplating an accompanying glass of wine or a nice cup of tea? Wine isn’t the natural partner of choice for the traditional Shrove Tuesday meal because lemon and the necessary lashings of sugar will almost stop the taste buds registering anything – unless the wine is even sweeter or more acidic than each of the pancake toppings. So what wine, if any, matches these criteria?

Well it’s got to be a wine that is both sweet and sour at the same time. What seems like an impossible combination comes together in the sweet French wine Sauternes. Named after the region where it is made, Sauternes is a blend of the white grapes Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, which when fermented results in a drink tasting of butterscotch and Seville orange marmalade.

But how is the unusual flavour combination achieved? Sip a straight Sauvignon Blanc and you’ll be met with the unmistakeable flavours of gooseberry, and Semillon wines often taste of peach and runny honey. But in Sauternes they add mouldy grapes to the fermenting brew and this changes the chemical mix and the resulting final flavour.

grapevineThe chosen grapes exhibit the ‘good type’ of mould botrytis cinerea, commonly known as noble rot, a fungal infection provoked by the humid conditions found in the vineyards next to the cold River Ciron. This gets to work on the grapes and shrivels them into an unappetising grey fluffy mess.

Chateau d’Yquem is famous for turning these botrytized grapes into something worth paying for, about £400 a bottle. But there are cheaper supermarket alternatives starting at about £10 – and the best are reviewed below.

PG Sauternes Tips

Sauternes labelChateau Haut Bergeron Sauternes

£9 (50cl) Asda

Smaller bottles are a usual feature of dessert wines and this Sauternes is no exception – two-thirds of a standard bottle for a tenner. But you won’t want too much of a good thing, or will you?

Sauternes bottleTanners Sauternes

£11.90 (50cl) Tanners

Great price for a great wine – honey flavours.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Sauternes

£13 (37.5cl) Sainsbury’s

Liquid marmalade. Pretty good.

Tesco Finest Sauternes 2009

£13.99 (37.5cl) Tesco

Sweet orange and honey flavours.

Waitrose Sauternes 2007

£16.99 (37.5cl) Waitrose and Ocado

Aromas of burnt sugar and apricots. Flavours of honeyed fruit and orange peel.