This Month Vol. 27 No. 11 Wine

Sauternes Wine: The Perfect Thanksgiving Pairing


Thanksgiving is a time of gathering, gratitude, and, of course, a sumptuous feast. As you brainstorm ways to make your Thanksgiving table distinctive this year, consider adding a touch of elegance with the golden elixir of Sauternes wine.

This distinctive wine, made from a blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that age in French oak, is unique to the Sauternes region in Bordeaux, France. The reason is that its climatic conditions allow grapes to concentrate their sugars through a natural occurrence called botrytis or “noble rot.”  

Why Sauternes Wine for Thanksgiving?

Sauternes emerges as a surprising and delightful choice for enhancing your holiday feast.  Its complex flavors and nuanced acidity make it an ideal companion for the succulent turkey and its assorted accompaniments.

The sweet, honeyed notes in Sauternes beautifully complement the turkey’s savory flavors, while its high acidity cuts through the richness of dishes like buttery mashed potatoes, candied yams, and savory stuffing.

Sauternes’ residual sugar (which can vary from concentrated sweetness, to off-dry) provides a pleasant contrast to the tartness of cranberry sauce, creating a harmonious balance on your palate.

A History of Prestige

Sauternes wines have a rich history, gracing royal tables for centuries. It was a cherished indulgence among royalty and discerning gourmands who often valued Sauternes even more than the prestigious first-growth red Bordeaux wines.

Traditionally, Sauternes was paired with a “starter” course such as foie gras. Sauternes’ reputation as a dessert wine is relatively recent, as it was not always as sweet in the past and thus paired more naturally with savory, rather than sweet, courses.

Present-Day Sauternes Producers

While some Sauternes producers can trace their roots back for centuries, many of today’s owners acquired their estates and vineyards in the 1970s or later.

An excellent example is Chateau Coutet, currently owned by American-born Aline Baly and her French uncle. Château Coutet, recognized as a Classified First Growth in the 1855 classification, is located in the Barsac region, known for its cooler climate. The wine has a refreshing high acidity because of the cold weather and limestone soil, which contrasts with its natural sweetness.  This may be why the original owners named the chateau “Coutet” (meaning knife blade) in French.

Aline and her family dedicated themselves to restoring this historic chateau, both the castle and the vineyards, to their former glory. Today, Château Coutet stands as one of the shining examples of the fine wines that the Sauternes region can offer.


As you prepare to gather around the Thanksgiving table this year, consider elevating your holiday feast with the addition of Sauternes. It’s a taste of history and a sip of elegance that deserves a place at the center of your celebration. Cheers to a memorable Thanksgiving!

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