ALINE BALY - Entire Meal Paired With Barsac & Sauternes ?

Hi Aline - Welcome and thank you for taking the time to answer questions in this forum. From the Chateau Coutet website I was delighted to see food front and center with the wines. I was particularly impressed by the cookbook suggestions and the Wine Spectator video discussing Barsac and Sauternes paired for an entire meal you had. I have not tried pairing any sweet wine with an entire meal before and usually have it only with fruit tarts and cheese at the end of the meal. My question would be in trying to pair an entire meal course with Barsac or Sauternes what steps would you take to get started? Would you first try individual plates first before stringing together an entire meal? To simplify at the start is it best to only open one Barsac or Sauternes for the entire meal? How much volume of wine is drunk … similar to dry wines or less or more? My guess is that there are others out there like myself that wouldn’t know where to start. Any suggestions would be helpful…Thank you again, Gary

Hi Gary,

My favorite topic! Can you prepare an entire meal to be paired with wines from Barsac & Sauternes? ABSOLUTELY! Bordeaux’s gold wine are super flexible. (Someone ask me how I know and I can share my particular experience with exploring this question during my first year at the estate; I’ve got a science background so I only believe things that I actually experience.)

I could spend hours and hours talking about this so I will try to be concise – and hopefully inspire you all to do this one evening with a group of friends.

1- Find a group of non-believers that are willing to play the game. (Make sure that the size of the group does not stress out the chef!)

2- Pick the wines. Either take a vertical approach (one estate and select several vintages) or a horizontal approach. I have more experience with the vertical approach but have helped other plan a horizontal approach with great success.

3- In terms of how many bottles… the good news is that these wines do not expire so plan big. What is the most fun and in the spirit of experimenting is to actually pour all wines for each course. This way people can see how dish interact with different vintages or different estates’ styles. But if you want a reference point, how about one vintage per dish? So for a 3 course dinner, serve 3 wines at each course. (If you got something over 30 years old, I’d just keep this for a post-dinner drink – no pairing – so that would make for 4 wines. If you like cigars, I’ve been told that a powerful vintage paired with a soft cigar can be quite enjoyable after dinner). What we like to do at Coutet sometimes is pick a wine from the past 3 decades for a 3 course dinner. Not only can someone really experiment and find their “soft-spot” for the style of Barsac & Sauternes they like (not everyone likes their gold wines “old”), but they can find the type of pairing they most enjoy.

4- If you are worried that the day of you’ll make a dish that just doesn’t go with the wine then doing a bit of experimenting with one dish at a time approach leading up to a dinner of several courses could be fun. But rest assure – these wines are extremely flexible.

5- If you’ve seen my Wine Spec video this will be a repeat…But here are my three rules to follow when I am in the restaurant with a member of the press and I need to string together last minute an all-Coutet dinner to prove my point:
a) Compliment: citrus with citrus
b) Contrast: sweet and salty
c) Texture (for me this is the most important!!!): these wines have a fabulous texture component. For complimenting texture, think of lobster. For contrasting texture, think of turkey.

6- Let me just add…
Apart from my absolute favorites (turkey and lobster), we are big fans of pairing our dishes with some savory Asian cuisines (like Thai). At Coutet we do a lot of rabbit or duck dishes too. We incorporate a lot of ginger and coriander in our dishes. We are very lucky because Coutet has lovely acidity and minerality which makes pairing a cinch. We stay away from red meats and chocolate cake…

We know that these wines have a lot of traditions associated (in terms of pairings). In France, we’ve got Foie Gras and Roquefort. In England, it’s all about the Christmas pudding. While in the US, these wines appear on a restaurants’ dessert wine list. Break tradition!! Free Bordeaux’s Gold wines! Try and see what YOU like with your sweet wine. I am a picky eater, I don’t usually like what my neighbor likes… I often tell the tale of the Pastrami Sandwich and the Swedish Meatballs… Or how I convinced my MBA classmates that lobster was one of the ultimate pairings with Coutet by hosting a Bring Your Own Lobster party. Once convinced, some folks regularly organize: LOBSauTERnes night…

So one quick plug… There is a Facebook profile for Coutet if you’d like to be kept up to date with the latest news and recipe releases:" onclick=";return false;. Feel free to send us photos and recaps of your own successful pairings – we like to post those up too (with your permission of course). And we are always looking for recipe ideas!

Lastly, on the food front – if you’d like to help us encourage others to try all sorts of great pairings with our wines, join this group on Facebook as well:" onclick=";return false; (as you can tell from the wall – I really like my lobsters – can you blame a girl who lived over 20 years in the Boston area?!)

So much for a short answer…

Wow, great post Aline!

I was recently turned on to lobster and sauternes, and it was delicious. Then I transitioned to stone crab claws and sauternes. Yummy indeed!

Thank you very much Aline ! Great suggestions especially for shellfish as my neighbor is a commercial sea scallop fisherman. I do like the idea of opening up a few bottles and allow friends to make pairings themselves and then discuss. I will certainly give it a shot very soon. On your website there is a “Tournedos Rossini” which is a red meat recipe would this be a tricky pairing? I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Asian-European fusion recipes found in Hawai’i but I think your wines would be a huge success there. For instance take a look at Alan Wong’s restaurant menu …" onclick=";return false; . I’m getting hungry thinking about trying this. Many thanks again, Gary

Long ago @ Lutèce it was my great pleasure to attend a Chateau d’Yquem dinner thru 5 courses. Only The Sauternes was served, and in each course from different formats. I tasted wines that night from 1967 and found the evening enlightening indeed. The players in the room managed to taste wines dating back to The Great War.

Maybe a Coutet night like this in SF one day Aline?

@Gary: So the tournedos Rossini was submitted by our chief of viticulture Luc, who is a great cook. We tried this recipe over the summer (some of our colleagues decided to cook their recipe for everyone so that we could discuss the pairing and determine if it was a good idea for the cookbook – summer is a good time to do fun projects like this, things are a bit slower. We had a great time with our unofficial Editorial Board). What made the recipe work was the foie gras (a very traditional pairing), but more importantly the apple with the rhum flavored caramel made the pairing FABULOUS – dare I say out of this world. That’s the great thing about these wines, tradition and rules can be broken quite easily. I bet you someone is going to respond with a chocolate and Sauternes experience that was very good…

@Glenn: Funny you should ask – but I JUST did an all Coutet dinner with the help of the Wine House in Marin at the restaurant Picco. Chef Jared is fabulous – our favorite pairing of the night was these tater tots with smoked trout, creme fraiche and caviar (caviar is optional). We will actually be posting the recipe in a couple of weeks. One quick note about The Wine House – if you are in the area, go say hello to Peter. He’s got tons of experience with Coutet and savory pairings (he also has a great selection of Coutet on hand - and even access to some fabulous older vintages)! We’ve begun discussing doing a repeat of the evening, time and location TBD…

Aline - would the 1976 Coutet The Wine Room has listed on pre-arrival be coming directly from the chateau?

That would be correct. The wine is coming directly from Coutet! (Just checked out the pricing on The Wine House San Francisco-- I would not let this opportunity past…Wow)

I do also have to share one deal that is online that I am still in shock over… The Chicago Wine Company has full bottles of our 2003 at an unbelievable price point. A really great, powerful vintage that will age great; we haven’t done a lot of pairing with this one cause it in its infancy but if you decant it over night you could definitely enjoy today. You can find the tasting notes on our website…

Thank you!

“WOW” is right! That’s a crazy good deal.

Thanks for taking time to participate here Aline. I have had the 76 once and the price is great at SF wine house, I may grab a few.

In regards to the 2003, I may have to disagree with you a bit. Obviously 2003 is notorious for being a hot vintage with really ripe flavors and lacking acidity. I have had a few bottles of the 03 coutet and while it is a great wine providing tons of pleasure in its youth I think it may be short lived due to the lack of acid. I plan to drink most of my 2003’s on the young side as I dont think it possesses the potential that vintages such as 01, 05 and 07 have.

What are your thoughts on 2003 as a whole and what were some of the most challenging aspects of it?

Aline - For chocolate I’m wondering if a latin mole with some acidity and pepper heat might work with a Coutet wine…Thanks again, Gary

I like the idea – the pepper would be great, breaking the chocolate’s sweetness! I’ve submitted your pairing suggestion to my colleagues.


@Tyler: 2003 is definitely the product of a hot year and thus a lot of sugar was present that year! Lots of sugar concentration definitely does not automatically equal a great vintage.

I chatted with our cellarmaster in regards to your questions related to age-ability of this particular vintage for us. Going back to an earlier question… the conclusion was if you’ve got equilibrium between the alcohol, acidity and residual sugar, you’ll be able to age the wine. We feel that our 2003 meets that criteria and we’ve got our clay and limestone terroir to thank for that. (Someone once suggested that I have t-shirts for my staff made with the following: “We’ve got acidity!”)

So if your 2003 where made by someone who knew how to accomplish balance/equilibrium with what nature gave us that year, your wine will age very well. However, I will not discourage you to drink less cause you’ve got to make room for all the other great vintages that are coming down the road…(or those vintages that didn’t get a lot of attention, like the 2002, see other post on unheralded vintages).


Hello, Aline.

You commented on my blog once about the pairing of the '97 Coutet with a dessert named “Délice de Mangue” at a dinner at Château Prieuré-Lichine (30 March 2010). I figured I’d share my notes thereon:

1997 Château Coutet > - This was a real treat as 1997 is a good year for Sauternes/Barsac. Bright, light on its feet, almost zippy honey, light sugar syrup crammed with peach, bit of dried apricot, slight orange rind, lemon cream, vanilla bean. Sounds heavy, but it really isn’t. Very pure and it glides on the palate. I’ll have to buy me some of this.

On another pairing, during an all-Sauternes/Barsac dinner at Yung Kee in HK in late May 2008, the '96 Coutet went very well with the signature Roast Goose and the Pan-fried Prawn in Shell courses:

The > 1996 Coutet > was comparatively lighter on its feet than the Suduiraut and Guiraud, and had a more ethereal/elegant character to it. The Coutet’s definitive authority of flavors certainly, though, rivaled that of the Suduiraut and Guiraud despite the former’s comparatively lighter frame.

I was not much surprised with the fine pairing of Sauternes with Hong Kong-style goose. Goose in Hong Kong is normally served with its own juices and a side of plum sauce. I think this was lightly roasted, then braised in its own juices with a light touch of plum sauce thrown in. The savory and sweet just tied together sublimely.

I continued with the 1996 Coutet with the next dish of Pan-fried Prawn in Shell since the prawn was coated with a thick, sweetish-mildly spiced red sauce.

I figured since the prawn wouldn’t be able to take the Suduiraut’s or Guiraud’s size/power and the sauce needed a definitively flavored wine, the Coutet would do nicely. It did indeed (patting myself on the back, I know).



A tasting group did this a while ago and I thought reposting would give some ideas:
The Philly-based wine tasting group the Enophillies repeated our yearly celebration of the Millennium, this year celebrating 4000-3000BC with the 6th annual celebration of good food, great wines and wonderful company. We all generally agreed that 2004 wasn’t the best year and are, almost to a person, glad that it is soon over. So to help sweeten our outlooks for 2005, the theme this year was the wines of Sauternes and Barsac. Yes, you read that correctly, we had Sauternes and/or Barsac with every course-held at the Alisa Café in Cherry Hill, NJ. Here are my notes, such as they are:

1-Veuve Clicquot NV Demi-sec Champagne. Medium yellow. Nice medium-sized bubbles. Nose was very nice, fruity, hints of yeast. Taste was modestly sweet, but the added dosage just seemed to add to the wine’s overall balance. Nice start, and one of my favorite demi-secs. 14/20.

The first course was Pan-seared Foie Gras with Sauternes Jelly.

2-1983 Rieussec. Deep gold. Unfortunately off/corked. NR.

3-1989 Rieussec. Gold. Rich, full nose, touch caramel, apricots. Mouth was mellow, perfectly balanced, caramel, honey. Delish. 17/20.

4-2001 Rieussec. Pale gold. Oh my god nose that smacked you in the face. Pineapple initially, a touch of Elmer’s glue. Mouth was overwhelmingly sweet, huge, mouthfilling. Finish went on and on. This wine is HUGE. 19/20. Boy, do I want to retaste this wine in 10 years!

Note on the food-this is one of the classic Sauternes matches, and this went well-but the chef was a little intimidated by the wine we think, and cut back on his usual spices. So my grade on this match was “B”.

The second course was Sauteed Shrimp in Green Curry sauce served with Jasmine Rice.

5-2001 Villefranche. Nobody had ever heard of this wine before. Pale gold. Lemony/lemon curd type nose. Rich, sweet, citrus mouth. Quite a surprise, and speaks quite well for 2001 as a vintage. 15/20.

6-2001 La Tour Blanche. Gold. A very distinctive nose of cloves, pineapple. Rich, almost over the top mouthfeel. Very distinctive, but again 2001 shows its pedigree. 17/20.

7-2001 Laufaurie-Peyraguey. Pale yellow. Pineapple, citrus. Mouth was very rich, but seemed more in balance than the previous wine. Always a favorite of mine, but this clearly takes it up a notch. Wow. 18/20.

Note on the food/wine match. A big surprise here, the spice of the curry counterbalanced the sweet richness of the wine. A success. “A-“

The third course was Medium Rare Duck Breast with Shiitake Mushrooms and Zinfandel Sauce.

8-1977 de Fargues Gold. A charred wood taste that I get in Fargues sometimes, but with more air and time, corked/off. NR

9-1988 Guiraud. Gold. Apricot jam nose that just expanded exponentially in the glass. Mouthfeel was more elegant than the 2001s, delish. Apricot, allspice. Delish. 17/20.

10-1998 Yquem. Gold. Wow, the layers of the nose went on and on. Spice, lemon, apricot. Mouthfeel was hugely sweet, clearly needs time for the mouth to catch the nose. Huge like the 2001s. A monster in the making. 18/20.

Note on the food/wine. This was one of the more controversial matches. I liked it, the sweetness playing off the richness of the duck/sauce. Some felt that the Sauternes overwhelmed the duck. “C”

The fourth course was Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese-Brandy Demi-Glace.

11-1986 Raymond-Lafon. Gold. Nice middle-aged Sauternes nose of caramel, apricots, clove. Rich initial mouthfeel, that seemed slightly short on the finish. Overall, nice. 16/20.

12-1986 de Fargues. Gold. Initial charred wood smell that quickly blew off. Caramel, citrus, apricots in both nose and mouth. Balanced and nice. Only a hair better than the previous 86. 17/20.

13- 2001 Doisy-Vedrines. Pale gold. Taffy, candy nose. Weird. Sweet almost bubblegum mouth with pineapple thrown in. 15/20. Some liked the uniqueness better than I, but there was no denying it had personality.

The food/wine match was eye-opening to some. Again, the richness of the beef, the touch saltiness of the cheese played off the sweetness of the wines. I liked. “A-“

The fifth course was cheese-Roquefort, Aged Gouda and Farmhouse goat’s milk Gouda.

14- 1988 Sigalas-Rabaud. Gold. Rich caramel/apricot/coconut nose. Rich balanced mouthfeel, with coconut, tropical fruits. Mouth was full, rich, mouthfilling. Just about everything I want in a Sauternes, and one of the bigger surprises tonight. 18/20.

15- 1988 Suduiraut. Gold. Nose of raisins, apricots. Bitter heat initially in the mouth, but mellowed and spread out over the tongue with sweetness, apricots, allspice. I liked it well enough, but I was a hair disappointed. 16/20.

16- 1988 Yquem. Gold. The nose opened like a genie’s lamp after pulling the stopper. Just magnificent. Liquid crème brulee initially in the nose and mouth. People were tasting all sorts of things, spices, tropical fruits, nutmeg, on and on. It just had layers and layers that one hopes the 2001s will gain with 16 years of cellaring. Clearly the class of the night. 20/20. One can only imagine what the 2001 Yquem will be!

The food/wine match was classic and perfect to most attending. “A”

The last course was Warm French Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream.

17- 2000 Weinbach Gewurztraminer Altenbourg Clos des Capucins Cuvee Laurence. Yes, yes I know this isn’t a Sauternes, but I have always held that Sauternes is a great dessert wine, but is a poor wine WITH most desserts, so I planned this threesome. Pale gold. Nose was textbook Gewurz, rose petals, lychee. This was MUCH drier than the Sauternes previously. Drier mouthfeel with the slight bitterness I get (and like) with classic Gewurz on the back of the tongue. A nice wine that wasn’t good with the dessert. 16/20.

18- 1995 Raymond-Lafon. Gold. Medium hot nose of spices, cloves, apricots. But seems a little weak in this night’s company. Mouthfeel had an odd ‘iron’ feel, very unusual. Not the best example. 13/20. Oh, and mediocre with the dessert.

19- 2002 Baumard Quarts de Chaume. Pale yellow. Initially an odd earthy/mushroom nose that had me question corkiness, but it blew off quickly. The nose opened in the glass beautifully, all sweet, but more candy-like. Mouth was rich and sweet, but if Sauternes is Beethoven, this is Bach. Lovely. 17/20. Went the best with the dessert, but I think I proved my point.

Sauternes does go with lots of differing foods and courses, I think the message was received by most attending. But doing many Sauternes in one night isn’t something I want to repeat soon. Perhaps too much of a good thing?
The most uniformly good year tonight were the 88s, 2001 a close second.
WOTN was the 88 Yquem, 2001 Rieussec was second.
Surprises of the night were the 88 Sigalas-Rabaud and the 2001 Villefranche.

Wow that is quite the line-up! I have to say that I was super excited to read that your group of wine lovers put together this particular evening! Thank you for sharing your notes on the food pairings!



Thanks for posting that! Very interesting, and inspiring; you have me pining for a big juicy steak topped with feta (that’s as close as I get to liking a bleu cheese), and a glass of gold wine on the side. Hmmmmmmmm, I think I know what Friday supper will be! [highfive.gif]

Anyone have any ideas on good “side dishes” to pair with a gold wine? I’m particularly interested in any veggie recommendations.

I’ve got 2 side dishes for you – one is more in season that the other:

Green beans with applewood smoked bacon shallots:" onclick=";return false;

Butternut squash and gorgonzola gratin:" onclick=";return false;
(note: you can buy pre-cut butternut squash to simplify preparations.)