Pete Stewart chooses the drinks to accompany Shirley’s recipes:
WITH Shirley’s delicious apple cake on the menu, I thought we should treat ourselves this week. Apple-based desserts suit a classic sweet wine with good acidity, and there are few as classic as Sauternes.
Sauternes sits within the Graves sub-region of Bordeaux, and is arguably responsible for the best sweet wines in the world. The Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are affected by botrytis cinera (or noble rot), a mould that attacks the grapes and devours the water inside them, thereby concentrating the sugars and resulting in less, but sweeter juice.
Hotter vintages tend to create better Sauternes, and 2003 was a particularly good year for the region despite being terrible almost everywhere else in Europe. The higher temperatures caused the grapes elsewhere to ripen too quickly resulting in wines that were unlikely to stand the test of time. However, in Sauternes, the wines benefited massively from the extra sun and humidity in the mornings. The producers in Sauternes can only expect three or four vintages in a decade with conditions to suit their particular style of winemaking.
The drawback to a good Sauternes is something that you will feel most acutely in your wallet. Because of the noble rot, the yields are tiny, with winemakers producing about a quarter or even less of the output of their nearby neighbours who make traditional claret. In money terms, a case of 12 halfbottles of the most famous wine in the region, Chateau d’Yquem, would normally set you back about £1,800 (under bond). And that’s just the half-bottles. So, these wines are not cheap, but they are absolutely delicious.
Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 2009 (Inverarity One to One, £35.99 halfbottle). The Rieussec is lush and fresh in equal measure and is the perfect partner to Shirley’s apple cake. It’s also ideal with blue cheese or foie gras. With the cheese board, a half bottle should be enough for four guests (unless one of them is me). Arguably a wee glass on its own also makes for a perfect dessert at the end of the night.
If you feel your coffee morning will be compromised by the addition of such a wee and expensive bottle, Peller Estates Ice Cuvée Classic Sparkling Wine NV (Inverarity One to One, £24.99) is a lovely bubbly has been “enhanced with a dosage of Canadian icewine” making a lusher fizz in your glass. It’s not sweet, more off-dry in style and it’s perfectly acceptable for quaffing with cake at a coffee morning … just make sure you leave the car at home. Pete Stewart is Glasgow director of Inverarity One to One, 185a Bath Street, Glasgow (0141 221 5121) www.inverarity121.com