French Wines: Château Sigalas Rabaud 2007
Wine lovers around the world often attribute gender to French wines: feminine wines are elegant and silky, while full-bodied, tannic wines are masculine. But I’ve never had the entire life cycle, from vine to wine, described to me as a woman—until I met the proprietor of this month’s wine, Gérard de Lambert des Granges of Château Sigalas Rabaud in Sauternes.
“The vine is like a woman,” the octogenarian explained to me as we walked the 50-year-old rows of sémillon and sauvignon blanc on his estate, which dates back to 1660. “She needs time to grow, to develop, to show her beauty. She frustrates you, she maddens you, but in the end—you hope—she is worth the wait.” As we entered the winery, he proudly showed me the ancient wooden basket press, still used to squeeze the precious drops of golden juice from botrytized grapes.
“The grapes of Sauternes are the most difficult women,” Gérard continued. “Some years, it takes only three passes through the vineyards until each individual grape affected by noble rot is harvested; some years it takes 7 or even 10. One learns patience.”
As we entered the cave to taste, he concluded, “Wine is like a woman. If you try to drink her too young, she will not be ready. Then she goes through a difficult and potentially ugly adolescent stage. Finally, she is mature—and continues to age gracefully—until one day she is just too old to drink and enjoy!”
Gérard’s daughter, Laure, who took over as technical director in 2007, laughed that evening as I recalled my visit with her father. “Did he tell you, ‘Wine is like a woman’”? she asked, rolling her eyes and pouring me a glass of her delicious Sigalas Rabaud 2007. As I sipped the luscious dessert wine in Laure’s lovely company, I have to admit that I didn’t think about whether the wine was masculine or feminine. All I know is that it was damned good.
Although many dessert wines can be overly syrupy, the wines of the Sauternes region in Bordeaux are admired around the world for their complexity and balance, and Laure ensures that her wines retain acidity and freshness. The 2007 Sigalas Rabaud balances the sweetness of toffee and caramel notes with the gentle acidity of peaches, lychee and grilled pineapple.
A dessert wine does not need to be paired with dessert. In fact, it pairs wonderfully with savory dishes such as foie gras and roast chicken. If pairing with sweets, make sure the wine is sweeter than the dish itself. At the moment, with all the lovely fruit in season, it would pair perfectly with grilled stone fruit or juicy figs. Another classic is Sauternes and blue cheese. Just be sure to serve the wine chilled. And while dessert wines are commonly sold in half bottles under the assumption that they are drunk only in small doses at the end of a meal, don’t be surprised if you consume the Sigalas Rabaud twice as fast as you’d expect. Gérard should be proud of the woman behind the 2007, his daughter, Laure.
Editor’s note: Food and wine lovers heading to Paris might want to try one of the Girls’ Guide’s favorite cooking classes in Paris.