Solid Gold Cadillac
If there's one wine style that I feel that is unduly underrepresented on my table and in my cellar, it's dessert wine - specifically, Sauternes and its ilk. Might be that we just aren't dessert people. But see, that's no good excuse either, because we're Fois people, and that's about as good a dessert as you could ask for. And what better wine is there to pour alongside fois gras than boytryised wine?!
Of course, cost is the obvious, common barrier to entry here. We all know about d'Yquem, but even non-first-growths like Rieussec can fetch substantial coin these days. And not that they aren't worth the occasional splurge, but if we're talking about things we can open on a whim without our bank accounts cringing, there must be better options.
Enter the Bordeaux region of Cadillac.
Cadillac is not far from Sauternes - in fact, it's located almost directly across the Dordogne river, to the north. Much like Sauternes, the reason that only sweet white wine is grown here has to do with the river and its propensity to encourage "noble rot" - a fungus that requires very special conditions to thrive (moisture during the morning, dryness at night, and specific temperature swings).
This noble rot attacks the grapes, dries them out, and leaves them concentrated with sugar. This results in absurdly low yields, but that's largely why Sauternes cost so much - it takes far more vines and grapes to produce the same amount of juice. Cadillac, though, experiences the same phenomena, it just doesn't carry the same fame (and price tag).
I'm not trying to be coy here - you won't mistake this for d'Yquem. But when a bottle of that costs roughly 10 times as much as the bottle I'm talking about today, the approximation is more than acceptable. This wine is Chateau La Croix de la Martingue. It is the second Cadillac I've tasted and loved in the past few months - the last one disappeared before I had a chance to offer it out to you. This one is, somehow, even better...and I'm not letting it disappear!
The wine itself is 90% Semillon, with the remainder made up of Muscadelle and Sauv Blanc. It's deeply golden (see picture above) and ripe, with an agreeable 14% alcohol (i.e. not hot at all). The nose is intense, massive, boisterous, elegant, brilliant. Apricots, peaches, honeysuckle, orange peel, wet stones all swirl around. It's phenomenally layered on the nose, to the point that you just want to swirl-n-sniff it all night. It is gloriously pungent, though, and eventually you give in and take a sip.
It feels like it might be sweeter based on that orange-peel nose, but as with the best Sauternes, the name of the game here is balance. Yes it's ripe and sticky, unctuous and mouth-coating...but it's also bright, lively, and full of energy. Great acidity, restrained sugar levels, and intense complexity all make this an excellent dessert wine with or without dessert (we had it without dessert, and it was just perfect). The finish is long and glimmering, but clean and proper too. For better or for worse, you will want more, even after the first bottle is gone.
Well, of course, the kicker here is the price tag. How's $15 sound? Oh, yeah, that's for a 750mL, not a split. Seriously. This wine has no business being this inexpensive.
Do with that what you will.