Winemaker Hervé Dubourdieu is widely recognized as one of the great producers of Sauternes, the "noble rot" dried-grape wine of Bordeaux, where grape growers let the fungus botrytis grow on their late-harvest fruit, thus desiccating the berries and concentrating their sugar and flavors.
But on a long, hot summer night of a Texas June, I don't reach for Hervé's sweet, viscous nectar, in part because its price makes it a "special occasion" wine in our home, and in part because it's a wine that I reserve for pairing with ripe aged cheeses during the fall and winter (I've already consumed a lifetime's allocation of foie gras, and so I'll leave that classic pairing to the fat cats who like that kinda stuff).
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Instead, I search out his dry Graville-Lacoste, a wine made from the same grapes that go into his top wines. In this case, the blend is predominantly Sémillon, which gives it wonderful steely minerality and bright acidity. A smaller amount of Sauvignon Blanc gives the wine a gentle aromatic character that marries well with gentle spiciness, like the freshly cracked pepper that I sprinkled over a dish of short pasta, pancetta, and peas the other night.
You'll find this wine for less than $20 at Kroger, Central Market, Whole Foods, and Top Shelf Wine and Spirits. And don't be fooled by its reasonable price: The wine is as elegant as its classic Bordelaise label (which makes it one of my favorite wines to take as a gift to a dinner party).