1. An elegant sweet wine from the Sauternes region of western France. It's made from sauvignon blanc or semillon grapes that have been infected by a beneficial mold called botrytis cinerea, which causes the grapes to shrivel, leaving a sugary fruit with concentrated flavors. The best Sauternes come from vines that have been hand-picked (as many as 12 separate times) to ensure that the grapes are not removed from the vines before reaching the perfect degree of ripeness required for these wines. French winemakers only produce sweet Sauternes in years when the grapes are perfectly ripened and botrytis infectedotherwise they turn their grapes into dry wines. The eminent Château d'Yquem, the most famous of the châteaux in Sauternes, undisputedly makes the best wines in the area. Sauternes are most notable as dessert wines but, because of their high acidity, they also make excellent partners for rich dishes like pâté, caviar and foie gras. 2. Sauterne is a generic name used in the United States for some inexpensive, dry to semisweet white wines made from various mediocre grapes.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.