Cuvée Abbaye (70% Sémillon, 30% Muscadelle) is picked on successive sorties through the vineyard selecting only the most rotten grapes. Honeyed with rich peach and apricot fruit and saffron spice this gives top Sauternes at double the price a run for its money. Amazing with Roquefort or with fruit desserts like Tarte Tatin.
When dry Sémillon is herbal, lemony and waxy, but when affected by noble rot aka botrytis which shrivels the skins and concentrates the flavours and sugars with notes of caramel pineapple, quince, honey and saffron.
Christian Roche is first and foremost a Monbazillac producer but he has proved to be equally capable of making classy, dry white wines from the same mix of grapes – Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle. His vine holdings total 40 hectares, which is large for an independent producer, and 15 hectares of this land lie within the hallowed perimeter of Monbazillac.
Monbazillac has a long history (known as early as the 14th century) and is one of the world’s great sweet wines. The vineyard on Monbazillac hill is positioned on limestone interbedded with molassic sands and marl and the special micro-climate of its position on the north-facing slopes is particularly conducive to those autumnal mists which harbour the microscopic fungoid growth called botrytis cinerea (noble rot) which shrivels the grape super-concentrating the sugars.
Very sweet and concentrated with medium acidity means this wine pairs well with rich desserts often with caramel character such as tarte tatin. The French pair these wines very successfully with strong blue cheeses like Roquefort. Liver pâtes and foie gras also works well.