The appellation named after the homonymous municipality with about 1,700 hectares of vineyards forms an island in the large area Graves in the south Bordeaux, It consists of the five municipalities Bommes, Fargues -de-Langon, Preignac and Sauternes, as well as the right to its own appellation Barsac with 600 hectares. All Barsac wines may also use the names Sauternes or Sauternes-Barsac , but this is not the other way round. For centuries, noble white wines made from botrytized grapes have been produced here. The later US President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who was ambassador to Paris from 1785 to 1789 and visited many French wine-growing regions at that time, referred to the champagne and Hermitage the Sauternes as the best white wine in the country. His ranking was also used as one of the criteria for the 1855 Sauternes classification (see below).
The strongly calcareous soil offers excellent conditions for white wines, the red wines have less importance. The appellation only applies to noble sweet white wines. Dry white wines may only use the AC "Bordeaux", red wines only the AC "Bordeaux" or "Bordeaux Supérieur". The sweet white wine appellation requirements require at least 13% vol alcohol content and proof of the required sweetness level through a sensory flavor test. The yield limit is 25 hectoliters per hectare. The most common and important white grape variety is Sémillon, which accounts for around 80% of the total vineyard area of most wineries. The remaining white wines are Sauvignon Blanc (also Sauvignon Gris) and some Muscadelle. The most common reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. These are the typical grape varieties of the so-called Rive gauche (left bank).
The required for the noble sweet wines Botrytis (Edelfäulnis) is favored by the low location of the area and the proximity to two rivers. At the confluence of the cold river water of Ciron in the warmer Garonne fog is created in the valley and the interaction of damp coolness and solar heat creates the ideal conditions. It is consistently used noble rot berries. The glowing golden wine has a green glow. The bouquet is characterized by lush scents of apricot, honey and nuts. The full taste is intense and sweet, but the sweetness is not overpowering due to the high alcohol content. Mostly done Barrique, The white wines from the area Barsac are considered not so full, but as racy.
For Sauternes and the neighboring communities was in the context of Bordeaux Classification in 1855 as well as for the area Médoc created a classification for white wines. In Sauternes this was done in three classes. The Château d'Yquem was the only one in Bordeaux to receive the exclusive classification "Premier Cru Classé Supérieur", which is still in the Médoc before the reds. Since then there have been several changes due to change of ownership and name changes. The classification is still valid and largely consistent: