The appellation, named after the municipality of the same name, with around 1,700 hectares of vineyards, forms an island in a large area Graves in the south Bordeaux, It consists of the five municipalities of Bommes, Fargues-de-Langon, Preignac and Sauternes, as well as the right to have its own Barsac appellation, of which 600 hectares. All Barsac wines may also use the names Sauternes or Sauternes-Barsac , but this does not apply the other way round. For centuries, noble sweet white wines made from botrytized grapes have been produced here. The later US President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who was envoy to Paris from 1785 to 1789 and visited many French wine-growing regions during this period, designated after 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 Sauternes classification that was made in 1855 (see below).
The strongly calcareous soil offers excellent conditions for white wines, the red wines are less important. 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 appellation regulations for sweet white wines require at least 13% vol alcohol and proof of the required degree of sweetness through a sensory taste test. The yield limit is 25 hectoliters per hectare. The most common and most important type of white wine is Sémillon, which occupies around 80% of the total vineyard area at most wineries. The remaining white wines are Sauvignon Blanc (also Sauvignon Gris) and some Muscadelle. The most common types of red wine are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. They are the typical grape varieties of the so-called Rive gauche (left bank).
The one required for the noble sweet wines Botrytis (Noble rot) is favored by the deep location of the area and the proximity to two rivers. When the cold river water of the Ciron flows into the warmer Garonne Fog is created in the valley and the interaction of damp coolness and solar heat creates the ideal conditions. Noble rotten berries are used throughout. The glowing gold colored wine has a green shimmer. The bouquet is characterized by a lavish scent of apricots, honey and nuts. The full taste is intense and sweet, but due to the high alcohol content the sweetness is not intrusive. Usually there is a Barrique, The white wines from the Barsac range are considered not as full, but as racy.
For Sauternes and the neighboring communities, the Bordeaux Classification in 1855 as for the area Médoc created a classification for white wines. In Sauternes, this was done in three classes. The Château d'Yquem in Bordeaux was the only one to receive the exclusive “Premier Cru Classé Supérieur” classification, which was ahead of the red wines in the Médoc. Since then there have been several changes due to changes of ownership and name changes. The classification is still valid and largely consistent: