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Parfait de Sauternes

I love Parfait de Sauternes, a voluptuous and indulgent dessert, perfect for the end of a festive dinner with friends or family. Perfect is the correct word here because parfait is the French word for perfect. A Parfait is an easy to make ice cream based on cream and eggs, that needs no churning or stirring. You can just make it in any mould or cake pan that is freezer-proof.

I enjoyed this rich and decadent dessert for the first time in a tiny auberge in the small village of Sauternes, 45 minutes South East of Bordeaux. Sauternes is the winegrowing area around Bordeaux famous for its sweet wines. The grapes used for Sauternes and other sweet wines like Monbazilac and Loupiac are the ugliest grapes I have ever seen. This is because the perfect grapes for making a Sauternes have been touched by Botrytis cinerea (noble rot). Because the Botrytis cinerea causes grapes to shrivel like raisins, yields are never high, even in good vintages. For example the most famous Chateau in Sauternes, Chateau d’Yquem produces only one glass of wine per vine in a good vintage. In other Bordeaux appellations yields can be a bottle or more per vine depending on the area.

I like Sauternes that are sweet but well balanced with acidity and complex aromas like pineapple, honey and apricots. Sauternes starts with a golden yellow colour in it early years and turns darker with ageing. We have some Sauternes in our cellar that have aged over 25 years and have turned to an amber colour. It’s like liquid gold in your glass.

I once served 5 different Sauternes, all from the same 1988 vintage, throughout an entire 5-course dinner. The experience was very interesting but not one I would repeat eagerly. Each pairing by it self was pleasurable and very good. But overall I found there was too much sweetness for an entire meal.


The most surprising pairing of the evening was Sauternes served with a tangy blue cheese. The saltiness of for example a Roquefort balances beautifully with the sweetness of Sauternes and is really a combination worth to try.

Most often I serve Sauternes with the sweet course. The golden rule to remember here is that the wine needs to be sweeter than the dessert.
To prepare this recipe I use a glass of the same Sauternes that I will serve later at the table. A perfect pairing.

Parfait de Sauternes. A perfect pairing

Egg Yolks 6
Sugar 6 tablespoons
Double cream 250 ml/ 1 cup
Sauternes or sweet dessert wine 125 ml/ ½ cup
Fruit for decoration

Start by making a Sabayon. Prepare a bain marie by placing a pan with boiling water on the stove. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture changes to a lighter colour and starts to thicken. Set the bowl over the warm water and continue whisking. When the mixture starts to thicken more, add the Sauternes. Keep whisking and let the mixture thicken again. You are looking for a cream coloured mixture that coats the back of a spoon. This may take a good 15 to 20 minutes of whisking by hand so feel free to use an electric mixer to save some time.
Once the Sabayon is thick enough put it into a clean bowl and let it cool for an hour in the fridge. Stir from time to time.
Take the cooled Sabayon out of the fridge and whip up the double cream to soft peaks. Gently fold the Sabayon into the cream. Transfer the mixture to a cake pan. If you use a glass or metal pan line the pan first with cling film to make it easier to turn the parfait later.
Let your Parfait set in the freezer for 5 hours or more.

When it is time to serve dessert get your Parfait out of the freezer and transfer it to a plate. Serve with some seasonal fruit like berries, peaches or kiwis.

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