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I need Sauterne wine for fondue, but can't find it anywhere.

Are there any acceptable substitutes? None of the liquor stores around me have it, and many I call are confusing it with the sweet dessert wine, sauterneS.

Any recommendations? Thank you!

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  1. Try in the wine forum: http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/34

    Over here, we're liable to suggest you use any dry crisp white wine so long as you include kirshwasser. ;-)

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    3 Replies
    1. re: EvergreenDan

      Agreed on using any dry crisp white wine. But please be careful what kirschwasser you add! They're not all made the same and whatever we've found so far in the US (cherry liquor that tastes like cough syrup) has been utter crap and ruins the fondue. Better actually to leave it out unless you're sure it is the real thing.

      1. re: veenaprasad

        Have been using cherry juice instead of kirsch to dissolve cornstarch for years, works and tastes great with never the cough syrup flavor you mention. The Russian ones with the schmutz in bottom of jar are better as not sweet but great intense cherry flavor.

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          just to clarify for those who aren't sure what it is...

          the "real thing" should be crystal-clear, with a watery rather than syrupy consistency, and will go down like jet fuel with a sublime cherry aftertaste. It's an eau de vie, not a liqueur.

    2. There is really no such thing as "Sauterne." It stems from "back in the day" when folks called their wines from wherever "Burgundy" and "Chablis" etc., but they weren't anything close to that.

      I cannot imagine using real Sauternes in fondue, either. I think you'd do well with an inexpensive white Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend) for your fondue. Those should be available in just about any wine store, or even supermarket.

      14 Replies
      1. re: ChefJune

        Thank you! I will go with a white Bordeaux, and definitely will add kirsch, as per Dan.

        Thanks so much!

        1. re: librarianjen

          I wouldn't waste a good white Bordeaux on a fondue . . . .

          1. re: zin1953

            When I saw that you had posted to this thread, I was hoping that you could refresh my feeble memory about the "Sauterne" wines, of decades past - who sold under that altered name, and what might have been the grapes used. You are such a wealth of vinos history, and I need a bit of that right now.



            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Hunt: I remember something called "Donaldo Sauterne" from Portugal, that came in a large green glass bottle that sooked a bit like the Almaden bottles. I have no idea what grapes were used in that.

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                re: "Sauterne" (without the final "s") . . .

                Under the old ATF regulations, there was a category of wine called "Semi-Generic." True semi-generic wines were American wines that bore European place names of origin, such as "Burgundy", "Claret", and "Chianti"; "Chablis", "Rhine" and "Sauterne." (Most Americans simply call these "generic wines," but this is technically incorrect. Generic wines are literally "Red Wine" and "White Wine.") Other names for semi-generics include "Moselle," "Haut-Sauterne" (again, missing the final "s"), "Malaga," "Madeira", "Marsala", "Port", "Sherry", "Angelica", and "Champagne".

                Although "Champagne," as a semi-generic American wine, had to be sparkling, and "Malaga," "Madeira", "Marsala", "Port", "Sherry", "Angelica" all had to be fortified to some degree, the others merely had to be wine . . . NO restrictions or limitations were imposed as to the grape type(s) used in making the wine, the level of sweetness/dryness of the wine, even the color was never specified in the regulations.

                The IMPLICATION was, of course, that the a semi-generic "Burgundy" or "Chablis" would be akin to -- or at least somewhat reminiscent of -- a French Burgundy or Chablis, but this was rarely if ever the case, and certainly never mandated by regulations.

                Certainly with a semi-generic "Sauterne," there was no regulation that the wine be sweet, that the wine have any Botrytis whatsoever, etc., etc., etc. Generally speaking, however, if a winery produced BOTH a "Sauterne" and a "Haut-Sauterne," the latter often contained more sweetness -- but nothing made this so. So, too, for the difference between, say, a "Chablis" versus a "Rhine" wine.

                That said, when I worked in the Napa Valley, the winery bottled "Burgundy", "Claret" and "Chianti" >>>all out of the same tank! <<<


                1. re: zin1953


                  That was about how I remembered things too. I was hoping for a bit more detail on the "Sauterne," but like "Tokay," was probably so generic, that few alive today, even recall. Maybe we need a US Wine Freedom of Information Act?



                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    There's no real additional detail to be had (see below), and a "Wine Freedom of Information Act" would have to be filed with each winery, and that would presume they still had records available. The problem is that ANYTHING could be used to make a semi-generic wine, and nothing prevented a winery from bottling "Chablis," "Rhine," and "Sauterne" all from the same tank.


                    US Code Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
                    Subpart C—Standards of Identity for Wine
                    § 4.24 Generic, semi-generic, and non-generic designations of geographic significance.

                    (a)(1) A name of geographic significance which is also the designation of a class or type of wine, shall be deemed to have become generic only if so found by the Administrator.

                    (a)(2) Examples of generic names, originally having geographic significance, which are designations for a class or type of wine are: Vermouth, Sake.

                    (b)(1) A name of geographic significance, which is also the designation of a class or type of wine, shall be deemed to have become semi-generic only if so found by the Administrator. Semi-generic designations may be used to designate wines of an origin other than that indicated by such name only if there appears in direct conjunction therewith an appropriate appellation of origin disclosing the true place of origin of the wine, and if the wine so designated conforms to the standard of identity, if any, for such wine contained in the regulations in this part or, if there be no such standard, to the trade understanding of such class or type. See §24.257(c) of this chapter for exceptions to the Administrator's authority to remove names from paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

                    (b)(2) Examples of semi-generic names which are also type designations for grape wines are Angelica, Burgundy, Claret, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Malaga, Marsala, Madeira, Moselle, Port, Rhine Wine (syn. Hock), Sauterne, Haut Sauterne, Sherry, Tokay.

                    (c)(1) A name of geographic significance, which has not been found by the Administrator to be generic or semi-generic may be used only to designate wines of the origin indicated by such name, but such name shall not be deemed to be the distinctive designation of a wine unless the Administrator finds that it is known to the consumer and to the trade as the designation of a specific wine of a particular place or region, distinguishable from all other wines.

                    (c)(2) Examples of nongeneric names which are not distinctive designations of specific grape wines are: American, California, Lake Erie, Napa Valley, New York State, French, Spanish. Additional examples of foreign nongeneric names are listed in subpart C of part 12 of this chapter.

                    (c)(3) Examples of nongeneric names which are also distinctive designations of specific grape wines are: Bordeaux Blanc, Bordeaux Rouge, Graves, Medoc, Saint-Julien, Chateau Yquem, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafite, Pommard, Chambertin, Montrachet, Rhone, Liebfraumilch, Rudesheimer, Forster, Deidesheimer, Schloss Johannisberger, Lagrima, and Lacryma Christi. A list of foreign distinctive designations, as determined by the Administrator, appears in subpart D of part 12 of this chapter.

                    [T.D. 6521, 25 FR 13835, Dec. 29, 1960, as amended by T.D. ATF–296, 55 FR 17967, Apr. 30, 1990; T.D. ATF–398, 63 FR 44783, Aug. 21, 1998; T.D. ATF–425, 65 FR 11890, 11891, Mar. 7, 2000]


                    Now if THAT doesn't give you a headache . . . .

                    Again, there is nothing in the regs that make a semi-generic "Claret" (for example) contain any traditional Bordeaux grape whatsoever; nothing to have a "Burgundy" contain any Pinot Noir or Chardonnay; nothing for a "Chianti" to contain any Sangiovese, or a "Rhine" to have any Riesling. And certainly there was nothing in the regs that made a "Sauterne" contain any Sauvignon Blanc, any Semillon, or any Botrytis . . . the names are essentially meaningless, and always have been.

                    This isn't to say that, for example, Almaden's Mountian Rhine Wine wasn't sweeter than Almaden's Mountain White Chablis, but nothing in the regulations ***forced*** it to be that way, and legally, they could have been from the very same tank -- only the labels in the labeling machine were changed to protect the innocent.

                    And, as I mentioned previously, the Napa Valley winery I worked at made four semi- and generic wines: the "Burgundy," "Claret," and "Chianti" all came out of the very same tank -- we just changed the labels in the machine. Only the "Red Table Wine" was different.


                    1. re: zin1953


                      Just thought that you'd have it on the top of your head - but you are "excused" for not knowing. Recall the "term," but cannot ever remember tasting one of them.



                      1. re: zin1953

                        Now I know why I shouldn't trust anything you say!

                2. re: zin1953

                  There are quite a number of "good" white Bordeaux for around $10-12.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    That's true, but a "classic" cheese fondue calls for Fendant de Valais or Neuchâtel -- both exclusively or predominantly produced from Chasselas grapes -- very neutral in flavor and character . . . something that even a "good" Bordeaux blanc sec is not.

                    Just my own 2¢ . . . .


                    1. re: zin1953

                      for heaven's sake...just dump a little of something white and semi-drinkable into the pot...it won't matter once it's behind the flavor of the cheese, anyway!

            2. Pick up some Chateau d'Yquem and call it a day! ;-) -mJ

              2 Replies
              1. re: njfoodies

                That, though, is a Sauternes wine - a sweet wine. I'm looking for a sauterne (without the s at the end) - a dry wine for classic cheese fondue.

                1. re: librarianjen

                  Not sure that anyone is still doing that. I would also guess that "Sauterne" (no S) was something like French Colimbard, or maybe even Thompson Seedless?

                  An SB, or SB/Semillon would be just fine. If the recipe calls for "Sauterne," it will likely be 10x better, than what was once intended.

                  Maybe someone can list, just for curiosity's sake, some of the "Sauterne" wines, and what they were made from. I remember them, but as a historical footnote, along with the aforementioned "bastardizations" of French appelations, which appeared in the naming and marketing of a lot of US jug-wine. Remember, that info is just out of curiosity. I do not want to buy a case (probably 4 - 1gal. jugs, replete with the little finger ring on the neck... ).

                  Most of all, enjoy your dish,


              2. Isn't that found in the grocery store? I think I have it in my more "upscale" grocery store next to the sherry, marsala, etc. I might be wrong, but I would check there first.

                3 Replies
                1. re: sedimental

                  no Chateau d'Yquem in a grocery store, I would think. Even the lesser years cost upwards of $300 for a half-bottle.

                  Besides, it would add NOTHING positive to fondue.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    I enjoy my d'Yquem with lobster. Will be having it on New Years Eve...definitely wouldn't waste it in fondue! -mJ

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      I think that Sedimental's tongue might have been in his/her cheek.

                      When you add that "S," it should actually be a "$." [Grin]

                      Now, I could be wrong, so will just have to wait and see.


                  2. Ice wine will be nice... chile late harvest sauvignon... ice cider too... happy new year