Preheat oven to 110C. Heat Sauternes in a small saucepan over low heat until it reaches 60C (4-5 minutes).
Meanwhile, beat yolks, eggs and sugar in an electric mixer until pale (3-4 minutes). Slowly add Sauternes and cream and stand for 5 minutes. Skim any bubbles from surface, then divide mixture among eight 100ml-capacity ramekins. Place ramekins in a heavy baking pan, fill pan with hot water from the tap until halfway up the outside of moulds. Cover lightly with foil and bake until just set (25-30 minutes). Remove from baking dish, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled and set (1-2 hours).
Meanwhile, for bitter caramel, place sugar in a small saucepan. Moisten with 20ml water and cook over medium-high heat, brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush until sugar caramelises (3-4 minutes). Swirl pan to ensure an even colour, then cook until wisps of smoke appear (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat, add 80ml water (be careful; caramel will spit), then cook over low heat until evenly melted (1-2 minutes). Cool and reserve until required. Makes about 200ml.
Pour 2 tsp caramel over each custard, serve immediately with extra caramel to the side.
Note Sauternes is a French dessert wine. If unavailable, substitute another sweet wine such as botrytis semillon.
This recipe is from the September 2009 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.