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Monday, March 27, 2023

How sweet it is: sweet wines, and their place in the world

Nearly all wine has some extent of sugar, from as little as 4 grams per litre in a dry purple as much as 220 grams per litre in some ice wines. How we understand that sugar is one other matter, nevertheless it’s protected to say most wine customers are usually unaware of its optimistic or damaging points, particularly the place meals pairing is worried.

Like so many issues in life, the important thing phrase is stability. For the longest time, customers perceived German rieslings as overly candy, a false impression based mostly on a couple of examples of some mass-produced kinds that dominated export markets a number of many years in the past. German rieslings are predominantly dry (trocken) lately however the gamut ranges from bone dry to ice-wine ranges of sweetness and the whole lot in between.

Steadiness is achieved by the wine’s acidity, be it pure, ideally, or added post-fermentation. The presence and advantages of acid in wine can’t be understated, it’s the cornerstone insofar as stability is worried. An off-dry type of German riesling (sometimes labelled feinherb or halbtrocken) will include about 19 grams of sugar per litre however the acidity balances that sweetness out, and, as such, you’ll not often guess that the sugar ranges have been that top. The world’s best candy wines all have one factor in widespread; sufficient acidity to maintain the wine balanced, stopping them from tasting cloyingly candy.

There are a number of methods to provide candy wines, the nice ones are all carried out with out the addition of sugar. I point out this primarily as a result of there are lots of so-called “dry” wines in the marketplace lately, principally from California, that aren’t actually dry in any respect. The most well-liked of the bunch, stacked excessive in massive field liquor shops, include 19 grams of sugar, roughly half as a lot as a can of coke. They make the wine this fashion for 2 easy causes; it’s low-cost and people have a tendency to love sweet-tasting issues. My solely actual beef with these wines is that there isn’t a indication that the wine accommodates that a lot sugar, for apparent causes.

The author kept a few empty bottles of Chateau d’Yquem from a tasting a few years ago as a reminder of the great sweet wine. Geoff Last photo
The writer saved a couple of empty bottles of Chateau d’Yquem from a tasting a couple of years in the past as a reminder of the nice candy wine. Geoff Final picturejpg

For naturally made candy wines, the heat of the solar does a lot of the work. Late-harvest wines are simply that, produced from grapes which might be left on the vine nicely previous the usual harvest date to attain extra ripeness, and as such, pure sugar. It’s at all times difficult as a result of a tough frost can wipe out the fruit in a matter of hours. Then there are grape-loving creatures like birds, bears and wild boars that may fortunately munch their approach via a winery. Because the grapes start to raisin, they lose moisture, concentrating the pure sugars however enormously decreasing the quantity of juice when pressed.

As well as, the grapes have to be harvested and sorted by hand, all of which provides to the price of the ultimate product.

Grapes on the vine showing Botrytis cinerea rot.
Grapes on the vine exhibiting Botrytis cinerea rot.Christian Fibz – inventory.adobe.com

The good candy wines of Bordeaux’s Sauternes area depend on a sort of rot – Botrytis cinerea – aka noble rot, to attain excessive ranges of sugar. The fungus successfully turns the grapes into raisins on the vine, and it contributes a flavour profile that features hints of honey and beeswax. The Sauternes from Chateau d’Yquem is the world’s most well-known candy wine, and that truth is mirrored in the associated fee, sometimes round $1,000 a bottle, and way more for older vintages. One other nice instance of a Botrytis-affected wine is Hungary’s Tokaji, produced from the indigenous furmint grape. They have an inclination to supply distinctive worth, with one of the best examples promoting for about half that of a superb bottle of Sauternes. Italy’s most well-known contribution to the candy wine class is Vin Santo, actually, “holy wine”. It’s produced in Tuscany from late-harvest grapes which might be usually dried on straw mats earlier than urgent. The ultimate wine is then saved in outdated barrels in a heat atmosphere to cut back and focus flavours, a course of that may take a few years. It’s not often made in giant quantity, and as such is a little bit of a rarity.

This type of candy wine usually shows a honeyed, orange/apricot marmalade deal with that goes nicely with issues like blue cheese, fruit tarts and truffles, and foie gras (that is true of many candy wines).

The good candy wines of the world have lots of attraction to collectors as a result of they’ll age for many years within the cellar. I used to be lucky sufficient to have been invited to a vertical tasting of Chateau d’Yquem a few years in the past, hosted on the Put up Lodge in Lake Louise. If I recall, there have been about 35 vintages of the legendary wine going again to 1893. I saved a couple of of the empty bottles as a reminder of the pleasure that may be present in candy, mature wine.

You don’t should spend d’Yquem {dollars} to search out nice candy wine, nevertheless, there are way more reasonably priced examples in the marketplace, and that features a number of the extra affordable wines from Sauternes. A few of my favourites embrace Felsina Vin Santo (Tuscany, Italy), Royal Tokaji 6 Puttonyos (Hungary), JJ Prum Auslese (Mosel, Germany), Huet Vouvray Demi-dec & Moelleux (Loire Valley, France), and Gruber Riesling Eiwein (Austria). I discover most ice wines too candy for my style, they sometimes clock in at about 200 grams of sugar per litre, however Canada makes some nice ones. Strive those from Cave Spring, Mission Hill, Quail’s Gate and Inniskillen. Cheers!

Geoff Final is a long-time Calgary wine service provider author, teacher, and broadcaster. He might be heard each Friday on CJSW’s Highway Pops program from 4 to six p.m. He was awarded a fellowship at Napa Valley’s Symposium of Skilled Wine Writers for articles which have appeared on this column. Media inquiries might be directed to [email protected]

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