The Sweet World of Dessert Wines
Many beginning wine drinkers tend to say that they not prefer a sweet wine, because they might consider it “unsophisticated”. A premium dessert wine can be as complex, subtle and impressive as a fantastic Barolo or prestigious Vintage Champagne. Moreover, the superior varieties are among the more difficult for winemakers to produce. Understanding what makes wines sweet, as well as the varieties available or how to match them with food, is essential and delicious knowledge for any wine lover.
Even if sweet wines are not as popular as they once were, they still the perfect cap to an evening’s end, and fortunately nearly every country has its own version. Let’s discover the 6 major varieties of dessert wine:
- Sparkling Dessert Wines
- Noble Rot Wines
- Ice Wines (Eiswein)
- Late Harvest Wines
- Dried Grape Wines
- Fortified Wines
- Sparkling Dessert Wines – The sensation of bubbles and high acidity in most sparkling wine makes them taste less sweet than they actually are.
TRY: Foss Marai Dolce Reale
PAIRING with Torta della Nonna (Grandma’s Cake)
- Noble Rot Wines (aka Botrytis cinerea) – While it probably wouldn’t appear delicious, some of the most sought after dessert wines in the world are made from rotten grapes. Noble Rot intensifies the sweetness level and adds flavor complexity. Examples of Moble Rot Wines: Sauternes from Italy, Tokaji Aszu from Hungary, Riesling Spätlese from Germany and Orvieto from Italy.
TRY: Château de Rayne Vigneau 2011 Sauternes
PAIRING with Roquefort Cheese or Foie Gras.
- Ice Wines (Eiswein) –The tradition of making ice wine is well rooted in Austria and Germany. However, Canada (Ontario) is one of the World’s Leading Producers of Icewine. To produce Icewine, summers must be hot and winters must be cold and sharp. Of all the wine-producing regions in the world, only Ontario has a winter climate sufficiently cold to ensure an Icewine crop in most years. Ice wine must be harvested and pressed while the grapes are still frozen (usually in the middle of the night).
TRY: Inniskillin Gold Oak Aged Vidal Icewine 2013
PAIRING with fruit-based desserts such as peach cobbler, cheesecake or unsweetened fruit pies. Make sure the dessert is less sweet than the Ice Wine.
- Late Harvest Wines – Late harvest wines are known for their rich, honeyed flavors. Riesling grapes (the variety used for most late harvest wines) are capable of developing high sugar levels while maintaining their acidity. All ice wines are also late-harvest wines, but not all late-harvest wines are also ice wines. Both ice wines and late-harvest wines are made in a very sweet style. Late-harvest wines are made from grapes left on the vine longer than usual, allowing them to get riper and riper. This makes the grapes naturally dehydrate, concentrating their flavors as they take on sweet, raisin-like qualities.
TRY: Donnhoff Hermann Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese, 2013
PAIRING (a Late Harvest Riesling) with lemon cream pie.
- Dried Grape Wines – Grapes are dried while still on the vine, a technique called passerillage in France or appassimento in Italy, or harvested in bunches and laid out to dry in the sun or hung from racks indoors.
TRY: Foss Marai Moscato Reale.
PAIRING with Blue Cheese or Apple Strudel
- Fortified Wines – A fortified wine is a wine that is “fortified” with additional alcohol that’s been added to the base wine during fermentation, bringing the average alcohol content up around 17-20%. Fortified wines can be made in either dry or sweet style. The most common types of fortified wines are Port, Sherry, Marsala, and Madeira.
TRY: Marsala Doc Superiore Riserva Semisecco Ambra Donna Franca
PAIRING. These wines are also considered as meditation wines. Jerez Pedro Ximenéz, a Port or a Marsala Superiore Dolce matched with chocolate as well as with a cake made of chocolate.