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Posts tagged ‘Sweetness of wine’

What Kind of Wine Taster Are You?

 

Know what you like in a wine? Tim Hanni explains why in his new book.

© Fotolia/Tim Hanni | Know what you like in a wine? Tim Hanni explains why in his new book.

Master of Wine Tim HanniHanni claims Gary Vaynerchuk's palate is to blame for his mother's morning sickness

© Erik KastnerHanni’s four types are Tolerant, Sensitive, Hyper Sensitive, and Sweet.There are four vinotypes, according to Hanni

© Tim Hanni | There are four vinotypes, according to Hanni* “Why You Like the Wines You Like,” by Tim Hanni, is published by New Wine Fundamentals at $24.95.

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5 Main Types of Dessert Wine

 


wine folly


 

 

Skip the heavy dessert option for something that will make your mouth twinkle. Dessert wines are meant to be enjoyed in small glasses and treasured like a glass of Scotch. Learn about the 5 major styles of dessert wine, from delicately fizzy Moscato d’Asti to rich brooding vintage Port.

 

Dessert Wine Basics Sweet wine is produced with extra sweet wine grapes. In order to make them sweet, the fermentation is stopped before the yeast turns all the natural grape sugar into alcohol. There are several ways to stop the fermentation, including super-cooling or adding brandy to wine. Both methods create an environment where yeast won’t survive. While there are hundreds of different types of dessert wines available in the market, most fall into 5 main styles. This guide outlines the 5 styles and includes examples of each.
 

Types of Dessert Wine Guide

 
dessert-wine-types
Most dessert wines can be categorized into 5 styles: Sparkling, Light & Sweet, Rich & Sweet, Sweet Red and Fortified.

Throughout this guide you’ll notice that some wine grapes are used for dessert wines more than others. There are two reasons for this: one is historic – the grapes have been used for sweet wines for centuries – The other is physiological – the grapes have inherent sweetness in their natural aromas making them perfect for sweet winemaking.

 

An example of these types of wine grapes is Muscat Blanc. This wine grape is around 1500 years older than the more en vogue Cabernet Sauvignon.

 


 

Sparkling Dessert Wine

 

Sweet Sparkling Wine Types
The sensation of bubbles and high acidity in most sparkling wine makes them taste less sweet than they actually are. When you taste more of the different varieties, you’ll notice certain grape varieties smell sweeter (and thus taste sweeter) than others. For instance, if you try a Demi-Sec traditional Champagne (which is usually a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) it will taste less sweet than a Demi-Sec Sparkling Moscato even though both may have the same amount of sugar.

 

Brut Champagne Sweetness Levels
Find out about Champagne sweetness

 

When looking for sweet dessert wine Champagnes and other bubbly wines, keep your eyes peeled for these words on the label:

 

  • Demi-Sec* (‘off-dry’ in French)
  • Amabile (‘slightly sweet’ in Italian)
  • Semi Secco* (‘off-dry’ in Italian)
  • Doux (‘sweet’ in French)
  • Dulce (‘sweet’ in Italian)
  • Moelleux (‘sweet’ for some French wines)
    *not to be confused with ‘Sec’, ‘Sekt’ or ‘Secco’ which is the term for ‘Dry’ in French, German and Italian, respectively

 


 

Lightly Sweet Dessert Wine

 

Lightly sweet still white wines
Lightly sweet wines are refreshingly sweet; perfect for a hot day. Many of these sweet wines pair well with spicy foods like Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Light sweet wines are meant to be enjoyed at their freshest although some examples, such as Riesling, age well.

 

Expect these wines to be exploding with fruit flavors and well suited for fruit-based and vanilla-driven desserts. For instance, consider Gewürztraminer: this wine is known for its lychee and rose petals aromas. A Gewürztraminer might pair well with a pear and kiwi tart.

 

  • Gewürztraminer
    A highly floral wine with moderate alcohol that’s commonly found in Alsace, Alto-Adige (Italy), California and New Zealand.
  • Riesling
    Available in both dry styles (common in Australia, Alsace and the US) as well as sweeter styles more commonly available from Germany. A wine with high natural acidity which helps cut the sweet taste.
  • Müller-Thurgau
    A less common variety also from Germany and found in parts of Oregon that has floral aromas with slightly lighter acidity. Classic porch wine and well-loved with sausages.
  • Chenin Blanc
    Chenin Blanc is commonly made in a sweeter style in the US and it’s also produced in large amounts in South Africa and the Loire Valley of France. Pay attention to labels when buying Chenin Blanc because many South African and French producers create dry versions that taste more similar to Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Viognier
    (specifically Condrieu from the Rhône Valley)

 

 

 


 

Richly Sweet Dessert Wine

 

Richly Sweet non-fortified dessert wines
Richly sweet wines are made with the highest quality grapes in an unfortified style. Many of these wines can age 50+ years because sweetness and acidity preserve their fresh flavor. Some of these wines are historically important including Hungarian Tokaji (‘toe-kye’) which was loved by the Tzars of Russia; South African Constantia which was an obsession of the Dutch and English; and French Sauternes which was loved by Americans in the early 1800′s.

 

There are several ways to produce richly sweet dessert wines and you can understand them better by how they’re made.

 

Late Harvest

Late harvest means exactly what it’s called. As grapes hang on the vine longer in the season they become even sweeter and more raisinated, resulting in a wine that has a higher residual sugar (or alcohol, depending on how long you let it ferment). In Alsace this style is called “Vendage Tardive” and in Germany it is called “Spätlese”. There are many late harvest wines in the US which are sold as dessert wines and typically have around 15-17% ABV.

Noble Rot

Noble rot is a type of spore called Botrytis cinerea that rots fruits and vegetables. While it sounds and looks disgusting it adds a unique and highly sought-after flavor of ginger and honey in wine. There are many wines made from ‘noble rot’ grapes including:

  • Sauternes, Barsac, Cadillac and Monbazillac
    are French Appellations in and around Bordeaux that use Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle to make a golden-hued sweet wine.
  • Tokaji
    is a wine from Hungary made with botrytis Furmint grapes that are rated in different levels of sugar, from 3-6 Puttonyos (6 is the sweetest and most expensive).
  • Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese Riesling
    In the German Pradikat system (a sweetness labeling system), Auslese is the first level with a higher proportion of botrytis-affected grapes. Besides being sweeter than the lower level ‘QbA’ and ‘Kabinett’ German Rieslings, they also tend to have higher alcohol.

Straw Mat

Grapes are laid out on straw mats to raisinate before being pressed into wine.

  • Italian Vin Santo
    is made with Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes and has rich nutty date-like flavors. There are several styles of Vin Santo made throughout Italy.
  • Italian Passito
    Another straw wine made with several different kinds of grapes, both white and red. For instance, Passito di Pantelleria is Muscat-based and Caluso Passito is made with the rare grape Erbaluce from Piedmont.
  • Greek Straw Wines
    Greece also produces Vinsanto which is made with high-acid white Assyrtiko grapes; Samos is a sweet wine made from Muscat grapes; and Commandaria is a sweet wine from Cyprus that dates back to 800 B.C.E.
  • German Strohwein/Austrian Schilfwein are increasingly rare sweet wines made from Muscat and Zweigelt grapes in Austria and Germany.
  • French Vin de Paille Most notably from the Jura region of France, which is adjacent to the alps, these Vin de Paille are produced using Chardonnay and ancient Savagnin grapes.

Ice Wine (Eiswein)

True ice wine is extremely rare and expensive for two reasons: 1) it only occurs in bizarre years when a vineyard freezes and 2) ice wine must be harvested and pressed while the grapes are still frozen (usually in the middle of the night). Ice wines are commonly produced in cold regions like Canada, Germany and Switzerland where the aforementioned prerequisites can be met. Most ice wines are made with Riesling or Vidal grapes although anything, even Cabernet Franc, can be used to produce an ice wine. You’ll find them to be honeyed and richly sweet, similar to a ‘noble rot’ wine.

 


 

Sweet Red Wine

 

Sweet Red Wine Types of dessert wines
Sweet reds are on decline except for cheap commercial production. However, there are still a few well-made historically interesting sweet reds worth trying. The majority of these awesome sweet red wines are from Italy using esoteric grapes.

 

  • Lambrusco
    A region producing a refreshing bubbly wine in both dry and sweet styles. Since it’s a sparkling wine, it will have a yeasty undertone along with raspberry and blueberry flavors. Sweet versions are labeled as “Amabile” and “Dulce”.
  • Brachetto d’Acqui
    A still and bubbly red or rosé wine made with Brachetto grapes from the Piedmont region. Famous for its floral and strawberry aromas as well as its affinity to pairing with cured meats.
  • Schiava
    A rare variety from Alto-Adige that is nearly wiped off the map. Smelling sweetly of raspberry and cotton candy while being refreshing and only a touch sweet.
  • Freisa
    Once one of the great red varieties of Piedmont, Freisa is related to Nebbiolo with lighter tannins and floral cherry notes.
  • Recioto della Valpolicella
    Made in the same painstaking process as Amarone wine, Recioto della Valpolicella is lush, bold and rich.
  • Late Harvest Red Wines
    There are many red dessert wines in the US made with grapes such as Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Malbec and Petite Sirah. These wines explode with sweetness and heightened alcohol content.

 


 

Fortified Wine

 

fortified-dessert-wine-sweetness
Fortified wines are made when grape brandy is added to a wine and can either be dry or sweet. Most fortified wines are higher in alcohol content (about 17-20% ABV) and have a longer shelf life after they are opened.

 

Port

Port wine is made in the Northern part of Portugal along the Douro river. The wines are made with dozens of Portuguese traditional grapes including some of the most famous: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. The grapes are collected and fermented together in open tanks where the grapes are stomped daily as the wine begins to ferment. At a point in the fermentation, the wine is strained and blended with a neutral grape spirit (with nearly 70% ABV) that stops fermentation and creates the fortified wine. After this process, there are a series of winemaking steps that lead into the different styles listed below.

Full Article on Types of Port Wine
  • Ruby & Crusted Port (sweet)
    This is an introductory style of Port wine that tastes of freshly minted port and is much less sweet than Tawny Port.
  • Vintage & LBV Port (sweet)
    LBV and Vintage Port are made in the same style but LBV are designed to be enjoyed in their youth (due to the style of cork enclosure) and vintage Ports are meant to be aged about 20-50 years before drinking.
  • Tawny Port (very sweet)
    The process of aging a Tawny Port happens at the winery in large wooden casks and smaller wooden barrels. The longer the Tawny Port ages, the more nutty and figgy it becomes. A 30-40 year Tawny is the best.
  • Port-Style Wines a.k.a. Vin Doux Naturel (sweet)
    Port can only be made in Portugal although many producers all over the world make port-style wines such as Zinfandel ‘Port’ or a Pinot Noir ‘Port’. We refer to these wines as vin doux naturel(see below).

Sherry

Sherry comes from Andalusia, Spain. The wines are made using Palomino, Pedro Ximinez (a grape, not a person) and Moscatel grapes. Wines are produced using varying amounts of the three grapes and are purposefully oxidized so that they develop nutty aromatics.

  • Fino (dry)
    The lightest and most dry of all the Sherries with tart and nutty flavors.
  • Manzanilla (dry)
    A specific style of Fino Sherry from a more specialized region that’s even lighter than Fino.
  • Palo Cortado (dry)
    A slightly richer style of sherry that is aged longer producing darker color and richer flavor. These wines are typically dry but will have fruit and nut aromas with salinity.
  • Amontillado (mostly dry)
    An aged sherry that takes on nutty flavors of peanuts and butter.
  • Oloroso (dry)
    A very aged and dark sherry that has higher alcohol content due to the evaporation of water as the wine ages. This is more like the scotch of Sherry.
  • Cream (sweet)
    A sweet style of Sherry made by blending Oloroso with Pedro Ximinez Sherry.
  • Moscatel (sweet)
    A sweet sherry with fig and date flavors.
  • Pedro Ximinez (PX) (very sweet)
    A very sweet sherry with brown sugar and figlike flavors.

Madeira

Madeira is a wine produced using up to 4 different grapes on the island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira is very unlike other wines because, in order to produce it, the wines undergo a heating and oxidation process – techniques that would traditionally ‘ruin’ a wine. The result is a rich fortified wine with walnut-like flavors, salinity and an oiliness on the palate. Because of the 4 different grapes used, Madeira range from dry to sweet making them work well alongside a meal or even as a pre-dinner drink.

  • Rainwater & Madeira
    When the label just says “Madeira” or “Rainwater” assume that it’s a blend of all 4 grapes and somewhere in the middle in terms of sweetness.
  • Sercial (dry)
    Sercial is the driest and the lightest of all the grapes in Madeira. These wines will have higher acidity and be dry with notes of peaches and apricot. It’s not too uncommon to see Sercial Madeira aged for 100 years.
  • Verdelho (dry)
    Verdelho has citrus notes and will develop nutty flavors of almond and walnut with time.
  • Bual (sweet)
    Bual leans on the sweet side with notes of burnt caramel, brown sugar, fig, rootbeer and black walnut. It’s common to find 10 year old ‘medium’ (meaning: medium sweet) Bual Madeira although there are several well aged 50-70 year old Bual as well.
  • Malmsey (sweet)
    Malmsey Madeiras have orange citrus notes and caramel to their taste along with the oily oxidized nutty flavor.

Vin Doux Naturel (VDN)

Vin Doux Naturel are made in a similar style to Port where a base wine is created and finished with neutral grape brandy. The term vin doux naturel comes from France, but this classification could be used to describe a wine from anywhere.

  • Grenache-based VDN Typically from the south of France, such as Maury, Rasteau and Banyuls from Languedoc-Roussillon
  • Muscat-based VDN Muscat de Rivesaltes, Muscat de Frotignan, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Ruthernglen Muscat (Australia), Orange Muscat and Vin Santo Liquoroso (Italy).
  • Malvasia-based VDN mostly from Italy and Sicily such as Malvasia delle Lipari Liquoroso
  • Mavrodaphni From Greece, Mavrodaphni is a sweet red wine with many similarities to Port.

 

4 Reasons to Give Gewürztraminer a Chance

 


Wine Folly


 

 

 

Ever wonder how a person’s name affects their potential? Does ‘Kiki’ sound like the name of a world leader or a backwater bartender? Perhaps it’s in the name that Gewürztraminer hangs by a thread in the world of wine because as you’ll soon see, it’s a perfectly noble grape. Of course, you’re probably thinking that comparing a person’s name to a grape seems uncourteous, but Gewürztraminer has been stuck with its unlikable name for nearly 200 years. Beat that, Kiki.

 


 

Gewürztraminer is like the grown-up version of Moscato.

 


 

In this guide, we attempt to show how Gewürztraminer is good, if not great. While aromatic sweet wines like Gewürztraminer are slightly out of fashion, we see it as an opportunity to find some of the most outstanding values on the planet. In this guide you will learn how Gewürztraminer wine tastes, where it comes from, and food pairing recommendations that will blow your mind.
 

Why try Gewürztraminer?

Why would any self-respecting wine enthusiast like Gewürztraminer?

  1. One of the 18 Classic Noble Grapes
  2. Super undervalued, many great examples under $20
  3. Perfect pairing with Indian and Middle Eastern Cuisine
  4. Surprisingly rare wine grape (only about 20,000 acres worldwide!)

 

 

 

The Guide to Gewürztraminer Wine

 

Gewürztraminer wine taste and flavors
Gewürztraminer is like the grown-up version of Moscato. While Gewürztraminer wine has many similarities to Moscato it also has higher alcohol, more striking aromatics and lower acidity. All of these characteristics make Gewürztraminer more difficult to slurp down, thus making it more ‘adult’.

 

The first aroma you’ll come across in a glass of Gewürztraminer is its tell-tale lychee aroma. If you’ve never smelled lychee – canned or fresh – then this aroma will be more like ‘sweet rose.’ The lychee aroma is usually so intense, it’s one of Gewürztraminer’s ‘tells’ in a blind tasting. If you’re drinking high quality Gewürztraminer you’ll find a great many complex aromatics including Ruby Red grapefruit, rose petal, ginger and a smoky aroma similar to burnt incense.

 

Is Gewürztraminer always sweet?

 

Not always. However, because Gewürztraminer is an aromatic grape like Muscat (Moscato), Riesling and Torrontés, it will have an inherently sweet flavor simply due to the smell. Generally, Gewürztraminer have a gram or two of residual sugar (RS). But because of the heightened aromatics, higher alcohol, and lower acidity, many Gewürz taste sweeter than they actually are.

 
Gewurztraminer in a glass with grapes

 

Gewürztraminer Wine Characteristics

 

FRUIT FLAVORS (berries, fruit, citrus)
Lychee, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Peach, Apricot, Orange, Cantaloupe
OTHER AROMAS (herb, spice, flower, mineral, earth, other)
Rose, Honey, Ginger, Incense, Allspice, Cinnamon, Smoke
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ACIDITY
Medium Low
SERVING TEMPERATURE
“Fridge Cold” 43 ºF (6 ºC)
SIMILAR VARIETIES
Muscat, Riesling, Torrontés(Argentina), Loureiro (Portugal), Malvasia Bianca (Italy)
HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT REGIONS
Gewürztraminer is one of the 4 Grand Cru grapes of Alsace and has been produced in the region for hundreds of years. Top quality Alsatian Gewürztraminer are called ‘Vendage Tardives’ (a.k.a. ‘late harvest’) and are age-worthy dessert wines with mineral, spice and smoke notes.

 

 

 

Where does Gewürztraminer come from?

the-alps-map
The foothills of the Alps. source

Gewürztraminer’s homeland lies in the foothills of the Alps. It’s a pink grape, just like Pinot Gris/Grigio, that also grows really well in cooler climates. The grape originated in Germany but over several hundreds of years it’s completely circumscribed the Alps including Italy, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, France and Slovakia.

 

 

 

Gewürztraminer Food Pairing

 

Think Exotic. Gewürztraminer best pairings happen when you step outside of traditional French cuisine and experience other foods of the world. Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine, both utilizing nuts and dried fruits with roasted meats, are great examples of the types of cuisine to enjoy with Gewürztraminer wine. When pairing Gewürztraminer with food think about how the wine’s floral aromas and notes of ginger will bring out actual ginger and rose water used in a dish.
 

Chicken Icon

 

Meat Pairings

 

Duck, Chicken, Pork, Bacon, Shrimp and Crab

 

Herbs Icon

 

Spices and Herbs

 

Highly spiced and aromatic herbs including Cayenne Pepper, Ginger, Clove, Cinnamon, Allspice, Turmeric, Madras Curry, Sichuan Pepper, Shallots, Soy Sauce, Sesame, Almond, Rose Water, Lime Leaf, Bay Leaf, Coriander, Cumin

 

Soft Cheese Icon

 

Cheese Pairings

 

Try it with less stinky and delicately flavored soft cow’s milk cheese and dried fruit.

 

Mushroom Icon

 

Vegetables & Vegetarian Fare

 

Roasted vegetables and veggies with natural sweetness including Coconut, Red Onion, Bell Pepper, Eggplant, Tempeh, Squash and Carrot. You can also enjoy it with artichokes, which are one of the more challenging wine pairing foods.

 


 

How to Find The Best Gewürztraminer Wine

 

Alsace Gewurztraminer Vintage Wine Label
Alsace is known for Gewürztraminer. source

 

You might be surprised to know that there’s actually not that much Gewürztraminer in the world. For every one vine of Gewürztraminer there are 30 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and 4 vines of Riesling. Most Gewürztraminer is produced as a low quality grocery store sweet wine, so when you’re buying look for smaller producers in specialty wine stores or online.

 

Only about ~20,000 acres worldwide

 

Alsace ~7,000 acres

 

Alsace is the world’s largest producer of Gewürztraminer and you can find several excellent and less-sweet wines. Pay attention to words like “Grand Cru”, a vineyard designation, and “Haut-Rhin”, an area with higher elevation vineyards.

 

US ~3,200 acres

 

Before sweet wines lost their stature, many Gewürztraminer vines were planted throughout California in the 1960′s. Look for wines from cooler areas like Sonoma and Monterey and high elevation vineyards. There are old vine Gewürztraminer from outstanding producers such as Husch Vineyards for less than $20! New York State and Washington State have great potential with this type of grape because cooler climates producer higher acidity.

 

Other Regions

 

Italy
~1,500 acres. About 10% of the Northern Italy region, Alto Adige.
Australia
~2,000 acres. Look for Clare Valley.
New Zealand
~1,000 acres. Mostly from the North Island, such as Hawke’s Bay.
Germany
~2,000 acres
Hungary
~2,000 acres

 

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