Sweet wine is something to cherish. It is a whole world filled with all sorts of treats, ranging from sweeter table wines to those lusciously sweet dessert wines. It’s a beautifully mastered art piece, with acid, intensity and character, and it’s worth diving into.
What exactly is a sweet wine?
Sweet Wine is a wine that has 50g/Litre or more of sugar. This includes a whole bunch of different sweet styles made around the world. Let’s break it down to the styles you can include:
Sweeter Table Wines – when the wines are created the same way as all regular wine, minus that fermentation may have been stopped earlier to increase sweetness (such as Moscato d’Asti; they chill the wine to stop fermentation, maintaining the low alcohol and sweetness).
Late Harvest- this is when they leave the grapes on the vines for an extra bit of time, so the grapes ripen to their fullest potential. This produces a juice that is higher in sugar.
Noble Rot (Botrytis Cinerea) – This only occurs in the perfect situation, in locations with consistently damp, foggy mornings, and warm, windy, dry afternoons. This only occurs in a few places around the world. The rot dehydrates the grape and concentrates the juice. This allows the creation of Botrytis-affected wine such as those made in Sauternes and Barsac.
Passito – This is when they harvest the grapes and then leave them to dry out on straw mats for a couple of months. This concentrates the juice, and thus, more sweetness. Recioto Della Valpolicella wines are examples of this style.
Ice Wine - This can only happen naturally in certain places, such as Canada. It is when the grapes are harvested frozen, only pressing the extremely sweet juice.
So now you’re up to scratch, let’s talk about the wines in the tasting.
To start off the evening, we poured a sweeter, but highly acidic Riesling from the Mosel Valley in Germany. Riesling is one of the most versatile grapes, where they can produce the dryest to the most lusciously sweet wines. The grape suffers from the perpetuated myth that all Riesling is over-the-top sugary-sweet and because sometimes the idea of a sweeter style table wine is off-putting to some. I decided to pour the Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Spätlese 2016 because one, it is a downright delicious wine, and two, it shows how acid in a sweeter style Riesling can completely balance the wine out. It was so fresh, like a crisp green apple, with insane minerality, and with notes of blossom. This wine is delicious and was the perfect way to start the tasting. $59.99
The second sip of the evening is a unique style of wine. Coming from Jurancon, in the Pyrenees Foothills, the Clos Thou Cuvee Julie 2015 is a sweet wine created by the perfect unison of Grand & Petit Manseng. This wine is a late harvest style, where both the Grand and Petit Manseng aren’t harvested until the end of November. With the unique terroir of this region, it creates these crazy aromatic styles, and you can definitely see this traditional style of this wine. Also, this wine is my go-to for pairing with blue cheese! $31.99
Cuilleron Roussilliere Doux 2014 was the next pour for the evening. Another Late Harvest wine, but a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne coming from the Rhone Valley, France. Cuilleron is one of the top produces coming from the region, and produce some of the most delicate of styles (if you haven’t already tasted any wines from Cuilleron, I would recommend their Cote Rotie or Condrieu). Their late harvest is exactly that. It was a floral bomb with a touch of dusty, rusticness, and it continuously drags you into its fierce beauty. $38.99
We then travelled to the Loire Valley, France, with a sip of the Domaine des Aubuisiere Vouvray Alexandre 2003. This wine is made with Chenin Blanc, another grape (just like Riesling) where the grape be transformed into an extremely dry or lusciously sweet. This particular vintage was shy at first, not allowing much to be received from the nose or palate, but once it opened up, it opened up. Crazy aromas of blossom, mineral, apple and honey took over and left you wanting more. I would even dare say that this wine could still use a few more years. $82.99
The next in the line up was the Tawse Riesling Icewine 2013 from Niagara, Canada. Icewine is something Canada does very well, and this wine beautiful showed how delicious it can be. So syrupy smooth in texture, and so lusciously sweet. One aroma I seem to always get with ice wine is cereal milk, which was definitely prominent in this wine, but also elegant notes of honey, stewed apples and maybe even a touch of blossom. $44.99
Another style of sweet wine we decided to explore was sweet sherry. Sherry isn’t just the drink for old ladies in their local pubs (we are looking at you, Coronation Street), but a style of wine to have all year round. You can get sherry done in a dry style, but also sweeter style like the Lustau Moscatel Emilin NV. This wine was filled with prune, dates and raisins, with notes of brandy fruit cake and caramel. $25.99
Last wine of the evening was the Bussola Recioto 2009, coming from Veneto, Italy. This wine is created with the Passito method, and if you’re a fan of Amarone, you will be a fan of this. Recioto, in a simple way, is Amarone that has its fermentation stopped early to create a sweet wine, whereas Amarone is fermented to dry or off-dry styles. The Bussola production is more of a rounder, intense style of Recioto, but still perfectly balanced with notes of cocoa, coffee, baking spice, stewed red fruits and a touch of coffee. $75.99
Thank you to everyone that attended this tasting!
And, a special thank you to Peasant Cheese for providing us with amazing cheese and charcuterie boards!