Dessert wines, the perfect follow up

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Last week, I covered fruit wines, which I said can also [at times] go into the category of dessert wines.  Dessert wines are, by definition, sweet wines typically served with dessert.  In some places, they are deemed to be non-fortified, while in other places they are, but there are even exceptions to those rules.  In my experiences, dessert wines can be anywhere from four percent alcohol, as in the case of Quady’s Electra, to well over twenty percent, which is in the case of Sauternes, Ports and Madeiras.


Different places make their own dessert wines, and each offering is usually a home run.


There are several basic ways to produce dessert wines.  They are:

1)      adding sugar before or after fermentation;

2)      remove water to concentrate the sugar;

3)      grow grapes that naturally have the sugar to produce alcohol and sweetness; and

4)      or fortifying it with alcohol such as brandy


Natural sweetness comes in the forms of wine such as Muscat, Huxelrebe and Ortega.  Some say that these wines are sweet, but boring, but I can’t say that for the wonderful muscats from Quady that I love.


In regards to removing the water, there are wines like ice wines and raisin wines.  The ice wines are great, and there are some great releases from Canada, upstate New York, and of course Germany.  Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin offer some great releases, however, I will tell you that ice wines get into some expensive territory.


Chapitalization is a process where honey is added to the wine.


Süssreserve “meaning reserve the sweetness” is a German technique.  In this process, unfermented grape juice is added to the wine after fermentation.


Noble rot is a process in which a fungi is introduced which will remove some water from the wine.  Over the years, I have had several noble rot wines,and I must say that they are great.  Sauterne, which is from the Sauternais region of France, is made from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes.  It is high in alcoholic content, but makes up for it with its divine sweetness.  Because of the method of noble rot, you can definitely taste raisins.


Most notable in the realm of fortified dessert wines are Port, Madeira (both from Portugla) and Sauternes (from France).  Port and Madeira, two of the greatest wines from Portugal, come in different types and different strengths.  Most of us have been exposed to an inexpensive, read cheap, Taylor port, but that is not even to say that all of the ports from Taylor fall into the same category.  Most people don’t know of the bigger company, Taylor Fladgate, which makes some of the best  port wines out there.


Port is usually from the Douro Valley in Portugal, but there are also other wines made in the style from other countries, normally called porto.  Port wine is fortified with brandy, and there are several styles, including ruby, tawny, pink and white.  Many ports need to be decanted before drinking.


Madeira wine is from the Madeira islands of Portugal, and has it’s own special characteristics.  There are four main types of this wine, and they are:

1)      Malvasia, also known as Malmsey

2)      Bual  - a 1964 Broadbent is my favorite

3)      Verdelho; and

4)      Sercial – I had a 1969 one that suffered from cork-rot; I almost cried.


There is even a style of madeira called “rainwater” which came about because of an accident, but is considered an apertif wine.


Summarily, there are a ton of different dessert wines out there, and if you really want to expand your wine vocabulary, you’ll definitely want to start to learn them, not only from the phonetic side, but also from the side of tasting them, and starting to fall in love with several of them.

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Our Mission: The Black Winer strives to expose African Americans [and others] to wines, without the flair, stuffiness, and airs of elitism and snobbery that you get from sommeliers and high level wine enthusiasts. We believe in finding something that you like the taste of, outside of the basic brands that you have been force-fed over the years through a combination of ethnically targeted advertising, and what people in your family have historically been drinking.

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