Why not indulge in something sweeter? There’s no better time, or better excuse than during the Festive season, when calorie counting has usually gone out of the window anyway. There’s also lots of food matching opportunities, and more people around to share a wonderful drinking experience with! I for one would only open a sweet bottle if there were four or more to enjoy it, and this is easily handled when most bottles come in half or 50cl sizes. Anything left in a bottle will usually keep well in the fridge for crafty re-tastes, for anything up to a week at least.
So what to choose? There’s real choice amongst styles, grape varieties and production methods, but you’ll be glad to know that all our ‘sweeties’ are produced naturally, and not by simply adding heaps of sugar! Handily enough there’s a few top choices in our Festive Offers 2013 brochure too…
Firstly, the aptly names Heaven on Earth from Stellar vineyards (S.Africa) in half bottle. It’s made from Muscat D’Alexandre grapes, a variety which commonly gives higher natural sugar levels. Full sweetness is achieved by further drying the grapes on beds on local Rooibos tea causing them to become concentrated and even take on a subtle added flavour layer from the tea. Deliciously sweet and sumptuous the resulting wine has abundant aromas and flavours of apricot and honey. A frequent award winner and Fair Trade too, at just £8.80 on offer, even the price is sweet!
This ‘dried grapes’ method (also dried on beds of straw or hung up to dry on trellises) is well used in sweet wine production, we list two others and both offer sublime drinking. DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Passito ‘Curina’ 50cl and the DOCG Recioto di Soave ‘San Zeno’
Secondly in our Festive Offers, the AOC Sauternes Château Dudon 2011 is a thoroughbred dessert wine made by letting the late grapes develop a ‘noble rot’ known as ‘Botrytis’. This rot, or more accurately fungus grows on the skins of the grapes, causing them to lose water, shrivel and gradually turn into furry looking growths. It often develops best very late in the season, with the onset of early morning autumnal mists and increased dampness in the air. The affect on the grapes is the same as drying, it concentrates the sugars (and additionally delivers it’s own botrytis flavour). These wines are precarious to make, but very special and sought after too.
This style of wine is never cheap as there is so little juice from each bunch of grapes. Fascinating to think that it can take one whole vine’s worth of fruit and more, to produce just one glass of wine, at some of the top estates. One such estate (which is in very close proximity to Château Dudon) is the iconic Château Yquem, possibly the most famous of all sweet wine estates, whose wines start at around £200 a bottle! Château Dudon at a modest £15.99 on offer is a real steal, and as with wines of this style will age effortlessly for a decade or two.
We won’t cover all styles of sweet wines here, apart from one more interesting and unusual method, which results in a sweet wine known as Eiswein (Ice Wine). Literally the grapes are frozen on the vine, and as sugar does not freeze, it’s the excess water which does, leaving a super-concentrated viscous sugar liquid behind.
It’s usually mid winter in Austria before the grapes are picked during the night or early morning, and only when the temperature plummets to -7 C or below. Chilly work indeed! Try Meinklang Eiswein Pinot Blanc 37.5cl
Wines to sip slowly and marvel at, why not try them and treat family or friends? We advise drinking them chilled with or without your favourite dessert, and with the Sauternes, why not try the classic combination of matching with salty Roquefort cheese!