Organic Dessert Wines We Love in 2021
What are organic dessert wines?
Organic dessert wines, also referred to as pudding wines, fall under the umbrella of sweet wines. You might hear wine pros talk about a wine’s residual sugar level, a number that is generally given in grammes per litre. Unsurprisingly it is the sugar level in the wine that determines its sweet status. For a wine to be referred to as sweet, it would need to contain 50g per litre of residual sugar or more.
Beyond the magical 50gper litre, residual sugars in organic dessert wines range widely. The wines of Sauternes in Bordeaux can reach 150g per litre, whereas an ice wine can easily top 200 g per litre.
If these sound-like big numbers, a Hungarian Tokaji can have a modest 60 g per litre residual sugar but if you ever have the dreamy chance to sample a Tokaji Essencia, you will be sampling a dessert wine with at least 450 g per litre and possibly as much as 850g per litre of residual sugar!
As with every organic wine, the winemaker is looking to make a wine that is in balance. In the case of organic dessert wines, this is the relationship between sugar, (refreshing) acidity and fruit flavour.
There is a frustration that sweet wines have become known as dessert and pudding wines. It puts the wines in a very small and, frankly, limiting box! For sure, a delicious organic dessert wine can be a triumphantly delicious finale to your meal but to confine yourself to enjoying them only in this way is a little sad. Read on for some ideas on alternative serving ideas for your organic dessert wines.
Types of organic dessert wines
To make organic sweet wine, it makes sense that you need grapes that are sweeter than normal. There are several ways to achieve this, and here are the most common:
The grandest name but it is understandable when you’re trying to offset the connotation that comes from ‘rot’!
Do not be alarmed, noble rot is at the heart of some of the world’s greatest sweet wines. The pro name is botrytis cinerea – a fungus that attacks the grapes, causing them to shrivel like raisins. The grapes acquire unique and utterly delicious flavours that range from honey to exotically fruity. Botrytis cinerea is not easy to cultivate which is why these wines are so special. The vines need to be planted in a place where early morning mists from nearby water sources are followed by warm, sunny days. Humidity levels are crucial, and the optimal growing season is both rare and never guaranteed, even in the most famous noble rot regions. Barsac and Sauternes are probably the best-known noble rot wines.
When the sweet – or dessert wine – is made from grapes that have been left to hang on the vine for longer than normal, it is called a ‘late harvest’ wine. The longer the grapes are left to ripen the more concentrated the sugars become, as the grapes become increasingly dehydrated.
Whereas botrytis cinerea wines are always white, there is the option to make red late harvest red wines. This is because the thickness of red grape skins precludes its ability to fall to the heady charms of the fungus!
Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Sémillon, Riesling, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, and Chenin Blanc are all very commonly found white grapes, making stunning organic dessert wines across the globe. However, late harvest Merlot and Malbec wines are not uncommon either.
It comes as no surprise to know that a reliably warm and sunny autumn is key to the success of late harvest dessert wines.
Italian in origin, appassimento wines get their sweetness from a drying period in airy rooms, locally known as, fruttaì).
The grapes are left on bamboo sticks or straw, allowing the grapes to lose up to 40% of their weight. This concentrates the flavours and increases the sugar levels. The drying time does vary and can last anywhere between two and six months.
The chilliest – but perhaps the most beautiful – way to make dessert wine. Most commonly associated with the sweet wines of Austria, Canada and Germany, the world’s ice wines are a sumptuous treat.
The grapes must stay on the vine for many weeks after the traditional harvest and the weather must stay sufficiently kind for no bad rot to develop. The temperature then needs to drop to at least -7 and preferably closer to -12. The frozen grapes can only be hand-harvested but the delectable nectar of these frozen berries is like nothing else you have ever tasted!
Fortified wines include sherry and port, which are a quite different style from the dessert and wine styles already listed.
Though the fortified wines of different countries and regions are all slightly different, their common feature for sweet fortified wines is that a distilled spirit is added before fermentation is complete, thereby halting the fermentation process.
Organic dessert wines and acidity
Acidity is one of those words that can make people nervous. Not so in the world of wine. For wine-lovers, acidity is our friend. It supports balance, brings freshness to wines and is a crucial element in a wine’s ability to age.
The scientists amongst you will know that water has a PH acidity level of 7, which is ‘neutral’. As you head lower down the PH scale you reach coffee, red wine, then white and finally fizzy drink like lemonade. It’s important to say this because it’s helpful to know that it’s not just wine whose taste is supported by acidity.
Sweetness decreases the sensation of acidity and so in most sweet / dessert wines, the total acidity will be close to 1%. That might not sound like much, but this is considered high in wine terms but is necessary to balance the sugar.
Are organic sweet wines only for pudding?
Below are three ways to enjoy your sweet wine without the need of a pudding.
- Serve a sweet wine as an aperitif. A lighter sweet wine, say a Riesling or Moscato is
a yummy way to get the gastric juices flowing! You’ll find these wines are
remarkably good with some plates of cured meats.
- Instead of offering a cup of hot chocolate after a long, cold walk, think about a
small serving of Port instead. Soothing, warming and a great pick-me-up.
- Consider a cocktail! The Lady Bee is a winning mix of Pineau des Charentes, dry
wine, lemon, and honey. You can find a great recipe for it here.
The 10 best organic sweet wines for 2021 from Vintage Roots
Château Dudon Sauternes
This is a noble rot sweet wine of the very highest class. A gold-medal winner, the wine is deeply honeyed and opulent, yet with bright and enlivening acidity.
We love to serve our organic Sauternes with salty cheese, like Manchego (yes, we know it’s Spanish!) or with a bowl of summery strawberries and cream.
Recioto di Soave San Zeno
Made the appassimento way, this golden Italian nectar is an apricot-laden delight with roasted nuts, honey, candied citrus, and spice. It is hugely alluring.
Moreish enough to be drunk on its own (perhaps instead of pudding), it also goes down a treat with almond tart, a slice of Pandoro or with some blue-veined cheese.
Domaine Bousquet Fortified Malbec
An organic red dessert wine from Argentina, made in the Port-style. It is rich, full of ripe, sweet, dried figgy and prune fruit. Lovely!
Serve decadently, with your finest dark chocolate brownies!
Heaven on Earth Sweet Muscat
From South Africa, this is made from Muscat grapes that have been dried on a bed of straw and rooibos tea. It’s both fresh and sweet and is a great choice for folk who relish the sweetness but don’t like a wine that’s too heavy. This is an organic sweet wine that you can serve confidently with a soft, creamy white cheese.
Pievalta Curina Verdicchio Passito
The Italians really do know how to knock out breathtakingly good dessert wines and this gem from Pievalta marries smooth concentration of honeyed orchard fruits with a nice backbone of acidity. For dinners where you fancy a pudding but have run out of steam… Serve a glass of this Verdicchio Passito with a plate of delicious dried fruits.
Succulent and fresh and not excessively sweet. A great introduction to organic dessert wines. This delicately sweet French wine is really a treat, served with roasted nuts, just before dinner or with a slice of comet to finish.
Maynards Late Bottled Vintage Port 2013
Super-smooth with ripe fig and blueberries. A wonderfully fruity Port. To suggest making a cocktail from a port as delicious as this does seem a tad criminal, until you taste the results that are fantastic!
Casal Jordoes Tawny Port
Rich fruit cake aromas with nuts, dark spiced fruit, jammy sweetness, and ripe, soft tannins. Try this with a slice of ham hock terrine. It was a google-search inspired discovery and what a good find it’s turned out to be!
Casal Jordoes Finest Reserve Port
It’s a classic and filled with chocolatey fig, raisin, and cranberry fruits. Sublime. Our preference is to serve this alone, at the end of a meal, as a glorious digestif. It really needs no adornment.
AOC Pineau des Charentes
In France, they’ll serve this fortified delight as an aperitif. It’s also very adaptable to a range of cocktails and is a unique alternative to serve with a cheeseboard. The world really is your oyster with this one! Shop organic wines or head to our blog for more information and insight into the best organic wine varieties available today.