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Sweet things to sip

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Dessert wines are usually enjoyed at the end of the meal with the dessert, but can also be paired with a variety of starters as well, or enjoyed by itself after a meal. By definition, a sweet wine contains residual sugar. Residual sugar, or unfermented sugar, is natural grape sugar intentionally left in the wine after fermentation. Excluding ports and sherries, most other dessert wines are made from late harvest grapes, botrytis-affected grapes, or frozen grapes.To achieve the desired sweetness, the wine-maker will stop the fermentation process before the grape sugars have been converted to alcohol. Harvesting of the grapes to be used to make a dessert wine will be late in the harvest season. Leaving the grapes on the vine for an additional month or two will allow the sugars to become more concentrated, and the grapes to develop more concentrated, richer flavors. The longer hang-time usually to the point that the grapes begin to shrivel not only creates more concentrated sugar levels, but also creates higher glycerol levels. Those elevated levels create wines that are more viscous, with intense sweetness, that will display aromas of dried fruits. Most dessert wines are sweet, potent, usually between 17 percent to 24 percent alcohol levels, and full-flavored. Some sweet wines will be refreshing with citrus flavors, others will offer dark, jammy fruit flavors and aromas, while still others will have toasted nuts and caramel flavors and aromas.They usually come in small 375 ml. size bottles.

Generally, mold in a vineyard is a concern for the vineyard manager, and steps are taken to eradicate it before it can harm the grape crop. But the Botrytis or Noble Rot mold is cultivated in those vines that are earmarked for dessert wines. Cool, moist, and misty mornings followed by warm afternoons, for many days or even weeks, are ideal climatic conditions to cultivate this mold. Once the mold has formed on the vines, it survives by drawing the water from the grapes, causing the grapes to dehydrate on the vine, creating dried-out looking grapes that have high concentrations of sugars, acids, and flavors. Botrytis wines are produced from mostly white grapes, and are rich, viscous, and sweet with a refreshing acidic finish. The most common grapes used for these wines are Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rieslings.

These wines are made from grapes that have been allowed to remain on the vine long after the first freeze has occurred. The grapes must be fully ripe, without any mold or cracks on the skin, and frozen on the vine. The grapes are picked in the wee hours of the morning, and rushed to the winery in insulated containers. The whole bunches are gently pressed, allowing the majority of water to remain frozen and only a highly concentrated sugar solution to be extracted. Ice wines are very sweet, but not as viscous as Botrytis-affected wines. These wines, served cold make for an excellent dessert on their own.



Port wines and Sherry wines fall into this category. A fortified wine is a wine that has had a spirit or alcohol solution added to it, which increases the alcohol content level to between 15 and 20 percent. These wines are produced from a variety of grapes, and the wine making process, the type of spirit added , when it is added, and type and length of aging determines the style of the fortified wine. Once the spirit is added the fermentation stops because the yeast can no longer react with the sugars, the earlier the spirit is added the sweeter the wine. These wines are usually aged for years to decades in oak barrels, which produces rich, complex, very flavorful wines.Depending on the style of Port or the Sherry you choose you can enjoy it as an aperitif, or an end of meal treat.Sweet wines are generally more labor intensive to produce, with many requiring longer growing time, longer production time, and longer aging times than regular still wines, and their price tag will reflect those facts. But these are interesting and delicious wines that you should be glad that you tried. A bottle would be a welcomed addition at any holiday get-together this season.As a general rule of thumb when it comes to selecting a dessert wine, the wine should be sweeter than the dessert it is served with. Fresh fruits, and fresh baked treats go best with a good sweet wine. Most of the wines produced from white grapes should be served well chilled. All dessert wines should be served in a small glass two ounces is the customary pour size. In addition to sipping a sweet wine at the end of a meal, dont be afraid to enjoy a sweet wine with some appetizers rich savory dishes are quite enjoyable with the contrasting flavors of a nice late harvest wine.

Crinella 05 Glissando This late harvest Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley offers flavors of honey, citrus and fig. Enjoy before and after the meal.Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine Intensely sweet upon first taste, with a clean dry finish. Aromas of Lycee nuts and flavors of tropical fruits, peaches and mangos.06 Lilly Pilly Estate, Noble Blend This mostly Semillon blend, has flavors and aromas of orange peel, apricots and caramel, with a bright acidity, that gives you a clean refreshing finish. Janice Jones is a Truckee resident and wine consultant. Reach her at sierrafinewines@yahoo.com.


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