By The Glass
Sweet wines gain a new prestige
At Vintage Wine Cellar we encounter a lot of customers who assert, "I don't drink sweet wines!" At our most recent tasting of wines from Bordeaux (a region known for its red wines), many attendees bypassed the sauterne (a sweet white wine) because it is sweet wine.
Why? What is wrong with sweet wine? Don't you ever have a soft drink with a meal? And that includes diet drinks, fruit punch or fruit juice. Why is soda or a syrupy juice fine with a meal, but not sweet wine?
Somehow in wine lingo it became catchy to call wines "dry" -- meaning there is no sugar in the wine. Many wine customers toss the term dry around, but I don't think all of them know what it means.
To many, dry may refer to the sensation on the palate -- akin to cotton mouth, when you put a liquid in your mouth and it feels dry -- but that's not the true definition.
Now that we know the wine-lingo difference between dry (no sugar) and sweet (sugar), why do a lot of consumers consider dry wine superior?
In the '70s, German wine was ubiquitous, and unfortunately most of it was industrial, mass-produced wine of low quality. That may explain the stigma that sweet wines now face.
Today many of the areas that produce sweet wines are undergoing a revival in prestige and quality. Germany produced above-average vintages from 2001 through 2005, with 2001 being one of the best ever.
Sauterne also had a monumental vintage in 2001 and very successful vintages in 2002 through 2005.
Here are some to try:
2004 Monchof Mosel Slate Spatlese ($22.50), Germany: Has the sweetness of about a green apple and dusty pear in the aromatics. On the palate are hints of banana and crisp citrus fruits. There is an elegant structure to this wine. This is probably the best value of the 2004 Spatleses.
2004 Margan Boytritis Semillon ($21.99/375 ml), Australia: This is a dessert wine made in the style of sauternes. Light golden green in color, the wine has quince and pineapple characters with citrus overtones. The palate is rich and luscious without being cloying, with delicious nuts and dried-fruit flavors coupled with distinctive Hunter Valley citrus. The wine finishes long and clean with fresh citrus acidity, which saves it from being cloying.
2004 Cascinetta Moscato d'Asti ($12.99; connoisseur $11.99), Italy: Delicately sweet, ever-so-slightly fizzy and full of fresh fruit -- peach, lychee and grapefruit. A fun wine that is refreshing and versatile with food. Novices love it.
2001 Bastor Lamontagne ($16.99/375ml): One of the best bargains from the incredible 2001 sauternes vintage. Full of peach, apricot and pineapple flavors. The acidity offers nice balance to the sweetness and keeps it from being cloying. Pure and fresh with little perceptible oak. Probably the best Bastor Lamontagne ever!
Jay Kam is president of Vintage Wine Cellar.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org