Authored by Douglas Mefford in Food and Cooking
Published on 05-04-2009
As with most alcoholic drinks, wine too, requires the development of the taste for it. The more bitter tasting wines often put off many beginning wine drinkers. The term “dry” is used to denote those who are more alcoholic and less sweet. To begin investigating the many fine tastes that can be had through wine, it is suggested that the beginner start out by sampling the sweet wines.
The sweetness of a wine is created through the residual sugar content left in the fruit juice that is being fermented to produce the alcohol. The longer a wine is left to ferment, the more of the sugar is converted and the dryer the vintage will become. In order to make a sweet wine the producer can either stop the fermentation process early or add more sugar to the mix. By stopping the fermentation early more of the natural fruit sugar of the grapes is left in the wine and it will have a lighter flavor and less alcohol by volume. A stronger wine can be made sweet by adding more sugar after the fermentation has converted all the original sugars.
Not only do sweet wines go well with dessert courses, they are also an excellent choice for drinking in the hot parts of summer. Wine offers much better refreshment in hot weather than even a cold beer, as they do not promote as great a diuretic effect. The sweetness of wines such as the German Riesling white is gentle enough to prevent a taste overload that could turn a person off.
Dessert wines are a prime example of the types of wines the beginner will find are specially designed to be sweet-tasting. The more syrupy and sweet taste of these wines are easier to sip along with foods and will more quickly slake one’s thirst than the more tannic and bitter “dry” wines. They are sometimes more expensive as they are often made from other fruits than just grapes. Cherries, blackberries, blueberries and other natural fruits can make excellent and flavorful sweet wines that will help a beginner develop a love of fine wine.
Late wines are another vintage that lends itself to creating sweet wines. The autumn harvest will allow the grapes to ripen longer and develop a greater concentration of natural sugars. Depending on the specific type of grapes used, this vintage is known as “sweet white wine”. Another of the late-harvest wines that can be especially sweet are the pressings made from grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vines before being harvested. This “ice wine” as it is called, contains the full compliment of natural sugars with a mellowing of the taste.
Some late-harvest sweet wines are made by allowing the picked grapes to dry before pressing. Often they are picked and then left on the vineyard ground until they are almost dried to the consistency of raisins. This concentrating of the natural fruit sugars also helps make for a higher alcohol, higher sweetness vintage of wine. Fortified wines are generally made to be sweet wines as well. With the insertion of neutral grape spirits into the fermenting vat, the yeast is killed so that you retain a good deal of the natural sugar as well as having a heavy alcoholic kick from the added spirits.