If cupid has hit you with an arrow and your heart goes pitter-patter every time you think of your honey, you undoubtedly know that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. At Wine Oh TV, we are going to help you celebrate the love in your life by finding the most sinfully decadent, deliciously dangerous, and lusciously lovely wine. Since we love all wines at Wine Oh TV, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to tell you about some of the most incredibly romantic wines ever!
Sweet wines have been around for centuries and while they occasionally get a bad rap for tasting like a shot of syrup, we are here to tell you how to distinguish the good from the bad. But we must warn you, a perfectly balanced sweet wine with that perfect kiss of acidity may bring out the wild side in anyone whose lips touch this sweet swill!
First, a little Wine Oh 101… Wine begins its journey as grape juice (must). When a winemaker decides to turn the must into wine, yeast is added to convert the sugar into alcohol. When the yeast gobbles up all the sugar, a basic wine is created with no residual sugar. Sweetness in a sweet wine is from residual sugar that was not eaten up by yeast. Sweetness can be created by interrupting fermentation by killing the yeast with a spirit, adding a sweetening component, or harvesting grapes with concentrated grape sugars.
If made right, sweet wines are sinfully good, but can be expensive. Knowing what you are buying can help steer you away from the bad, and purchase the good. Below are several different types of sweet wine that will definitely impress.
Ports are created by stopping fermentation and adding brandy. Some are bottled very young and sold for immediate consumption like a ruby port. Typically high in alcohol, flavors can range from bright and lively fruit to concentrated and complex flavors of toasted walnuts, chocolate, and caramel on aging. Vintage and Tawny ports with an age indication can be quite expensive as they spend significant time in the barrel or bottle.
Intentionally picked late, the grapes spent a little more time hanging on the vine accumulating sugar from the sun. The yeast struggles to ferment dry because of the sugar in the must. When fermentation is complete, the wine has noticeable residual sugar, with alcohol in the mid-range, and ample flavors from the variety of grape used.
Try: Fenestra Riesling Late Harvest 2009, Arroyo Seco, California
In some areas of the world where the weather is humid and misty in the morning followed by warm sunny days, a Botrytis fungus, sometimes called noble rot, forms on the grapes and eats up all the moisture and leaves behind all the sweet sugar. These grapes are picked individually by hand as not all the grapes in the cluster will be affected by noble rot. The best wines are typically found in Sauternes in France, Tokaji in Hungary and in Germany.
These grapes are intentionally left on the vines to freeze. When they are picked, the frozen pulp inside the grape is extremely sweet with tons of residual sugar. Icewine (or Eiswein) is found in Canada or Germany. These wines are typically low alcohol, light in body, and tangy acidity to balance the sweetness.
Dry Grape Wine
Bunches of grapes are harvested and left to dry on straw mats or racks until they look like raisins. The drying process evaporates the water from the grapes and the sweet dried pulp remains. These typically have a raisiny or dried fruit flavor.
Try: Captiel San Rocco Valpolicella DOC Superiore Ripasso 2006
Grapes for Madeira are grown and produced on a small island off of the Atlantic coast of Portugal. After fermentation has been halted and spirit added, the wine is aged in hot houses or estufas for some time before they are bottled. These estufas reach temperatures of over 100°. Wine flavors range from a sherry flavor from the Sercial grape, to the lusciously sweet Malvasia with flavors of rich honey, raisin and caramel.
Addition of Sugar
Some wines that are so high in acid and have sugar juice added to the must to either help with fermentation or with flavor. These wines are typically German wines or low quality sweet wines.
Avoid: Cheap German wines or grocery store dessert wines