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 Events  Share this article     Summary of Corkscrew column Not Just Wine 
  Corkscrew Issue 13, November 2003   
Matching Food with Sweet and Botrytised WinesMatching Food with Sweet and Botrytised Wines  Contents 
Issue 12, October 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 14, December 2003

Matching Food with Sweet and Botrytised Wines

Enchanting aromas and intense flavors: the elegance and finesse of sweet and botrytised wines surprises with food as well, not just with cakes and confectionery

 Sweet and botrytised wines have always been highly praised in the course of history, rare and precious wines that were capable of obtaining the highest appreciation in every country and the preference of connoisseurs that could afford buying this grape nectars. The fame of sweet and botrytised wines, in the course of centuries, did not change, even today they are considered among the best examples of excellence in the wine scene and it is rare to find someone who does not like them. Indisputable protagonists among the so called “meditation wines”, to be slowly sipped and placidly contemplated, sweet and botrytised wines are also capable of making interesting matchings with food, most of the times surprising and amazing.

 The elegance and finesse of these wines is frequently used in cooking for the preparation of some recipes, in particular for pastry cooking, where their “magic touch” is always noticed and appreciated. Among the most common matching, as well as foregone, where sweet and botrytised wines are being used, there are cakes and confectionery, a sure and adequate matching, sweet wines and sweet foods are excellent companions. Moreover these wines can be happily matched to salty and very tasty foods, such as cheese, in particular hard and piquant cheese.


A Sweet and Golden World Rich of Aromas and Flavors

 Sweet and botrytised wines were very looked for in the past and they were very appreciated and common in ancient times, in particular they were very appreciated by Greeks and ancient Romans. The fame and appreciation for these wines have not changed, despite the wine making technique has evolved in the course of time, and with that the taste of people as well, while producing dry wines that in past times would have not probably been appreciated, the preference for sweet wines, as well as for their charm and elegance, is still very appreciated by wine lovers. The production of sweet and botrytised wines is made in almost every wine producing country, however some of them have a longer and more ancient tradition, and in many cases, some areas or regions are famous thanks to the production of sweet wines and their name is indissolubly tied to these wines.

 Greece, ancient producer of sweet wines to which goes the merit for having contributed to the spreading and appreciation of these wines in ancient times, still produces interesting sweet wines with Muscat Blanc grape. Among the most renowned examples of the Hellenic territory there are Muscat of Samos, produced in the homonymous island, and Muscat of Patras, both produced with Muscat Blanc grape. Another ancient wine which was very renowned in the past centuries was Commandaria, produced in the Cyprus island, a sweet wine that can also be fortified, now considered as a rarity and produced with Mavro and Xynisteri grapes. Among the glorious sweet wines of the past there also is Constantia, produced in South Africa, and recently is reviving its magnificent fame of the past. This wine, which was very appreciated by Napoleon Bonaparte, is produced with Muscat of Alexandria and Pontac grapes.

A classic matching: Sauternes and
A classic matching: Sauternes and Roquefort

 In Europe sweet and botrytised wines have always had a primary role in the wine scene and almost every country of the old continent has ancient and traditional productions. France, among the renowned European countries for the production of sweet wines, offers a vast and rich selection of dessert wines, in particular produced with Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grape. Among the most renowned French areas there is Languedoc-Roussillon where the production of vin doux naturel is the richest of France. Vin doux naturel are sweet wines that should belong to the family of fortified wines, as some alcohol is added during the process of fermentation in order to stop the action of yeasts and to keep grape sugar, a technique known in enology as mutage. Among the most famed sweet wines of Languedoc-Roussillon there are the ones produced with Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grape and produced in the areas which also give the name to the wine: Muscat de Rivesaltes, Muscat de Lunel, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Mireval and Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois. In Languedoc-Roussillon are also produced other renowned vin doux naturel: Banyuls and Maury, both produced with Grenache Noir grape, and Rivesaltes usually produced with Grenache Noir, Maccabeu, Malvoisie and Muscat Blanc grapes.

 The most renowned sweet wines of France are probably the ones produced in two small areas of the Bordeaux region: Sauternes and Barsac. These two splendid wines, that belong to the category of botrytised wines, are generally produced with Sémillon grape, to which may be added Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle as well, and all grapes must be affected by noble rot Botrytis Cinerea. Not far and north from Sauternes and Barsac, there is Cadillac, another renowned area for the production of sweet wines in Bordeaux, whose grapes are partially affected by noble rot. East from Bordeaux there is an interesting area for the production of botrytised wines, Bergerac, not very popular, probably because the notoriety of Sauternes and Barsac, in particular for its wines produced in Monbazillac with Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes. In the same region are also produced sweet wines belonging to the appellation of Côtes de Bergerax Moelleux. Among French vin doux naturel are also included the renowned Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, produced with Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Rasteau grapes, and Rasteau, with Grenache grapes, both produced in the Rhône. Even the Loire Valley, famous for its white wines, produces sweet wines with Chenin Blanc grapes, of which the most representative ones are Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux and Quarts-de-Chaume. Among other sweet wines of France should be mentioned the famous Vin de Paille produced in Jura, usually made with Savagnin, Poulsard and Chardonnay grapes dried on mats or hanged, as well as Muscat du Cap Corse, produced in Corsica island, with Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grape.

 The production of sweet wines in Italy is pretty vast and virtually every region, from north to south, produces its typical sweet wines, fundamental part of their traditions and history. In Vallée d'Aoste are produced the excellent sweet wines Moscato Passito di Chambave or Muscat Flétri, with Muscat Blanc grape, and Nus Malvoisie Passito or Malvoisie Flétri, with Pinot Gris grape. Muscat Blanc grape is also used in Piedmont for the production of sweet wines, such as Moscato Passito, produced in all the region, as well as the excellent Loazzolo. In the region are also produced the splendid Erbaluce Passito di Caluso, with Erbaluce grape, and Malvasia di Casorzo Passito. In Lombardy is produced the Moscato di Scanzo, a sweet wine unfortunately very rare even though it is getting more and more popular. The neighboring Veneto offers a good selection of sweet wines, such as the renowned Recioto della Valpolicella, with Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes, and Recioto di Soave, mainly produced with Garganega grape. In this region are also produced Torcolato, with Vespaiola, Tocai, Garganega, Pedevenda and Durella grapes, as well as Colli Euganei Fior d'Arancio, produced with Muscat Blanc grape. In Trentino is produced an excellent Vin Santo with Nosiola grape, in particular near the lake of Toblino. In Friuli Venezia Giulia, three are the sweet wines to be famed: Ramandolo and Verduzzo, both produced with Verduzzo Friulano grape, and the rare and precious Picolit, produced with homonymous grape.


 In Liguria, in the area of Cinque Terre, with Bosco, Vermentino and Albarola grapes is produced the excellent Sciacchetrà. In Emilia Romagna the production of sweet wines is mainly made with the most renowned white berried grape of the region, Albana, used to make passito wines. The regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Marche are all characterized by the traditional production of Vin Santo, generally produced with typical white berried grapes of the regions, with the exception of Tuscany which also make use of red berried grapes, in particular Sangiovese, and is called Occhio di Pernice. In Tuscany are also famous two sweet wines: Aleatico dell'Elba, produced with Aleatico grape, and Moscadello di Montalcino, produced with Muscat Blanc grape. In Umbria is renowned Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito, produced with Sagrantino grapes, whereas in Marche are produced sweet wines with dried Verdicchio grape. Umbria is also renowned for botrytised wines from Orvieto, among the few areas of Italy where Botrytis Cinerea can be found. Latium produces Aleatico di Gradoli, with the homonymous red berried grape. In southern regions of Italy the production of sweet wine is very typical, in particular in Campania with Falanghina grape, Apulia with Primitivo and Molise with Muscat Blanc, although they all are not recognized by any DOC disciplinary, they all are wines worth of attention. In Calabria is produced the excellent Greco di Bianco, a sweet wine now rare and produced with Greco grape. Sicily offers a rich selection of sweet wines, such as the excellent Malvasia delle Lipari, produced with the homonymous grape and Corinto nero, as well as the renowned Moscato di Pantelleria, produced with Muscat of Alexandria grape, locally called Zibibbo. Among other sweet wines of the region are to be mentioned Moscato di Noto and Moscato di Siracusa, both produced with Muscat Blanc grape. The production of sweet wines is also interesting in Sardinia, in particular for Malvasia di Bosa and Malvasia di Cagliari, both produced with Malvasia di Sardegna grape, and Moscato di Sorso-Sennori, with Muscat Blanc grape.

 Among the greatest sweet wines producing countries are also included Germany, in particular for Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein wines, produced with white berried grapes and in particular with Riesling, Ehrenfelser and Scheurebe. Even Austria is renowned for its excellent sweet wines, in particular in the area of Burgenland with Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein wines as well as the renowned Ausbruch. Austrian sweet wines are generally produced with Welschriesling, Weissburgunder, Neuberger, Traminer and Furmint grapes. Hungary, among the very first producers of sweet wines in Europe, is renowned for its excellent Tokaji Aszú, produced near Tokay with Furmint grapes affected by noble rot Botrytis Cinerea. Even to the other side of the Atlantic ocean, in the American continent, are produced interesting sweet wines, in particular in Canada and in the state of New York. In these two areas are produced the so called ice wines by using the same techniques for the production of German and Austrian Eiswein. Grapes used for the production of ice wines in the state of New York are Vidal Blanc, a French-American hybrid produced by crossing Ugni Blanc and Seibel 4986, and Vignoles. Canadian ice wines are usually produced with Vidal Blanc and Riesling grapes.


Matching Sweet and Botrytised Wines

 Sweet and botrytised wines are generally matched to foods according to the “concordance” rule, that is they are matched to those foods which basically have the same organoleptic characteristics of wine, in particular sweetness and roundness. According to this premise it could be thought that sweet and botrytised wines are solely matchable to cakes and sweet foods, that is to those foods evidently having the analogous organoleptic characteristics, however these wines allow the matching with other foods which are not sweet at all, such as cheese and, sometimes, to some recipes based on meat.

 Before discussing the matching of sweet and botrytised wines with food, it is necessary to give some advices about the way they should be served. First of all glass. By considering the value and, last but not the least, the alcohol by volume of these wines, usually higher when compared to dry wines, the quantity to be served will not be high; thanks to the intensity of flavors and to the persistence of these wines, a little sip will be enough to appreciate their extraordinary organoleptic qualities. Therefore, the glass to be used will be small, with a large body and narrow opening in order to concentrate aromas. Another important aspect for the service of these wines is about temperature. Sweet and botrytised wines are the only ones to be generally served at a pretty wide range, usually from 10° and 18° C (50°-65° F), and this factor is mainly influenced by personal preference. It should be remembered the relative perception of sweetness is higher at high temperatures and, on the other hand, it attenuates at low temperatures, therefore a sweet wine served at a high temperature could also taste sickly. The same principle also applies to alcohol, whereas for astringency the opposite principle is valid. Sweet wines produced with white berried grapes can be served at lower temperatures, whereas the ones produced with red berried grapes are usually served at higher temperatures in order to mitigate the effects of astringency. Moreover, temperature influences the development of aromas which tends to accentuate at higher temperatures; a sweet wine served too cool could penalize the perception of its aromas. The choice of serving temperature for a sweet wine when it is going to be matched, also depends by the food served: in case of a wine matched to a warm food, such as a crêpe filled with jam, it is good to serve it at a temperature of two or three degrees higher in order not to have a too much pronounced thermal contrasts.

 The main organoleptic qualities of sweet and botrytised wines can be summarized as intensity and richness of aromas, higher alcohol by volume, sweetness, roundness, a long taste-olfactory persistence and, in case of wines produced with white berried grapes, appreciable acidity, whereas in wines produced with red berried grapes, appreciable astringency. Most of these characteristics will be matched according to the concordance principle, therefore sweet wines will be matched to foods having a strong aromaticity, such as recipes where are present spices and very aromatic ingredients, which have an appreciable sweetness and a very long taste-olfactory persistence. Generally speaking, these characteristics are common in most of sweets and desserts, in particular the ones made of compact and non leavened dough, rich of aromatic ingredients, such as jam tarts, strüdel, panforte and panpepato.

 The other characteristics of sweet wines, alcohol, roundness, acidity and astringency, as well as being useful for the matching with sweet foods, allow the matching with salty and rich foods, such as cheese, in particular piquant and hard cheese. In these cases the effect of sweetness is added to roundness therefore increasing the effect of contrasts for aromaticity and sapidity of foods, whereas alcohol, that will contribute to increase roundness as well, will mitigate the succulence of complex foods such as cheese. Even acidity in white sweet wines is useful in contrasting the fattiness of certain cheeses. One of the most preferred matchings for Sauternes is with Roquefort, and the same can be said for a magnificent Passito di Pantelleria matched to Gorgonzola cheese. Sweet wines produced with red berried grapes can be matched with cheese as well: thanks to their astringency, succulence will be mitigated. It is not by chance that in Montefalco, the enchanting city of Umbria where it is produced the renowned Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito, one of the most typical matchings for this wine is with hard cheese, moreover, thanks to its characteristics, it is traditionally matched with roasted lamb during the Easter period.

 The matching of sweet and botrytised wines with meat, although it can be considered as an exception, is pretty common in France as well: Sauternes and Barsac are traditionally matched to foie gras, fat goose liver. Among the most common matchings with sweet and botrytised wines there are, like we said already, pastry recipes, in particular cakes prepared with complex ingredients, such as jam, dried fruit, candied fruit, spices and compact and non leavened dough, including cookies and biscuits. When the matching is done with a sweet food, the wine to be served will have the same strength and intensity of organoleptic qualities in order to harmonically satisfy the principle of concordance, where food and wine exalt and complete one each other without prevailing on the other.


 Events  Share this article     Summary of Corkscrew column Not Just Wine 
  Corkscrew Issue 13, November 2003   
Matching Food with Sweet and Botrytised WinesMatching Food with Sweet and Botrytised Wines  Contents 
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