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 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 103, January 2012   
Mature Sweet WinesMature Sweet Wines Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 102, December 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 104, February 2012

Mature Sweet Wines

Wines celebrated since the beginning of enology, rare and precious, sweet wines made from dried grapes have always been considered as nectar for gods, always present in the table of the rich and noble people

 When human beings have started to understand the fundamental processes of wine making and to control them, most of wines made at those times were sweet. We are not talking about modern times, those which allowed the understanding of fermentation according to a biological and chemical point of view, indeed of quite remote times. A time in which men realized grape juice, because of a sort of magic which looked like a boiling (from which comes the term “fermentation”, from Latin fervere, that is “to boil”) was transformed into a pleasing beverage, with a corroborating and inebriating effect, that is wine. It may also be for reasons associated to the taste of those times, now distant of tens of centuries, that the most celebrated wines of the history had in common the same characteristic, that is to have a remarkable sweet taste. This quality could also be a need in order to balance acidity that, it is very likely, because of a lesser knowledge about keeping, chemical and biological processes associated to acetic bacteria, at those times this could have been a quite common and strong quality in wines.


 

 Sweetness in wines of those times could have been the consequence of a fermentation process not fully completed, maybe caused by the lowering of the temperature because of the arrival of cold seasons, therefore leaving in the wine a high quantity of residual sugar. However at those times the practice of making wines with dried and overripe grapes was very common, something which can also signal the making of very sweet wines on purpose. It is likely sweetness - and acidity - reached very high levels as to encourage the consumption of wine, at least in wealthy and noble social classes, after having diluted it with water, something happening, for example, during the renowned symposia of ancient Greeks. It should also be said that in ancient Greece, the consumption of non diluted wine was considered as vulgar and discreditable, a custom usually associated to crude and rough people, also for the inevitable consequence this usually produced, that is drunkenness.

 Thanks to the high content of sugar and, last but not the least, the alcohol content, these wines are well suited for the aging as these two elements, as well as acidity in white wines or polyphenols in red ones, strongly contribute to their keeping. Wines produced with dried grapes can age for many years in bottle, while developing with time very complex qualities, in particular in the olfactory profile, while keeping the typical strong sweetness and roundness. The general trend of our times, concerning the taste of wine, prefer dry wines while leaving to sweet wines a quite restricted market part and destined to few wine lovers. The scarce availability of products of real quality and value has probably determined this type of market as - it should be said - most of sweet wines are produced with quite disputable techniques and giving a wine of quality, and in particular, with organoleptic characteristics, quite disappointing and modest.

 The production of sweet wines is basically made by using three main methods. The most frequent and typical one provides for the use of dried grapes, which therefore lose part of water with a consequent concentration of sugar, then crushed and fermented. Another method provides for the interruption of the fermentation process in order to leave in the wine a quantity of residual sugar and therefore sweetness. The third method, not permitted in many countries of the world, including Italy, provides for the adding of a sugar syrup or sugar to a dry wine. On this regard it should be noticed this technique is used for the production of many classic method sparkling wines, to which, after the end of the refermentation in bottle, it is added a mixture of the same wine, sometimes brandy and then sugar in order to adjust the final sweetness. For the sake of information, these are the only wines for which it is permitted in Italy, as well as in other countries, the adding of sugar.


Sweet wines made from
dried grapes, after a long aging in bottle, get a deep amber color
Sweet wines made from dried grapes, after a long aging in bottle, get a deep amber color

 The most frequent technique - like already said - consists in the use of dried grapes, subsequently crushed and vinified. The drying of grapes can be made in many ways, all however having the same goal, that is diminishing the content of water in berries in order to concentrate sugar and acid substances. During the drying, the biological activity of berries is not interrupted, therefore it is obtained - as a side effect - also a significant ripening process. The drying is generally made by making use of three different techniques, each of them offering advantages and disadvantages, therefore their application is chosen according to the type of wine to be made. Of these techniques, as we will see later, one is not really “spontaneous” and “natural”, in every case it produces the result of drying the berries and the concentration by means of a reduction of water.

 The most simple method consists in leaving the bunches on the vine and to wait for the natural drying of berries, therefore the grapes are being harvested. This technique is pretty common, however the most frequent one consists in harvesting ripe grapes - or, in many cases, overripe - and then laying the grapes over mats inside a room and to wait for their drying. Sometimes the drying of grapes is done not in mats but hanging them in wires on racks. The room used for the drying of grapes, when these two methods are being used, must have specific characteristics. Among the most insidious consequences of the drying of grapes, as well as being very frequent, is the developing of mold that, when it develops excessively, causes the damaging of berries and make them rot. For this reason, the room for the drying of the grapes must be well aerated in order to avoid dangerous conditions of humidity which could favor the development of mold.

 In order to avoid negative effects of mold which could develop on berries, many producers prefer to hang the bunches on racks therefore allowing them to freely hang while avoiding any type of contact, something happening on mats, a condition forcing a periodical turning over of bunches. The last technique used for the drying of bunches - and strongly opposed by many wine lovers and many producers - consists in storing the bunches inside a temperature-controlled cell. In this way can be controlled every factor determining the drying of grapes, such as temperature, humidity and even a controlled introduction of mold spores in order to get particular organoleptic results. Mold is not always negative in the production of sweet wines. It should be said not all the types of mold, however controlling the development, cause a worsening of grapes.

 Botrytis cinerea - also known as noble rot - can in fact give the grapes organoleptic qualities of remarkable complexity and agreeability. Botrytis is however a mold and in order to get positive effects on the wine it is indispensable to strictly control its development as, when it gets excessively developed, makes the berries rot. Sweet wines produced with grapes affected by botrytis cinerea are among the most expensive and looked for wines in the world - of them can be mentioned Sauternes and Tokaji Aszú - and the “miracle” is done thanks to the particular environmental condition limiting the development of mold. The optimal condition is to not allow the excessive development of this mold, an effect which can be obtained with the alternation of humid nights and dry, hot and windy days. This condition allows the development of botrytis during nighttime and its regression in the hours of the day, therefore ensuring its presence in berries without bringing the effects which could cause rot.

 The interruption of the fermentation is another method used for the production of sweet wines. This technique does not necessarily provides for the use of dried grapes; most of the times the wines produced with this technique are obtained by perfectly ripe grapes and vinified soon after harvesting. The interruption of fermentation leave to the wine a quantity of sugar which will give sweetness and a pretty modest alcohol content, according to the moment in which the process is interrupted. This method is generally used for some sweet sparkling wines produced with the Charmat method - such as Asti and Brachetto d'Acqui - and it is also typical for the production of one of the most famous fortified wines in the world: Port. The famous Portuguese wine is in fact produced by interrupting the fermentation of the must by adding brandy, an operation literally “intoxicating” yeast while stopping their activity. The result is therefore a slightly fermented must with a remarkable quantity of added alcohol, therefore allowed to age for many years in order to get, after years of patient wait, a wine of monumental greatness.

 Sweetness in wines can also be obtained by adding sugar. It should be noticed this practice is generally forbidden in most of the wine making countries, however it is permitted in some specific cases. The practice of adding sugar to a wine should not be confused with chaptalization, that is the adding of sugar to the must in order to increase the potential quantity of alcohol produced at the end of fermentation, a practice that, it should be noticed, is not permitted in many countries, including Italy. Sugar can be added to some types of wine and the most frequent use of this technique is for classic method sparkling wines. At the end of the refermentation in bottle, after disgorging, in these wines can be added a mixture of wine, sugar and also brandy, in order to characterize the final product. It is in fact this operation to determine the final style of the sparkling wine, from pas dosè - that is with no sugar added - to the sweet style, in which sugar can also be more than 50 grams per liter.

 Sweet wines, in this case those produced with dried grapes, are well suited to the aging both in wood and in bottle. The aging in wood is not however required for these wines, as in many cases - and producing wines of remarkable value - the producer decides to age the wine in inert containers, such as steel or cement. Thanks to their remarkable complexity, most of the times the aging in wood, when done for a long time and in barrels having a strong character, tends to alter the nature of this wine while covering their peculiar qualities. On this purpose it should be noticed the aging in wood is not only about the enrichment of the wines with aromas and flavors recalling wood, indeed it is about the precious and very slow oxidation process which is obtained with time. This slow oxidation allows in fact sweet wines to develop their organoleptic qualities, while increasing their complexity and intensity.

 Sweet wines made from dried grapes however have a very long potential for aging, also of tens of years. With time the color of white wines will get deep amber hues, whereas in the red ones will be noticed an evident garnet red hue with nuances of brick red. Aromas will however be the ones to get the most from the benefits of time. If in their youth the aromas in these wines recall dried fruit and dried flowers, with time they turn into luxurious jams to which are also added ethereal and tertiary sensation of remarkable complexity. In other words, a sweet wine aged for a long time, is not a wine to be carelessly appreciated: it needs the whole attention of the taster. To the taste will be perceived a remarkable sweetness and the typical roundness is usually increased and developed while giving, in some cases, a wine having a syrupy consistency, almost viscous. In case of sweet red wines, the typical astringency of tannins will be strongly smoothed while producing in the mouth a velvety sensation to which is added the one of sweetness and roundness.

 






 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 103, January 2012   
Mature Sweet WinesMature Sweet Wines Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 102, December 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 104, February 2012

Wines of the Month


 

Score legend

Fair    Pretty Good    Good
Very Good    Excellent
Wine that excels in its category Wine that excels in its category
Good value wine Good value wine
Prices are to be considered as indicative. Prices may vary according to the country
or the shop where wines are bought




Bianco della Dianira 2010, Flavio Busti (Umbria, Italy)
Bianco della Dianira 2010
Flavio Busti (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Grechetto, Pinot Gris
Price: € 10.00 Score:
Bianco della Dianira shows a pale straw yellow color and nuances of greenish yellow, very transparent. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas which start with hints of apple, plum and hazelnut followed by aromas of hawthorn, broom and pear. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a crisp attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors. The finish is persistent with flavors of apple, plum and pear. Bianco della Dianira ferments in cask.
Food Match: Fried fish, Pasta and risotto with fish and crustaceans, Sauteed fish



Castel Sant'Elena Riserva 2009, Flavio Busti (Umbria, Italy)
Castel Sant'Elena Riserva 2009
Flavio Busti (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: € 15.00 Score:
Castel Sant'Elena Riserva shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of black cherry, plum and black currant followed by aromas of dried violet, blueberry, vanilla, cocoa, mace and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and black currant. Castel Sant'Elena Riserva is made from late harvested grapes and ferments in cask.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Braised and stewed meat with mushrooms, Hard cheese



L'Autentica 2008, Cantine del Notaio (Basilicata, Italy)
L'Autentica 2008
Cantine del Notaio (Basilicata, Italy)
Grapes: Muscat Blanc (70%), Malvasia Bianca (30%)
Price: € 15.00 Score:
L'Autentica shows an intense amber yellow color and nuances of amber yellow, transparent. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of raisin, dried apricot and lychee followed by aromas of peach jam, pear jam, candied fruits, dried fig, lavender, date, honey, citrus fruit peel, vanilla and nail polish. The mouth has excellent correspondence to the nose, a sweet and round attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of raisin, dried apricot and lychee. L'Autentica ages for 14 months in barrique.
Food Match: Hard and piquant cheese, Fruit tarts, Confectionery



Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2008, Cantine del Notaio (Basilicata, Italy)
Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2008
Cantine del Notaio (Basilicata, Italy)
Grapes: Aglianico
Price: € 32.00 Score:
Aglianico del Vulture La Firma shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of blackberry, black cherry and plum followed by aromas of violet, vanilla, raspberry, blueberry, cocoa, leather, mace, pink pepper and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry. Aglianico del Vulture La Firma Aglianico del Vulture La Firma ages for 12 months in barrique followed by 12 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Langhe Nebbiolo 2007, Mossio (Piedmont, Italy)
Langhe Nebbiolo 2007
Mossio (Piedmont, Italy)
Grapes: Nebbiolo
Price: € 14.90 Score:
This Langhe Nebbiolo shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of cherry, plum and violet followed by aromas of blueberry, raspberry, vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, mace and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is persistent with flavors of cherry, plum and raspberry. This Langhe Nebbiolo ages for 12 months in cask followed by 2 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Braised and stewed meat with mushrooms, Hard cheese



Dolcetto d'Alba Bricco Caramelli 2010, Mossio (Piedmont, Italy)
Dolcetto d'Alba Bricco Caramelli 2010
Mossio (Piedmont, Italy)
Grapes: Dolcetto
Price: € 10.00 Score:
Dolcetto d'Alba Bricco Caramelli shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of purple red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas that start with hints of plum, blackberry and black cherry followed by aromas of violet, geranium, raspberry, peach, almond, blueberry, strawberry, cyclamen and anise. The mouth has excellent correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of black cherry, blackberry and plum. Dolcetto d'Alba Bricco Caramelli ages in steel tanks.
Food Match: Cold cuts, Pasta with meat and mushrooms, Roasted white meat, Sauteed meat



Terre dell'Alta Val d'Agri Lucanico 2007, L'Arcera (Basilicata, Italy)
Terre dell'Alta Val d'Agri Lucanico 2007
L'Arcera (Basilicata, Italy)
Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aglianico
Price: € 15.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
Terre dell'Alta Val d'Agri Lucanico shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, little transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of plum, blackberry and black currant followed by aromas of dried violet, carob, pink pepper and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of plum, blackberry and black currant. Terre dell'Alta Val d'Agri Lucanico ages in steel tanks.
Food Match: Stuffed pasta, Broiled meat and barbecue, Stewed meat, Hard cheese



Rosso di Montalcino 2010, Altesino (Tuscany, Italy)
Rosso di Montalcino 2010
Altesino (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese
Price: € 15.00 Score:
This Rosso di Montalcino shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas which start with hints of black cherry, plum and violet followed by aromas of blueberry, raspberry, geranium and vanilla. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and raspberry. This Rosso di Montalcino ages for 7 months in cask followed by 3 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Broiled meat and barbecue, Stewed meat



Val d'Arbia Vin Santo 2001, Altesino (Tuscany, Italy)
Val d'Arbia Vin Santo 2001
Altesino (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia Bianca
Price: € 18.00 - 375ml Score: Wine that excels in its category
Val d'Arbia Vin Santo shows a dark golden yellow color and nuances of amber yellow, transparent. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas that start with hints of fig jam, raisin and caramel followed by aromas of date, dried apricot, honey, vanilla, citrus fruit peel, walnut husk, almond, leather and nail polish. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a sweet and round attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is persistent with flavors of fig jam, raisin and caramel. Val d'Arbia Vin Santo ages for 7 years in traditional caratelli followed by 4 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Piquant cheese, Confectionery, Dried fruit tarts



Jazz 2008, Ferlaino (Tuscany, Italy)
Jazz 2008
Ferlaino (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Merlot (36%), Sangiovese (28%), Cabernet Franc (27%), Petit Verdot (9%)
Price: € 40.00 Score:
Jazz shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas that start with hints of black currant, black cherry and plum followed by aromas of violet, blueberry, vanilla, cocoa, mace, menthol and hints of bell pepper. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of black currant, black cherry and plum. Jazz ages for 18 months in barrique followed by 6 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Recioto di Soave La Perlara 2008, Ca' Rugate (Veneto, Italy)
Recioto di Soave La Perlara 2008
Ca' Rugate (Veneto, Italy)
Grapes: Garganega
Price: € 21.20 - 50cl Score: Wine that excels in its category
Recioto di Soave La Perlara shows a brilliant amber yellow color and nuances of amber yellow, transparent. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of raisin, dried apricot and honey followed by aromas of candied fruits, peach jam, quince jam, dried fig, vanilla, lychee, almond, citrus fruit peel and nail polish. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a sweet and round attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is persistent with flavors of raisin, dried apricot and honey. Recioto di Soave La Perlara ages for 12 months in barrique.
Food Match: Hard cheese, Confectionery, Dried fruit tarts



Soave Classico Monte Alto 2009, Ca' Rugate (Veneto, Italy)
Soave Classico Monte Alto 2009
Ca' Rugate (Veneto, Italy)
Grapes: Garganega
Price: € 9.30 Score: Wine that excels in its category
Soave Classico Monte Alto shows a pale golden yellow color and nuances of straw yellow, very transparent. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of apple, plum and almond followed by aromas of hawthorn, citrus fruits, honey, peach, vanilla, pear, praline, medlar and mineral. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a crisp attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of apple, plum and almond. Soave Classico Monte Alto ferments in part in barrique and ages in cask for 8 months.
Food Match: Pasta with mushrooms, Mushroom soups, Stewed and roasted fish, Roasted white meat






 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 103, January 2012   
Mature Sweet WinesMature Sweet Wines Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
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