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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 157, December 2016   
Wine, Sweet WineWine, Sweet Wine  Contents 
Issue 156, November 2016 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 158, January 2017

Wine, Sweet Wine


 I admit I have a particular connection to sweet taste and I am perfectly aware this is something many will not agree with me. I understand the passion for sweet taste is irresistible to many, for some it is even a sort of obsession and can sometime cause some kind of addiction. Of course I have no intention in criticizing others, I mean I am just saying, personally speaking, I do not have a sweet tooth, a taste that - sometimes - I even find to be monotonous and boring. Let me say this clear: I do not avoid sweet food, I certainly enjoy it, but in case I am not having it, I do not look for it. From a sensorial point of view, in relation to food, I get better satisfaction and gratification in non-sweet food which I usually find to be more complex and interesting than the “usual and predictable” sweet taste. I am one of those who like having a coffee without sugar, that is - according to many - bitter, although it is a well known fact to those who like having coffee like this, it is not bitter. Better said, it is not only bitter, as the taste of coffee is expressed by a complexity such to not be uniquely simplified by a bitter taste that, among the other things, it is not even the dominant one.


 

 Things are different when it comes to wines. I mean the so called sweet wines totally catch my interest and attention. It is not, to tell the truth, their sweet taste to make these wines particularly appreciated, indeed the extraordinary sensorial complexity they can express. Because it should be said, talking about wine, as well as in every wine making style, not all the sweetness is the same. To me, in fact, sweetness is not enough to catch my interest for a wine, as it must be said, in certain cases, this taste can be given to a wine in not really noble ways. Sweetness, alone, is not enough, because for the fact this can be obtained in a wine in many ways, including quite disputable methods and of doubtful quality. I am not going to criticize the category of sweet wines - of every type or viticultural and wine making style - my interest is mainly for those wines produced with dried grapes and, even better, those enriched by Botritys Cinerea, the so called noble rot.

 On this regard, it should be said there are many ways to favor the withering of grapes and this can also be done without allowing the grape to naturally wither in the vine or to leave it in well aerated rooms. As to mention the most common example, we can use a room with controlled temperature and humidity in which are stored ripe grapes and then we wait for the magic to happen. A technique, as it is commonly known, widely used for fruits and vegetables in order to let them ripe “during their journey” and becoming “ready” when they get to the shops. These rooms can also do another kind of magic, that is to ennoble certain grapes by adding the spores of Botritys Cinerea that, of course, will affect the clusters inside the room. It is, as a matter of fact, a low cost method allowing the withering of grapes, and eventually to botrytize them too, while avoiding the risks happening in case we are going to let the grapes dry on the vine or in an aerated room.

 Using a room, for example, prevents the grape to be damaged from all those events caused by adverse meteorological conditions - mold and rottenness in particular - something which may happen in case the grape is allowed to dry on its mother vine. What about the result? In general terms, you can tell when a wine is produced with dried or botrytized grapes in rooms. In particular those wines claiming to be made with grapes affected by Botritys Cinerea, something - to tell the truth - that can be realized at the first smell and giving you founded doubts both on the real quality of grapes and wine making techniques. Difficult wines to make, both because of costs and technical considerations, using safer methods capable of ensuring a “decent” results while limiting risks, can certainly be interesting for certain producers. Difficulties in the production of wines made from dried grapes begin at the moment of harvesting - an operation requiring extreme care, in particular for grapes affected by Botritys Cinerea - and when grapes are being processed difficulties certainly are not anything less.

 Long fermentations, sometimes they can even last many months, the concrete risk of an excessive development of volatile acidity - no one likes to have vinegar in the glass, right? - rigorous wine making techniques with the least number of faults possible. Loss of water inside of grape berries during the withering represents an important economic factor, a loss which can also be over the half of the original weight. It should be said this loss is fundamental for the production of these wines as it favors the concentration of juice and the substances making it, including sugar. This also means the quantity of must you can get from the crushing of grapes will be far less than the same ripe grape used for the making of a regular table wine. An economic factor of remarkable impact in the production of these wines and, unavoidably, strongly affecting the final price. In other words, a sweet wine made from dried grapes, when it is produced in a rigorous and honest way, it is impossible for it to cost less - not to mention, a lot less - than a regular table wine.

 In case these magnificent masterpieces are produced with the attention and care they deserve, the apotheosis of senses is sure to happen. They are an endless sequence of refined emotions, sometimes intense and violent, sometimes light and gentle, it seems they want to hide themselves in the pages of a book waiting to be read from the first to the last page. I am sorry to see sweet wines produced with dried grapes are not successful nowadays. Difficult to make and to sell, also producers do not pay much attention on this type of wine, they continue to make them mostly because of the tradition of a place or brand, instead of a concrete commercial reason. Nevertheless, in past times these wines had the highest and noblest consideration, wine glories of the territory in which they were produced at and continue to be produced even today. Nowadays they seem to play a quite marginal role, getting a modest favor from consumers, maybe also because of price and, more likely, because of a fad. It is such a pity because when they express their noble elegance with endless sensations, through complex and strong emotions, in a sweet and refined robe - ladies and gentlemen - what a wonder!

Antonello Biancalana






   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 157, December 2016   
Wine, Sweet WineWine, Sweet Wine  Contents 
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