Sweet wine has often had a bad press, with images of sickly sweet, sugary wines with no depth of flavour. For the keen wine lover, however, sweet wines include some of the most memorable wine drinking experiences that the vine has to offer. Most wine regions of the world have at least one outstanding sweet wine and learning a little more about these wines can unlock a new world of flavour. With the Gilbert & Gaillard wine guide, the joys of these wines can be more easily accessed, making what can be an expensive purchase a more enjoyable one.
A great sweet wine
To the uninitiated, the sight of the grapes used to make one of the great sweet wines, Sauternes, is not a promising one. The wines are allowed to rot with a fungus called botrytis cinerea, also known more memorably as the 'noble rot'. This unpleasant looking grey fungus serves to dry the grapes, leaving behind a more concentrated residue. This has more acidity, flavour and sugar and is the basis for the great Sauternes wine. From this unpromising start a superb wine is born, one that has the capacity to delight the palette.
Sweet wines or dessert wine
Many wine writers will use the terms dessert wine and sweet wine interchangeably. This is a little misleading, however, because some of these wines work just as well as aperitifs as they do as a accompaniment for puddings or desserts. Indeed, some of these wines go absolutely perfectly with the cheese board. Often restaurants will sell sweet wine by the glass or by the half bottle, so there is no need to plough through a whole bottle of what can be a powerful wine. The often high alcohol level of these wines also means that they keep for longer, making buying by the glass a safer bet.
Understanding sweet wine
Sweet wines come in a wide range of styles using a variety of grapes and wine making techniques. In hotter regions, these wines tend to be fortified, such as the Madeira, Port and Sherry wines of Spain and Portugal. In cooler climates, however, the wines tend to be fresher and unfortified, perhaps even more complex and pleasing with a better balance to the flavours. With the Gilbert & Gaillard wine guide, you can explore the differences and delights of these sweet wines, before choosing one that will go down so well at the conclusion of your next dinner party.