More and more people, however, are interested in sweet wines, but unfortunately restaurants do not pay enough attention to present them in an appropriate way. Whatever the reason, the result is that some of the richest and tastier wines, which are also the most difficult and expensive to make, remain neglected.
There is, however, a small group of wine lovers who have advanced in gaining experience and we can learn from them. They highly value saturated aromas and the balance between sweetness, alcohol (it gives sweetness as well), acidity and bitterness of tannins. It is a complex ensemble, pronounced "noisily", but also delicately. As with most things about wine, we need little knowledge and experience to overcome this injustice. Here you will get both at once, so that, as your curiosity awakens, you can easily proceed to its satisfaction.
SHORT INTRODUCTION TO DESSERT WINES
From the amount of sugar in the grapes, the grape variety, the harvest time, the decisions taken during vinification, and a few other important factors, we define the style of wine that we call the dessert (we will miss the sweet spirits so far). There are three principal methods for achieving residual sugar contents.
1. Late grape harvest
Grapes ripen until late in the autumn, to accumulate enough sugars, which will remain even after the fermentation. During hanging on the vines, the grapes lose water content, while sugars, acids and tastes concentrate. They are often harvested 1-2 months later than normal harvest. There are varieties that naturally offer a higher sugar content. The well-known Muscat is such a variety. It has over two hundred crosses and branches, and is considered one of the most ancient on earth. Other such varieties include Riesling with cultivated sorts, among which the so-called Spätlese in Germany and Austria, Sheen Blanc from the Loire Valley and others. On the label, these wines are labelled with the term "Late Harvest". They are specified with a predominantly ripe fruit character, high acids that balance residual sugars in the wine.
Manufacturers face a dilemma. Sugar is converted to alcohol during fermentation. The more naturally sweet the wine, the lower the alcohol content and vice versa. This is the case with the late grape harvest. Another method is also there to help. Wines containing added alcohol (usually brandy) are called fortified. There are various styles to make it – from light and everyday (Sherry style Manzanilla and Fine) to dark and heavy (annual Port, Sherry style Pedro Ximénez or Oloroso), as well as from very dry to very sweet. There are also differences in the term and method of aging, which may take place in large stainless-steel containers, in oak barrels for a long or short period before bottling, or in glass containers with no oxygen access for a shorter time. Sherries are served in a small glass, chilled when they are sweet and have higher alcohol content, to a normal glass and at room temperature, depending on their dryness and lightness. The most popular names are: Port, Sherry or Jerez – up to your taste – English or Spanish – the drink is the same – Madeira and Marsala.
3. Removing water
This method has three options, determined to a large extent by the place and climate in the place where they are made:
The warm and dry climate makes it possible to concentrate sugars and taste in the grapes by drying them spread on straw grates or on the vine. This is in principle the process of making raisins, but with different degrees of drying and varieties. We use the word raisin because of the proximity to Greece. Further to the west, they call it literally "on a mat." Slamovoe Vino (in Slovakia), Vin de Paille (France), Vino de Pasas (Spain), Passito and Vin Santo (Italy) are some of the more famous names. They feature a rich fruity character, dried fruit and honey notes. High acids, high residual sugar and concentrated aromas and flavours. The cold climate, as well as separate microclimate zones, make it possible for the grapes to remain until late in autumn and to freeze on the vine. The water crystallizes and remains in the press when the juice is extracted, resulting in a smaller quantity, concentrated and sweet. Thus the wines get their names Icewine, Eiswein (in German). The combination of many factors at the same time required to make a good ice wine makes it rare and costly. You will usually find it in bottles of 375ml. Canada and Germany are the largest producers, and the tradition comes from the Germans, who, according to the legend, have inherited it from the Roman Empire. Wines produced in this way are characterized by exceptionally distinct varieties of fresh aromas and flavours.
The moderate climate and the differences in day and night temperatures in autumn are the condition for the third type of water removal from the grapes. The main actor is a fungal infection. Botrytis cinerea is the name of the fungus and you may have heard the term “botrytized wines”, depending on the company you join. As with the Ice Wine, unique conditions are required for certain latitudes and climate zones. That fungus loves wet mornings and warm, sunny afternoons. The grapes are left until late, after the harvest season, and the fungus attacks its skin and causes a process of slow drying. The result, as you have already figured out, is more sugar and taste. Making these wines – even more than the icy ones – is a matter of gambling. Chances may be higher than those in bingo, but manufacturers certainly call “Bingo!” when they get it right. The brightest examples of bottled wines are: Sauterne and Tokaji. The wines are characterized by the aromas/flavours of dried stone fruits, caramelized apple, honey and the trace of Botrytis cinerea – a scent of saffron.
Sweet wines are unjustifiably overlooked and underestimated. Their emphasis is on quality and saturation, not on the quantity in the bottle.
Сладките вина са несправедливо пренебрегвани и подценявани. При тях акцентът е върху качеството и наситеността, а не върху количеството в бутилката.