Wine comes in all shapes and sizes, and that is one of the things I love most about it. There are hundreds of types of grapes, diverse areas where grapes are grown, and countless ways to turn grapes into wine. With all of this diversity, there is a wine out there for everyone. Sadly, in my experience, some ‘serious’ wine lovers, tend to look down on sweet wine. Let’s see what they’re missing.
To begin, let’s define what makes a sweet wine sweet. When the grapes are first squeezed for their juice (the technical wine-nerd term is crush) this juice is full of natural sugars. The juice is then put into a fermentation tank with yeast (either natural or added by the wine-maker). As these magical bacteria chow down on the buffet of natural sugars, they produce alcohol as a byproduct, and this process effectively is what creates wine. When a winemaker stops the fermentation process with some sugar left over, the resulting wine will be sweet. The higher the residual sugar value (usually measured in a percentage), the sweeter the wine will be.
In theory, any wine grape can be made into a sweet wine. In practice, some grapes do a better job of being sweet than others. Generally speaking, most sweet wines come from white wine grapes. Some of the most familiar wines in this category are Moscato and Riesling. However, you can find some great sweet red wines, including some Italian wines made with the Lambrusco grape.
Sweet wines are a natural pairing with spicy food, such as an Asian dish or a bowl of chili. The reason this pairing works so well is the magic of chemistry and how our tongues absorb the flavors of food (if you really want the details shoot me an email!). Sweet wines do well with many other kinds of food, but can quickly lose some of their deliciousness if paired with foods that are too rich (think of things like a big ribeye steak).
I would like to plant a flag in the sand and say here that sweet wine is just as special and wonderful as the most sought after cult Cabernet from California. In fact the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold was a sweet wine from Chateau d’Yquem. Check out this link for the full story.
At its most fundamental level, wine is designed to bring you joy. If a bottle of sweet wine brings you joy – have no shame! Grab those Moscatos, Rieslings, or whatever else makes you happy, and let’s get the party started.