The seasons seem to be on fast-forward around here, and it feels a lot closer to winter than it did a week ago. Which makes me think about ice, while it makes my wife think about dessert. So, really, it’s the perfect segue into a little diddy about dessert wines.
To be sure, dessert wine is a bit of a vague term—it means different things to different people in different countries. Generally, think of it in terms of sweet wines, which in some cultures, includes Rieslings. Dessert wines come in a variety of forms with a range of names to distinguish them. One of my favorite names is:Trockenbeerenauslese. Say that 5 times in a row.
But among dessert wines, there as some important distinctions, mainly between ports, late-harvest and ice wines. Here’s the low-down in the simplest terms:
Port wines are fortified wines. They originated in Portugal, but are made all over the world at this point. Fortified means that the wine has had a distilled beverage added to it. Funny little side note: In Montana, if you own a dining establishment and have a cabaret license to serve beer and wine, it is illegal for you to serve port. You’d have to have a liquor license for that. But, most restaurants get around that by offering a selection of late-harvest and ice wines and hope that they don’t run into too many port snobs.
Late-harvest wines are wines made from grapes that have stayed on the vine long enough to get Noble Rot—a fungus with the scientific name of Botrytis cinerea that increases the concentration of the sugars in the fruit. Late-harvest wines may have originated in Germany or France first—or they could have emerged simultaneously in both locations. Although, France boasts the famous Sauternes wines—which are coveted and savored the world over.
Ice Wines originated in Germany and-you guessed it-are made from frozen grapes. Talk about sweet! Apparently, Canada is now the largest producer of ice wines—hey, they’ve got the climate for it. Ice wines are also highly valued, and have the price tag to go with it.
You can learn a bit more detail in this super straight-forward blog Late Harvest and Ice Wines.Obviously, this author had not gotten into a bottle of port before writing it. If you want to get into the scientific end of it, you should check out this post on Palate Press. It talks about the sugar to acid ratio in foods and wines—and how some acids react differently to different types of sugars.
Very cool. Speaking of which, if it snows tonight, I might crack open a bottle of port and hopefully satisfy my lady’s sweet tooth.
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