Getting our JUST DESSERTS
PUDDING WINES – why do we call them that when after all they are so much better with cheese?
Some even better with your first course let along the last.
There is so much myth and nonsense said about those wines that are made to be sweet…………NO not ‘sweet’, they are rich and honeyed I think. For this article I shall call them ‘dessert wines’.
There are 2 main ways to make a dessert wine. One is to pick the grapes when they are really very ripe and bursting with natural sugars, the other is to pick when ‘quite’ ripe and then stop the fermentation part-way through. This is done by adding a simple grape alcohol which quickly kills off any un-used yeast so that any ‘residual’ sugar will ‘support’ the wine and add to its richness.
When the fruit is picked fully ripe, often ‘noble rot’ (Image Above) can form. Here the grapes are beginning to ‘raisin’ and develop a mould called botrytis cinerea [see, I can be technical – ha ha]. From this the wines will get a fantastic honeyed aroma adding greatly to its attraction and mostly become a fabulous shining gold colour too. Honey unlike sugar, will usually have an aroma of its own as well as a flavour and structure too. This is why I describe the wines as honeyed.
The best known and ‘classic’ is Sauternes from the Bordeaux regions of France but today the costs are so high you are best to try some of the many others available on the market. Look out for Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley but others from the ‘New World’ are about. Late Harvest Riesling especially from South Africa is mostly super with costs between £14 to £19 upwards for a Half Bottle.
One of the best variety of grape to make dessert wine is the Muscat. There are many to choose from be it the classic Muscat Beaume de Venise, the marvellous Muscats from Rutherglen in Victoria, Australia, or another Muscat from Portugal known as Setubal. These are really classed as Fortified yet in my mind, are nearer to being dessert wines. These will last many months once opened but I bet you won’t be able to keep them that long as you will drink it all once its opened – ha ha ha ha. Many of the wines are available in a Half Bottle or maybe a 50cl, which is enough for 4 people to enjoy and have a top up too. Prices tend to start from under £8 upwards with a good average being £15.
Vin de Constance is very famous and is made from Muscat de Frontignan. This is the wine that Napoleon drank daily, Charles Dickens, Frederick the Great along with King Louis Phillippa of France all demanded it. Jane Austen even recommended it for a ‘broken heart’. This premium wine is also premium price at £49.95 per 50cl.
Look out for blends too which lift aroma from one variety to add to the taste of another variety. Wines like the Chilean Casa Silva Late Harvest Semillon / Gewürztraminer at £8.79 per half and the blend adds greatly to its interest and complexity. This is just one wine, do look for others.
Last but by no means least are the Red Dessert Wines. These are simply fantastic with chocolate!! A great example is the marvellous Adoro Mouvèdre ‘natural sweet’ from South Africa that is paying ‘homage’ to a classic wine from the South of France yet at £12.75 is half the price of the French one.
To finish this article, I must tell you of a very exclusive but stunning red dessert from Uruguay called Alcyone Tannat. The wine is aromatized with herbs and the tasting notes talk of its purple hue and honey-like texture, touched with a bouquet of winters flowers, hints of Madagascan vanilla bean with wild mint and white cocoa soufflé. To me it is like drinking smooth milk chocolate with a caramel toffee – ahhhhhh, heavenly.
I shall now creep quietly away with a glass of heaven and read a book………………
Bye for now – do take care and drink responsibly.