May 2009                               

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3R's - Rafik Samuel

Decadent Wine

I am sure we have all tried a dessert wine and went wow that’s like drinking syrup! It is amazing though when you try that dessert wine with dessert and see how it tastes then. It is like drinking a regular glass of wine. Dessert wines come in different styles, but the principle is the same, stop fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol.

The first is the late harvest wines that are made from grapes that are over ripe when they are picked so they have high sugar content. The yeasts ferment the sugar, but can only generate so much alcohol before dying from the alcohol (ironic isn’t it?). The wine still has sugar left. “Late harvest” is usually on the label. These wines are recommended with fruit desserts or veined cheeses.

The second style is ice wine or eiswein. These wines are made in Germany and Canada. The grapes are picked frozen and because the water is solid, the juice is very concentrated and sweet. The same fermentation process follows leading to a sweet wine. These are much more complex and are VERY expensive. They usually will run over 30 dollars for a half bottle. These wines go with all kinds of desserts or can be drunk on their own.

The third style is a wine that is made from grapes with “noble rot”. This mold causes the grape to shrivel, losing the water but maintaining the concentration and sugars. These wines go with dessert, but are often served with foie gras or liver pâté. The most famous examples are Sauternes (now these can be VERY expensive).

The final style is fortified wine. One style is usually made with the Muscat grape. These wines are usually cheaper than the ice wines or sauternes. They go with all fruity desserts.

Another fortified wine comes from the Andalusia region in Spain and is called Sherry. What makes sherry unique is the type of yeast that goes into it. Sherry usually has a nutty, rich flavor. The largest producer is Osborne, and you can find it in any liquor store.

Finally, another fortified wine that is made in Oporto Portugal is called Port. The wine fermentation is halted early by adding aguardente, a distilled spirit. There are 2 major types of port- vintage and tawny. Vintage port is made from the highest quality grapes and has short contact with a barrel, while tawny is a blend of wines aged over 5 years in a barrel.

You know, molds and yeasts get a bad name. Imagine the world without these lovely organisms!!!!

Now, I am outta here! (dedicated to the voice of the Phillies, Harry Kalas)