Yes, Stickies and Sweeties
by Daniel (Wine Specialist)
With Halloween having just passed and candy everywhere I can’t help but think I’d rather drink my sweeties and stickies.
As a wine community we march toward drier and drier wine. I’d imagine it’s hard to believe that sweet wine once ruled the earth! Well it did. Largely because they were the most stable. I understand some people drink vinegar but most don’t. A wine’s whole journey in life is to become vinegar. It oxidizes relatively quickly and starts down that path soon after the cork is pulled. If we don’t want it going that way so fast lots of sugar and acid help. But! The fact remains, sweet wines are immeasurably tasty and some of the most age worthy wines around.
On to the wines
For the sake of simplicity we will STICK to wines that are not fortified. We will have to chat about Port, Madeira, Marsala and Sherry another time. So stay tuned!
Often the best way to secure sugar is to dry the grapes under the sun post-harvest. Italy has a long tradition of this. It is prevalent in their beautiful Amarone (a dry wine) and Vin Santo. Sean Thackery, out of California, allows all of his grapes to rest for 24 hours before crush as was the way so many years ago. In fact, Thackery references the Greek poet Hesiod’s book “Work and Days” circa 700 B.C. as a reference.
The demise of sweet wine
The 1970's saw the sudden demise of sweet wines. Two things happened:
- Advances in technology (this is also when irrigation took over) helped swing the global taste toward dry wines.
- Second, the popularity of sweet wines had overwhelmed itself and the quality had taken a hard dive toward the terrible. Sweet wine is one thing, a sugar solution is another.
What about style?
That brings us to style. The idea is to use the inherent sugar of the grape while balancing it all out with a fair amount of inherent acid so that the wine doesn’t come off as cloying. Many producers were simply adding heaps of sugar after harvest.
Some Wine Examples
Late harvest means simply left on the vine longer as to concentrate the sugars. Most wines will be labeled late harvest or for Riesling you’ll see Spatlese.
Noble Rot (Botrytis Cinerea) – for this one needs foggy humid mornings and warm dry afternoons to encourage fungus to grow and attack the grapes causing them to shrivel and dehydrate. Think Sauternes or Tokaji.
Passito (Straw wines). This is the ancient method.
Drying the grape on mats offers a little more uniformity and control whereas Noble Rot favors one to make multiple passes through the vineyard to pick the grapes that are sufficiently dry. Vin Santo, most others with show “Passito” on the label.
In ice wine, the grapes have froze. They are typically left on the vine, harvested and pressed frozen. Though we don't currenlty have any ice wines in stock, we're happy to look into getting your favorite one. Come in chat with us.