Guide to Wine

Guide to Dessert Wines

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Grapes with Botrytis Cinerea

Dessert wines are such an amazing addition to any dinner or gathering. Whether you are offering a variety of cheeses, fresh fruit or a decadent chocolate torte, there is a dessert wine that will complement it beautifully. You may even want to consider offering one of these sweet wines as the dessert. When considering a wine and dessert pairing, it is important to match the weight, color and flavors of the dessert to your wine selection. Dessert wines can be classified into four basic categories: late-harvest and ice wines, botrytised wines, vin santo and fortified wines. Each category produces spectacular wines through different winemaking or viticultural processes but the end results are glorious sweet wines.

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Ice Wine

Eiswein” is a German term meaning ice wine. This refers to a rich, flavorful dessert wine. Eiswein is made by picking grapes that are frozen on the vine and then pressing them before they thaw. Because much of the water in the grapes is frozen, the resulting juice is concentrated, rich in flavor and high in sugar and acid. The resulting wines, although different from Germany’s famous Trocken-beerenauslese, are very similar in style. They are extraordinarily sweet, yet balanced by high acidity. Germany and Canada seem to lead the way in producing the best ice wines made in the world. Ice wines tend to be more spicy and fuller bodied than the traditional late-harvest wines. These delectable sweet nectars are certainly capable of being the dessert but are also marvelous with fruity desserts.

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Vin Santo

Vin Santo is a wine made only in certain areas of Tuscany. The wine is made by drying grapes either by hanging them up or by laying them on trays in airy rooms or barns. After three or four months the semidried grapes are full of concentrated sugars and flavors. They are pressed and then fermented in small oak or chestnut barrels, which contain a small amount of madre-thick wine left from the prior year. The wine is kept in these barrels for two to three and sometimes for as long as six years. The barrels, which are not completely full, are exposed to varying temperatures-hot in the summer, cool in the winter. This oxidation treatment is part of the aging process and produces wine with a characteristic nutty-caramel flavor, a deep golden color and an alcohol content that ranges from 14 to 17 percent. Most vin santo is sweet and served as dessert wine. The grapes used to make vin santo in Tuscany are primarily Trebbiano, Malvasia and Canaiolo.

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