I mean something very particular when I talk about sweetness in a wine: I mean that it has noticeable residual sugar. Recall that wine is made by letting yeast turn sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. A dry wine is one in which all of the sugar — or really, almost all of the sugar — has been converted into alcohol. In reality, almost all wine has at least 1 gram of sugar per liter in it, as certain sugars can’t be completely fermented by most yeasts. If a wine has more than about 4 grams per liter, however, it will start to taste sweet, and by 12 grams per liter it is easily noticeable. There are several ways to achieve these levels of sugar, but the most common are by stopping fermentation before all of the sugar is converted — usually by lowering the temperature and filtering out the yeast — or by harvesting the grapes at such high levels of ripeness that the yeast die in the alcohol produced before they can convert all of the sugar. The grape this is most often done with is Riesling.
Riesling originates in the Rhine region of Germany, where it is made in a variety of styles, ranging from trocken (dry) to Trockenbeerenauslese (literally “dry berry selection”, because the grapes have almost raisinated on the vine before they are picked). When I was in Portland last month, we had dinner at a restaurant that offered a flight of four German Rieslings that really showed off what the grape could do. The drier wines were wonderfully floral and minerally, indicative of the slate slopes of the Mosel vineyards they came from. The sweeter ones were lush and intensely fruity, with the sugar enhancing the pear and apricot flavors. Because an elevated level of sweetness works so well with its natural flavors, Riesling is the grape you will most often hear the words “late harvest” associated with, or in French vendage tardive.
Outside of Germany, Riesling is also heavily grown in the Alsace region of France, as well in Austria. It thrives in cooler-climate regions, so while there are good examples of it from California, some of the best North American Rieslings come from Oregon, Washington, the Finger Lakes region of New York, and from Canada, where is is often made into icewine.
Because Rieslings are often high in both sugar and acidity, it ages better than many white wines. In our cellar you’ll find a few, including: Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer), Schloss Schönborn Riesling Beerenauslese (Rheingau), Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile “Vendage Tardive” (Alsace), and La Vie Late Harvest Riesling (Monterey).Any Reisling lovers out there? Do you like them sweet or dry?
UpdateFitness: Ran 3.5 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 384 words, 55 seven-day average, 269 average, 43333 total, 2167 to go for the week