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Puddings get their Just Desserts

"Course I don't like sweet wines" is a chorus we often hear but life has few joys like an opulent dessert partnered with one of the brilliant "stickies" on display here.

Continuing our look at wines for the festive season, today’s focus is on an area that, sadly, currently gets scant attention – dessert wines.

Well chosen sweet wine, however, can turn an enjoyable dessert into a luxuriously memorable finale to a great a meal.

As ever, where pictures are available, click on the image for an enlarged version that should help you locate the wine on a crowded shelf.

And it need not be expensive

An absolute bargain buy blends a block of conventional German sweet wine with a sizeable portion of declassified eiswien to create a lovely pudding wine at an unbelievable price.

House Dessert Wine (£4.25 for half bottles at Sainsbury’s and 13% abv) merges lemon sorbet freshness with mild touches of acidity and then introduces the brown sugar and orange fruit elements that provide the necessary sweetness.

But this Icewine itself is well priced too!

A couple of years ago, Lidl started to introduce Canadian Icewine at incredible prices into their Christmas range – remember that such wines often retail at £50 for a small bottle!

Icewine allows grapes to be frozen on the vine which draws out much of the water content leaving the residue sweeter and more concentrated. However, volumes are small, harvesting is tricky and the ratio of fruit to eventual wine is tiny.

So it’s startling to find 2016 Vidal Canadian Icewine (11% abv) at a mere £14.99 for a half bottle at Lidl and to savour the delightful clean, minty flavours and keen, acidic bite beneath the honey edged apple fruit it offers.

There are two other Icewines in the range this year (a riesling and a red cabernet franc) but I still consider the Vidal to be the best.

 Going back to Icewine origins.

Of course Eiswein was originally from Germany (dating from 1794 some say) – although climate change now means that more of it is made in Canada than in Germany – but remember Germany has other sweet wines too.

Again painstaking harvesting and miniscule volumes makes these wines expensive as is the case with 2009 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese Gold Capsule (£26.99 for half bottles at www.waitrosecellar) and 8%).

The pain in your wallet is easily overlooked though when you savour the silky mouth feel to this wine’s tangerine and marmalade flavours which are adroitly balanced by firm acidity and the overall lightness of the sweetness on display.

Next to the King of Sweeties

The cause of heightened sweetness in many dessert wines is a benign form of the botrytis fungus. This develops when geographic conditions allow and can equally affect a variety of grape varieties.

Localised night time mists are the primary cause. The resulting moisture stimulates the fungus in question which subsequent sunny daytime spells make even more virulent.

Botrytis draws out most of the grapes’ water content, leaving a residue containing – predictably – very concentrated sugar levels.

Part of Bordeaux’s Graves region is particularly susceptible to the fungus giving us wine like 2013 Chateau Roumieu Sauternes (£8.99 – instead of £12.99 until 3 January – at the Co-op and 12.5%).

This is a classic blend of semillon, sauvignon and muscadelle and delivers nicely balanced orange, peach and honey flavours wrapped in the gentlest of acidity and texture.

Botrytis goes south too

Of course, semillon with botrytis is not just a French phenomena, as this version – made by the acclaimed De Bortoli family at Riverina in New South Wales – illustrates.

Note in particular the honeyed mellowness of  2013 Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillon (£9.50 at M&S and 10.5%) and the neat way it weaves that depth into the wine’s cornerstone orange based fruit.

Finally a wild card

Let’s finish on a very unorthodox note with a dessert wine from Italy’s Veneto region and made from the corvina grape – more usually associated with red wines like Amarone.

Nevertheless, 2014 Recioto Della Valpolicella (£8.99 for half bottle at Aldi and 12.5%) gives us sweet wine with spicy plum and bramble fruit and a lightness and daintiness that would surprise lovers of the areas substantial red wines.


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4 Responses

  1. I think you are calling that exactly right Adam. The plum based fruit and subtle spice undertones should work well and there is sufficient texture to avaoid being overwhelmed. Whatever you finally select, however, do have a great time ……. Brian

  2. Thanks for the heads up, Colin. Those WIGIG offers in Lidl can have a patchy distribution so I am glad you found two stores with stock. Snap it up like there is no tomorrow is my unqualified advice!

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