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The sweeter side of wine

Sweet German Riesling

Question from Jacqui: I’m not a huge wine drinker and usually stick to sweet ciders so I would probably like a sweet wine. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

In a nut shell – We’ll get you started on sweet wines and you’ll be downing the drys in no time! Stick to Asti (sweet sparkling), Muscat and some Rieslings (more on this below). You’ll probably love dessert wines too but they’re crazy sweet so you wouldn’t drink these unless you’re eating dessert.

In a clam shell: If your best mates just got engaged and everyone is drinking sparking but you don’t want to whip out your sweet ciders stick to Asti. Asti is a sweet, fruity sparkling wine from Piemonte in northwest Italy. It’s made with the Muscat grape, which is very fruity (think peach) and very floral (think roses).

If it’s a still wine you’re after you could stick to the Muscat grape as there are plenty of still versions out there! You might like the Muscato from Innocent Bystander in the Yarra Valley. The 2013 is at Dan’s for just under $20. It’s naturally effervescent which is a little exciting!

Now I’m going to confuse the matter and introduce Riesling to the mix. Most Australian Rieslings are dry so if you pop out to the bottlo and buy the first Riesling you’d probably hate it but there are a few exemptions and you’re going to love a sweet Riesling guaranteed!

So like I said 99 time out of 100 if it’s an Australian Riesling it’s going to be dry but there are plenty of sweet Rieslings out there too. How will you know? Have a look at the label and if you see the term ‘residual sugar’ or ‘RS’ you’re onto a winner! Make sure it’s above 1% RS. Dry wines contain around 0.2-0.3% RS. Off-dry wines (that’s the wino term for slightly sweet) contain 1-5% RS (and that’s what you want to stick to for everyday drinking). Dessert wines are 5-15% RS but you definitely wouldn’t down one of these at the pub, you’ve got to be eating dessert to stomach this level of sweetness.

If you can’t be bothered checking the back of every bottle go straight to the German section at your bottlo. Most German Riesling are sweet! Jackpot! If the bottle says Kabinett it’s going to have medium sweetness (occasionally they’ll be dry but this is rare so take the gamble. An amazing Kabinett is the 2011 Dr Loosen Bernkasteler Lay Kabinett. You can get this at Dan’s for $35. It’s not cheap but it’s sooooooooooooo good! Invest!

If Kabinett is still too dry for you the next level up in sweetness is Spätlese and then we have Auslese. After that we’re moving into sweet, thick dessert wines with a Beerenauslese and then a Trockenbeerenauslese. These last two babies get their level of sweetness from noble rot. Get ready for it – noble rot is a mould that attacks the grape. It weakens the skin of the grape which speeds up the evaporation of water from the flesh and causes the grape to shrivel like a sultana (and sultanas are sweet right).

Noble rot dessert wines are usually pricey because the conditions that produce noble rot (being misty mornings and warm dry afternoons) are hard to come by. Noble rot also adds a unique flavour to the wine (just like blue cheese is deliciously stinky). If you find that you like this flavours you could also try Sauternes, which is a French dessert wine from the Bordeaux region or Tokaji from Hungary.

If you’re loving the dessert wines but aren’t a fan of the noble rot flavour you could also go for an Eiswein (or icewine) which is a dessert wine made from frozen grapes. The grapes are crushed while frozen and the ice crystals are removed which leaves an intensely concentrated sugar grape syrup.

Experiment with all the above and then let me know what you prefer. I’d be really interested to hear how you go.

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