The residual sweetness typical of dessert wine can arise in two ways: Either the wine yeast dies due to the relatively high alcohol sugar content or the fermentation process is deliberately stopped by the winemaker. This leaves the "residual sugar," as the unfermented part of the wine is called after fermentation, in the wine. For sweet and dessert wines, there are many different production methods, which vary in their degree of sweetness as well as maturation of the wine depending on the region.
In Austria, wines in which sugar has been naturally concentrated are called Ausbruch, Auslese, Beeren- or Trockenbeerenauslese, and Eiswein.
A Auslese is made from grapes - on the vine - dried and slightly covered with noble rot. Beerenauslese is characterized by a color reminiscent of berries, which is also noticeable on the nose and palate.
Ice wine is made from grapes frozen - on the vine, the grapes are harvested at a minimum temperature of -7 degrees. Its sweet, fruity taste goes perfectly with blue cheese, desserts or with an espresso.
Most sweet or dessert wines harmonize well with spicy cheeses, especially blue cheeses.
Sweet and dessert wine
When a wine is particularly sweet and full-bodied, it is called a dessert or sweet wine. This designation is neither legally defined nor protected. The title is also used synonymously for so-called liqueur wines. These are wines that have been fortified with alcohol. This process is also called fortification. Although the name is not protected, there are some typical representatives of this type of wine, which you can buy in the sweet wine store. Characteristic of a dessert wine is its sweetness, also called residual sweetness. It comes from the stop of fermentation before the existing sugar has been completely converted into alcohol.
What is residual sweetness?
Residual sweetness is the residual sugar or sugar residue. This is an indication of the amount of sugar remaining in the wine. The unit of measurement is grams per liter, or g/l for short. The residual sweetness is measured after the end of fermentation or its controlled stop. Fermentation can be stopped by adding high-proof alcohol or sulfur or by cooling and filtration. The residual sweetness is called fermentable sugar by testing laboratories and wine laboratories. Roughly described, residual sugar consists of fructose and other non-fermentable sugars. The content of residual sugar influences the indication of the taste in categories. These are:
The amount of residual sugar for each category is precisely regulated and verified by wine law.
How is sweet wine produced?
For the production of sweet wine, two basic methods are distinguished:
- Stopping the fermentation process and concentration of the residual sugar.
- Spraying of the wine
In both procedures, the aim is to stop the fermentation process and use the residual sugar as a sweetener for the wine.
When stopping the fermentation process and concentrating the residual sugar, different variants are again distinguished. Which of these variants is used is often very classic regionally, resulting in typically sweet wines. Depending on the process, there are also different degrees of sweetening in the wine.
Sweet wine by noble rot
In some regions, sweet wine is produced by drying the grapes directly on the vine. In this process, the grape is left on the vine until it dries there. The so-called noble rot forms. Another term for noble rot is noble ripeness. This is actually a mold that can be detected when the grapes dry out on the vine. The fungus appears during warm fall weather and forms on the ripe grapes. For further growth, the fungus requires moisture. This is often formed by fog in the morning, but this does not occur in all wine-growing areas. As the fungus perforates the skin of the berry, moisture escapes from the berry and evaporates under sunlight in warm weather. In this way, the concentration of ingredients in the berry increases, especially the sugar content. At the same time, the fungus processes mainly the acid in the berry, thus changing the aromas and color of the grape. The typical honey-like hue and aromas are produced.
As a result, the sugar content in the grape can reach up to 45%. After harvesting, these grapes are further refined into selections. Although only a small quantity can be obtained, this shortcoming is compensated by a higher quality. The wine products resulting from noble rot are usually very sweet. They also have a long shelf life. As described, not all wine-growing regions are suitable for this type of production. Well-known regions are:
- Anjou in France
- Wallis in Switzerland
- Tokaj in Hungary
In the types of sweet wine, we will go into more detail about the different varieties that you can purchase from us in the dessert wine store.
The ice wine
Another form of concentration of sugar in grapes is the so-called ice wine. Here, the grapes remain on the vine until they freeze. In ice wine, the grapes remain on the vine until mid-winter. It is a high-quality wine, designated as a quality wine under German law. The temperature at which ice wine can be harvested must be at least seven degrees Celsius below zero. After pressing, the must is subjected to fermentation. As the water in the berry crystallizes at these low temperatures, the result is a very naturally sweet wine that often contains highly aromatic to strong acidity. This specialty, which exists mainly in Germany and Austria, is extremely popular worldwide. With us you can buy such a sweet wine and enjoy it at home. You can also buy this dessert wine in our dessert wine store.
The ice wine you can buy with us as a sweet wine. It was created at the beginning of the 19th century rather by accident. After a bad wine year, the initially unharvested grapes were harvested in the winter to feed them to the cattle. However, the winemakers discovered that the grapes contained little but an immensely sweet juice. This gave rise to the ice wine.
During production, the grapes remain on the vine so that they are frozen through. This can take until February in some vintages. It is important to harvest and process them while they are still frozen. The squeezed juice is exposed to the fermentation process, and the low temperature again counteracts it. In order to produce ice wine, the grapes must be healthy. They must not be affected by noble rot. Ice wine is usually made from white grapes. Riesling is usually used.
Reed wine, stock wine and vin de paille
The production process is the same for these sweet wines. In this process, the harvested grapes are dried on different materials. For example, on reed mats or wire grids, on straw mats or on wooden racks. This process is particularly well known in France, Austria and Italy. Drying increases the must content, that is, the amount of sugar in the must, resulting in a very sweet wine. Examples of this production method are Reciotos and Vin Santo.
What is cryoextraction?
This is a process in which cold separates different substances or changes the composition of a liquid. Roughly speaking, a portion of the substance is frozen and can then be separated from the original substance. Cryoextraction is used outside of Germany to produce ice wines. The process is used in the extraction of frozen fruit. Cryoextraction is also used in winemaking For example, when there are bad wine years in Sauternes. Then the grapes are brought to cold storage and frozen at temperatures around -10 °C. The grapes are then pressed. In Germany, this method is not used for wine production, as it is prohibited.
The fortified wine: liqueur wine
A different production method is used for the so-called liqueur wine. Here the grape is not left longer on the vine or dried. In the case of liqueur wine, the fermentation process is artificially interrupted. For this purpose, the fermentation mass is injected with must or high-proof alcohol. By stopping the fermentation process, the residual sugar is not converted into alcohol and remains in the wine. There are many well-known examples of fortified wines:
- Port wine
What dessert wines can you buy?
You can recognize a sweet wine by its name. You can buy the following wines in the dessert wine store:
- Ice wine
- Straw wine
- Vin Santo
- Vin de Paille
- Recioto di Gambellara
- Recioto di Soave
- Recioto della Valpolicella
- Vendanges tardives
We will discuss some of these dessert wine types in more detail below.
Like medicine: Tokay
Tokay is one of the most famous and important wines in the world. It is a sweet wine of the highest quality and is made from white wine grapes. Different degrees of sweetness and quality are distinguished in Tokay. Tokay Ausbruch and Tokay Essence are especially precious. The growing areas for Tokaj are geographically limited. They are produced exclusively in a growing area in northern Hungary, partly located in Slovakia. By the way, the name for the wine comes from the town of Tokaj. The title is protected by copyright and may be used only for wines that come from this region and meet the quality requirements.
Tokaj is obtained from grapes that remain on the vine after ripening. They obtain the necessary concentration of sugar through noble rot. The production is quite risky, because depending on the weather, the noble rot, which is indispensable for the production, does not appear in every year. On the other hand, in special years excellent Tokays can be produced, which the locals like to call medicine.
The earliest evidence of Tokay dates back to the 13th century. According to the legend, the production variant of Tokay is based on a coincidence. But the fact is that the Tokaj Mountains and Tokaj wine enjoy a special status in Hungary. The wine region is located in a volcanic hilly landscape. The Tokaj Mountains protect the area from weather influences. In this way, a kind of microclimate is formed. Only late ripening grape varieties are grown, such as Furmint, Yellow Muscat and Lindenleaf.
The Tokaj Ausbruch, or Aszú in Hungarian, uses two components: On the one hand, a base wine is needed, as well as raisin-shriveled grapes affected with noble rot. The base wine is made from grapes that are not affected by noble rot. The base wine requires high natural alcohol content. The noble rotted grapes give the color tone and honey-like aroma of Tokay. The wetter the end of the summer, the better the noble rot of the berries. After harvesting, the grapes are kneaded into a kind of dough mass. Now they are mixed with the base wine and left to macerate for one to one and a half days. This process is necessary for the special quality and specialty of a Tokaj Ausbruch. The subsequent fermentation and storage lasts at least three years.
A Tokaj Ausbruch essence represents the highest quality of an Ausbruch. This wine has a residual sugar of about 200 g/l. In addition to the great sweetness, the Aszúeszencia shines with a high acidity. Ten years this wine must mature in barrel and then another five years in bottle. This results in a very complex, great wine. This wine can be kept almost indefinitely. The Tokaj Essence
is another quality wine made from aszú berries. Tokaj Essence is made exclusively from the forward run of unpressed berries. The grapes are carefully layered. As a result, some juice is formed at the bottom, which the grapes press by their own weight. The consistency of the juice is reminiscent of honey or syrup. It has a high sugar content. Now the fermentation process is initiated. But due to the high content of sweetness and acidity, it is often very difficult to start the fermentation. Often the fermentation then takes several years.
The Recioto di Soave
The Recioto di Sova is one of the classic wines in the sweet wine store. It is a white dessert wine from Italy. Due to the location of the vines in the northern Italian growing region of Soave, the grapes get a lot of sun and light, making them sweeter at maturity than other grapes. Recioto di Soave may only be produced in precisely designated growing areas, all of which are in the province of Verona. Recioto di Soave is produced according to an old tradition. The grapes are carefully selected and then dried on a straw mat or rack. This concentrates the sugar content in a natural way. Often this drying method is accompanied by a type of noble rot. The color of Recuioto di Sova is straw yellow. Its aroma is fruity and intense with a pleasant to fruity smell.
The Vin Santo
The Vin or Vino Santo also comes from Italy. It is grown in certain regions of Tuscany, Trentino and Veneto. This specialty wine is also produced according to ancient recipes and methods. Here, the grapes often remain in the attic to dry until after Christmas and beyond. After the drying process, the wine is pressed. Usually, after pressing, the wine matures in oak barrels for about three years. By the way, this wine is not stored in the cellar, but on the roof to expose it to alternating conditions of heat and cold.
Another sweet wine that you can buy in our sweet wine store is a Sauternes. It is a French dessert wine that comes from the growing region of the same name. Here, the Ciron River provides ideal weather conditions. Its cold water pours into the warmer Garonne. In this way, early mists form in the fall, providing the necessary moisture for the noble rot fungus. The noble rot ensures a high sugar content in the grapes. A Sauternes is made from the grape varieties Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon as well as Muscadelle. Effort and risk are very high for this wine and yields are relatively low. In some vintages there is no noble rot.
Barsac takes its name from the wine region of the same name in the Gironde department. The region is located only about 30 km from Bordeaux. Here, mostly clayey limestone soil is found. The Sémillon grape variety is grown on this soil. It produces a sweet white wine. The confluence of the Garonne with the Ciron give rise to the typical early mists in autumn, which the wine needs for noble rot.
How to drink a dessert wine?
If you buy dessert wine, be sure to serve it properly. This includes the right conditions. You should serve a sweet wine with a temperature approximately between 10 and 12 degrees. In this way, the sweetness of the wine will not be too intrusive and the flavors will be preserved. As a basic principle, a sweet wine is not enjoyed in large quantities. It is best to use a small glass to serve the sweet wine. As the name implies, sweet wine can be served with dessert. However, your dessert should not be even sweeter than the wine. But the sweet wine is also suitable as an aperitif. Or in combination with a good blue cheese.
If you buy a dessert wine, you can also use it before the meal. Basically, sweet wines are suitable for all occasions. Because of its rarity and high quality, people often save a sweet wine for special occasions. Pay special attention to the right temperature. You can also drink ice wine, in particular, from champagne glasses. In the relatively long glasses, the wine still has the opportunity to warm up. In the dessert wine store you can buy these and many other wines and surprise your guests and family with a delicious sweet wine.