Wine: Debunking Sweet Wines

Wine: Debunking Sweet Wines

Debunking Sweet Wines

By Kay Pfaltz

                Thomas Carlyle said that if changes and contradictions didn’t occur within us, we stagnated, and I have to agree with him (and would regardless…even if I didn’t…to justify my own capricious contradictions throughout life.)

When learning about wine, the novice often begins with white wine or sweet white wine and after a while, if persevering with this course of study, discovers the wonderful and nuanced world of red wine. Here many wine drinkers can linger, spending decades (3 1/2 in my case), practically disdaining any other wine: white, rosé, sweet, sparkling, until a time, often well into middle-age, when the palate reawakens to white wine and even sweet white wine. My friend Jim shares my palate and preference in wines and this pattern has befallen both him and me. Another friend and great oenophile always answers the same way when asked his favorite wine. “TBA,” he will say with alacrity, which is the easy way of saying Trockenbeerenauslese, the sweetest, richest and most luscious German botrytized wine. For years in Paris I would order red wine with any meal. If I ordered a flaky fillet of sole, the waiter tried to persuade me into a beautiful Chablis and I’d shake my head, knowing what I preferred, and order Pinot Noir. Obstinacy and ignorance can, if not necessarily, go hand in hand with youth and exuberance; I’m now older and, I hope, wiser and more flexible in my opinions. While I still prefer red in most instances, I’m open to the possibility of white with many dishes, for white wines have the benefit of often higher acidity which can mean beautiful pairings with a variety of foods.

So, sweet wines, once the domain of the beginner, come full circle. The French have long revered sweet white wines and often serve them as an aperitif because the alcohol and sugar stimulate the digestive juices preparing you for dinner and helping you to digest. Note, too, that some of the most age-worthy wines are sweet whites, such as Riesling or Sauternes. Point in case, last week I was given a bottle of opened and re-corked 1959 Château d’Yquem (!) and it was still good. Thank you, Audrey!

Monmousseau Vouvray, 2009 – Vouvray is a versatile wine, made from the Chenin Blanc grape, called Pineau in the Loire, and can be dry, demi-sec, (‘off’ or ‘half’ dry) or moelleux (sweet). This Vouvray is a demi-sec, thus ideal for serving before the meal as the French do. Yet, because of its acidity, Vouvray is also an exquisite food wine. Pair with rich meats such as chicken livers (free range and organic of course.) You can also marry it with fish, shellfish, poultry and in general with creamy or saffron and spicy sauces. Notice aromas of apples, candied lemon, honeysuckle and lime, and a clean, non-cloying finish. $16

Clairette de Die – One of the oldest sparkling wines, with lush notes of honey and orange rind; beautiful as an aperitif or paired with light desserts. $18

If you still prefer your red wine with fish, by all means, carry on. I did. The only true rule in wine tasting is, “Drink what you like.”  Life’s short, it’s a shame not to.


Published in Nelson County Life Magazine

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