What are some common characteristics of the Muscat grape family?
- Medium acidity
- Floral aromas (such as citrus blossom, violet, honeysuckle, nasturtium and rose)
- Sweet-yet-tart green grapes
- Fresh peaches and pears
The family of Muscat grapes is somewhat large, yet nearly most of the highest-quality fortified Muscat wines are made from which Muscat variety?
Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains
Fortified Muscats are produced in what two general styles?
- Young Muscats (without age)
- Mature Muscats (with age and possible oxidation)
Give some examples of the young, unaged style of fortified Muscat.
- Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
- Muscat de Rivesaltes
- Muscat du Cap Corse
Some of the most acclaimed examples of mature, fortified Muscats come from which region in which country?
What are the four classifications of Rutherglen Muscats?
From lowest to highest in terms of quality:
- Rutherglen Muscat
- Classic Muscat
- Grand Muscat
- Rare Muscat
When aging fortified Muscats, what kind of oak barrel is used: new or used?
Used. Neutral or old wood is best, usually larger format barrels.
New oak aromas and flavors fight and do not align with Muscat's perfumed character.
If a winemaker wants to make a luscious style of fortified Muscat, at what point in fermentation would s/he fortify the must?
When the must has only just started fermenting and has reached about 2-4% abv.
Winemakers who make this style of wine want to preserve the grape's natural sugars, perfume and flavors.
What is a sticky?
A moniker for an especially sweet and concentrated fortified Muscat wine from Australia.
Why are certain grape varieties used for dessert wines more often than others?
Grapes traditionally used for dessert wines have an inherent sweetness in their aromas and flavor profiles that make them ideal candidates for sweet wine production; most also have inherent bitterness and/or medium-to-high acidity which act as balancing agents to offset sugars.
Why do sparkling dessert wines seem less sweet than other types of dessert wines that have similar levels of residual sugar?
The sensation of the bubbles often makes the wines seem less sweet than they actually are.
What are some words on sparkling wine labels that denote the wine is sweet?
- Semi Secco
What are some examples of sparkling dessert wines?
- Moscato d’Asti
- Asti Spumante
- Brachetto d'Acqui
- Demi-Sec Traditional Method Sparkling Wines
What white grape varieties are known for producing excellent examples of dessert wines?
- Chenin Blanc
Besides fortification, what 4 methods are widely used to make richly sweet dessert wines?
- Harvesting late
- Noble Rot
- Drying out on straw mats
- Allowing grapes to freeze on the vine
How does the aging potential vary between richly sweet dessert wines and lightly sweet dessert wines?
Lightly sweet dessert wines are meant to be consumed while young and fruity (with the exception of some Rieslings).
Richly sweet dessert wines can age for extended periods of time, often decades.
How are late-harvest wines produced?
What is the term used to describe this?
Grapes are allowed to hang on the vine late into the season where they become especially sweet and often raisinated, resulting in wines that have higher residual sugar and more concentrated flavors.
The term used is passerillage.
What are some classic examples of late-harvest dessert wines?
- Vendage Tardive wines from Alsace
- Late-harvest Muscats
- California late-harvest Zinfandel
What are some classic examples of dessert wines affected by noble rot?
- Quarts de Chaume
How are dessert wines produced from grapes affected by noble rot?
In order for noble rot to form, the Botrytis cinerea fungus requires moist conditions. This moisture often takes the form of misty mornings or humid conditions due to a proximity to a body of water.
In order to get the beneficial aspects of Botrytis, moist mornings must be followed by warm, dry afternoons. The damp mornings allow the mold to take hold and the drying afternoons allow the grapes to raisinate and their internal water evaporate through the tiny holes the mold created in the skins.
If the afternoons were not warm and dry (but stayed cool and wet), the Botrytis would just develop into legitimate rot, rendering the grapes no good.
How are dessert wines made using the straw mat method?
What are some terms used to refer to this process?
Grapes are laid out on straw mats to dessicate, allowing the grapes to lose water content and concentrate their natural sugars.
Passito in Italy
Asoleo in Spain
What are some examples of straw mat dessert wines?
- Vin Santo (Tuscany)
- Pedro Ximenez (southern Spain)
- Strohwein (Austria)
- Vin de Paille (Jura)
What grapes are used to make Vin de Paille in the Jura?
Chardonnay and Savagnin
What are some examples of sweet red wines?
- Lambrusco Amabile or Dolce
- Brachetto d’Acqui
- Recioto della Valpolicella
- Late-harvest Red Wines
What grape varieties are widely used in the New World for late-harvest red wines?
- Zinfandel (especially in California)
- Petite Sirah
What are some famous examples of fortified dessert wines?
- Vin Doux Naturel
What styles of Sherry will most likely be sweet dessert wines?
- Pedro Ximenez
What styles of Madeira will most likely be sweet dessert wines?
What are some examples of Grenache-based Vin Doux Naturel?
What are some examples of Muscat-based Vin Doux Naturel?