Aromatic wines are white wines where the flavour and aromas of the wine is that of the grape. These wines tend to be fermented in stainless steel containers at cooler temperatures so that the primary aromas of the fruit are preserved. This category includes the grape varieties and the wines of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.
This is a variety that's always great to judge as there is a huge range of styles from dry crisp aperitif through to big, structured, complex and food friendly.
Most commonly associated with Germany where it has been grown since the 15th century, it is one the finest grape varieties in the world. Riesling is a wine that can last for decades and is able to imprint its own distinctive flavour, regardless of where it is grown. In the 19th and early 20th centuries Riesling was one of the most highly prized wines in the world. Since that time its popularity has waned, which is superb for the consumer as great Rieslings are price-wise within the reach of most of us.
All Rieslings will have great acid and varying degrees of residual sugar from the bone dry to the lusciously sweet, with aromas of citrus, white blossom and a mineral character often described as wet pebbles. The rich sweet dessert wines with high sugar content and matching acidity have the ability to age for many years. This was demonstrated in a recent tasting of old German Rieslings that were from the 1890's and described as 'beautiful, still displaying freshness'.
For food matching think fish, seafood, lighter chicken dishes and cheese. This is a wine that not only meets the occasion of formal dining but is also perfect with fish and chips straight out of the newspaper parcel.
From the French region of Alsace where it has been grown since the Middle Ages, Gewürztraminer has a very easily identified aroma. A great wine to taste ‘blind’ as the rose petal and lychee aromas are so distinctive. The taste is also memorable with a distinctive spicy flavour and sometimes a touch of bitterness, dry to sweet, good acid and very long lasting flavours.
This is a wine style that is often paired with Asian and spicy foods, but will match a wide range of foods with richer flavours, as well as being perfect for a pre-dinner drink.
We describe those rich luscious sweet dessert wines as “Sweet wine” which really doesn’t do justice to these amazing wines. Grapes have always been used to make wine as they have the ability to produce more sugar per litre of juice than any other fruit!
Sweet wines are made from grapes that have so much sugar, that as well as fermenting and producing enough alcohol to make the wine stable, there is still sugar left over to give the wine its luscious sweetness.
The three ways that are used by wine producers to get that much sugar, are all naturally achieved in the vineyard.
- The grapes can be “late harvested” where the grapes are left to over-ripen and shrivel slightly, thereby concentrating and intensifying the sugar level.
- Another method is to allow the fungus Botrytis Cinerea to infest the grape bunches. This fungus helps shrivel the grapes by using the water in the grape juice without altering the sugar. So on an individual berry basis, as the water content is reduced the sugar concentration increases. An attractive side-effect of this is the fungus also imparts a gorgeous apricot and honey character into the resulting wine. These wines are often described as Botrytised or Noble on the label as this form of Botrytis was referred to as the Noble rot.
- The third system used to concentrate the sugar level occurs in very cold climates such as Germany and Canada, where the grapes are left to freeze on the vines and harvested while still frozen. The water in the berry is frozen as ice, but the sugar remains as a thick syrup, which is then pressed off and fermented. These wines are described as Ice Wines.
In all these methods, there is always enough acid to balance the sugar so that the wine tastes luscious but not cloying.
These wines are exquisite with fresh fruit, baked desserts or with liver pate or terrine. If you have never tried a dessert wine, serve them well chilled and try a glass with a very ripe Golden Queen peach, it’s the almost perfect flavour combination.