Good Sweet Wine

malvasiaThere are lots of people who like sweet wines. And there’s no need to turn up your nose at them. In fact, if you look at the entire U.S. wine drinking population, you’ll probably find that there are more sweet lovers than dry lovers.  I have absolutely no statistics to back up this assertion, but I know that White Zinfandel was for several years the country’s best-selling wine. And I know that lots of folks come into  my store looking for something that’s “not bitter.” That’s why I’ve made a point of finding good sweet wines. And yes, there are many good sweet wines.

By “good,” I mean wines that are naturally sweet and naturally made, instead of the drek you find in the grocery store that’s made with added sugar, artificial flavors, and God knows what. The Italians are responsible for the world’s best collection of naturally sweet wines. Moscato, a white wine, is right at the top of the list, and there are some reds that are also light-bodied and delicately sweet.  These wines usually say “Dessert Wine” on the back, but that’s too limiting. Folks who don’t have a palate for dry wines will love these before dinner, or even during dinner. It’s way too sweet for us dry wine lovers, but hey — whatever floats your boat!

The one I’m writing about today is San Giulio Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco. Malvasia is the name of the grape, and it’s made in the traditional style for these wines: fermented only until about 6% alcohol is reached, and then hit with cold temperatures that bring it down close to freezing. This kills the yeast and stops fermentation. After a period of cold storage, it’s warmed just enough to restart fermentation in a sealed vessel. This produces a slight spritz, along with the natural sweetness.

What you’ll see in the glass is a pale red sparkler that has a fruity nose that suggests currants or cherries. On the palate, it’s just pure fun. The flavors remind me of strawberries and more cherries, but light-bodied like strawberry Lambic instead of heavy like strawberry jam. Because there’s no added sugar, there’s a very smooth finish and no aftertaste.

I love  this with chocolate-y desserts, because it’s not heavy like most after-dinner wines. And it doesn’t need to be complicated: just plate up a fresh, chewy brownie, drop some fresh berries on top, and then sip, chew and enjoy.


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