Deliciously sweet wines and how to savor them from our "Wines & Spirit" columnist Rabbi Oren J. Postrel.
These days it's still all about the body. The kind of body that's not always hard and unaproachably athletic, but a body that's graceful, resilient, and strong. We're living longerâ€”many of us in good healthâ€”and hopefully we fill our days by doing meaningful things with the life we're given. Spirit is part of the total body and, for a lot of us maintaining the total body is almost an obsession. Maybe we're not all athletes, but having a body that is responsive to challenge, change and varietyâ€”now that's living.
Perhaps we maintain a healthy lifestyle so our body will be good to us and we'll see the next phase of life. Or, so we can heal and experiment with life and activity, because life and body is about change and experimentation. And the same holds true with the wine we drink. Change and experimentation is what makes a wine drinker sensitive and savvy. â€œBody"? is one of those terms in wine talk that defines how a wine feels in the mouth. For example: is it like water or syrup? does a particular wine give me a sensation of extra virgin olive oil or feel more like apple juice does? That's â€œbody"? when it comes to figuring out wine. There are immense, thrilling, huge, elegant wines with mouth-filling flavor and there are thinner, lean, graceful and restrained wines that leave a lot to the imaginationâ€”both like a beautiful woman.
The latest rage in wines you should know about is the new productions of complex sweet wines that are late-harvest wines or â€œstickies"? as the Aussies like to call them. Dessert wines frequently come in elongated 500ml bottles or smaller, but the wines inside have a voluptuous and sensual body all their own. Dine out frequently? Consider a sweet wine or a â€œsticky,"? as a fantastic way to finish a meal without an extravagant massive dessertâ€”it will be the dessert itself. Sweet wines have flavor characteristics and textures unlike any other wines. Try a glass of sweet wine and it could be like melons, honey, and caramel in a glass. What could be more sensual? Winemakers put oomph into these wines, but not the kind of unrestrained clobber that makes you want to brush your teeth and get rid of tooth decaying sugar. No, these wines are full, yet modest. They are huge flavors while allowing you to make up your own mind because of their finesse. Like urban, sensitive, inventive people, dessert wines have something up their sleeve that is always perceptive, challenging and to the point.
Here are some of my favorites:
A very light and transparent wine. Lavender in color and some flavor, and packs so much stone-fruit flavor. Plummy, too. A low alcohol level of 9.1% keeps your body sharp so you can have more than a sip and still be ready for Yoga in the morning. Great on a leaf-peeping autumn hike. Great with heirloom tomato sauces and grilled fish. This Black Muscat is from an up and coming wine area (AVA) called the Sierra Foothills and they're interested in cultivating some other very interesting grape varieties such as Tempranillo, and Verdelho, both Iberian peninsula natives with spice and flowers coming up from your glass.
Honey, peaches, and now roses and strawberries. No, winemakers don't put all that stuff in wine, that's the beauty of making great wine. It leaves you with so much to think about in your glass. Never heard of it? Yes, this relative of the Muscat grape has those precise flavors but this Late Harvest Aleatico really does bring roses and berries to your nose and your palate. Sexy, full bodied, pow! Like its Italian cousin Brachetto, it is sweet but not soda-pop sweet, has the every so slight fizz but a mouth-filling body of a dessert wine. Yes, this girl is restrained and elegant, just as we'd all like to be. And not just lean, but rare! Just 83 hand bottled cases! They also make a great Chardonnay called Abandon. Watch these guys from the Sebastiani familyâ€”they make powerful, elegant, full-bodied wine.
The '05 you could drink with garlicky antipasti. It's fresh and zingy and makes spicy food really sing. For the Late Harvest, the Honigs allow the grapes to hang on the vines for that long hot Napa summer developing natural sugars then oh Lordy, they pick them and it's as if the honey bees themselves (which they raise on their property) took them to the crusher. The wine is that honeyed. It gives you a soft honey sip at first and then follows it with a blast of dried apricots then a grapefruity finish. Talk about athletic flavors, and still a curvy voluptuous finish. Find it. Try it. Pour it over someone else's um, dessert. They've been doing it since 1997. It's quite a mega-body.