Monday, September 2, 2013

Non-Reviewing Post: Sweet or Dry?

Non-Reviewing Post: Sweet or Dry?

Dear Readers,

When a customer asks for a wine recommendation my first question is always "What do you like?" We all have our own palates and tastes. It gets hard, though, when a customer can't articulate what it is they like. My next question is "Sweet or dry?" This isn't a hard question to answer, but sometimes the wine vocabulary gets in the way. Do you remember this gem?!?

That movie yielded many good quotes, including Liza Minnelli stole our Buick! But I digress. A few weeks ago I asked a customer the sweet or dry question and got "a little bit of both" as the reply. I had the hardest time maintaining my composure. (Yes, Ms. Applegate's character was responding to wet or dry, as in the amount of Vermouth in her cocktail, but the idea remains the same.)

So, what makes a wine sweet? As grapes ripen in the vineyard the sugar content of their juice rises. The riper the fruit, the higher the sugar, and the higher the potential booze (yay!). Yeast convert these sugars into alcohol during fermentation. The sweetness of wine comes from residual sugar -- what's left after the little yeast monsters finish their job. Alternatively, sweetness can come from the addition of sugar or grape juice after fermentation. Most wines of quality are not sweetened, but rather the fermentation is interrupted, leaving some sugar "uneaten" by the yeast.

The following scale of residual sugar can be used as a guide when trying to articulate your wine's sweetness:

Enjoy your wines -- sweet or dry!


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