Thursday, August 20, 2009

JW Morris Gewurz--Tasty! And Why Hostile to Sweet?

As I mentioned early, the J.W. Morris Chenin Blanc I picked up at Trader Joe's for $2.99 was a very happy surprise, very tasty and refreshing.

As suggested by my equally cheapskate friend, Jan Roberts, I finally located the J.W. Morris Gewurztraminer at Trade Joe's (I had to ask a clerk--you know how we guys hate to ASK). It was also $2.99 (!) and the verdict: YUM!

It's off-dry -- actually, it's sweet, which is JUST the way I like my Gewurz!

Which makes me wonder: Why is there such hostility to sweet wines? Anybody making a wine that can sometimes be sweet, such as Gewurz, Reisling, or rose, feels compelled to point out that their wine is DRY! NOT SWEET!

They'll even give you the specific residual sugar content to PROVE that it's NOT SWEET! NO, NOT AT ALL!

If you think you taste the forbidden sweetness, it's because of the wonderful fruit they've managed to retain in the wine. That's fruit there, buddy -- not sweetness!

Even a wine that is indisputably sweet is described as "off dry." Never as "a little sweet."

Yet another crime to lay at the feet of White Zinfandel, no doubt.... A hundred times I've had to endure my (non-wine-professional) friends airily announce that they don't like sweet wines.

When pressed, they often reference their youthful indiscretions with White Zin.

Saying you don't like sweet flavors in wine because you drank White Zin when you were a kid is idiotic. It's like saying you don't like red wines because you've tried Mogen David, or Thunderbird. Or that you don't like white wine because you were once offered a Carl Rossi boxed Chard. ("Only once, and I didn't swallow.")

Idiotic. Any experienced wine drinker can point to sweet wines guaranteed to knock the socks off anyone with taste buds and a pulse. When I point out that some of the most expensive wines in the world are "stickies," people are dumbfounded -- and don't believe they'd like them anyway.

But try whites like Thomas Coyne's Sweet Emilie Chardonnay Port, or Fenestra Winery's Sweet Viognier, and you won't be turning up your nose at sweet whites ever again. For reds, try any of many red ports, or if like me you don't usually like port because of the neutral spirits added to them, set your sights on some of the late-harvest reds, such as late-harvest Zinfandel or Cabernet. Rosenblum Cellars and JC Cellars make terrific examples of the art. You'll swoon.

As to Rose's, the recent RAP rose-wine festival in San Francisco illustrates my point exactly. Many of the makers, anxious to avoid being linked to the notorious White Zin, make a point that their wines are dry, dry, dry. Most are, of course, but the French importers had lined up their two-dozen roses along a table, on display from left to right, from driest to sweetest -- and it was an amazing education in the range of roses! The dry ones were wonderful, the off-dry ones were wonderful, and the lightly sweet ones were WONDERFUL!

Please, before you next dismiss sweetness as a flavor characteristic worthy of fine wines -- educate yourself beyond the cheap sweet junk wines of your youth (or the influence of your friends), and give you taste buds a chance to discover yet another world of wine you've overlooked.

Then, the next time you say you don't like sweet wines, you'll at least know what you're talking about. Not that I'll believe you anyway....


Anonymous said...

I like sweet wines..always have. Charby makes a lovely 26 year old late harvest SB...delicous. Kelley and Young maket a "garnet rose" which is, to perturb you, "off dry." It's sort of a cross between a white zin and a rose. Hartwell makes a late harvest Cab. I could go on and on. Bottom line...I like sweet wines and I'm not afraid to admit it.

Tony said...

HI Mac....I work at Fenestra Winery. Great place. I thought maybe your blog readers would be interested in how we make our Sweet Viognier. From a wine maker's prospective, (I'm not the Winemaker. That's Brent Amos.) it's pretty cool. We press the Viognier as if we were making a dry wine, but we put the juice in a big dairy vat that we have. It's very well insulated and we can drop the temprature quite low on it. We innoculate the juice with yeast and start the fermentation process. We lower the temperature so the fermentation is slow. When the brix, or remaining sugar, which starts out at about 24+-%, gets to about 8%, we really kick on the chiller and drop the temperature of the wine to the point that the yeast are no longer active and the fermentation stops. We then filter the wine to remove the yeast. The resulting wine has about 6% sugar and is low in alcohol, about 11% or so. I worked in the cellar for the 08 harvest and found this to be a very cool, literally, way to make a sweet wine.