Another good choice for a holiday wine gift can be one of the many sweeter styled dessert wines. One of the first wines that come to mind are the Eisweins (Ice wines) from Germany, Austria and Canada. These wonderfully sweet, rich wines are produced from grapes that are naturally frozen on the vine and then pressed before they thaw, not as easy as it sounds. The frozen little balls are pressed into delicious juice that is extraordinarily sweet, with great balance because of the natural acidity. The sugar level of these wines is approximately 26 to 30 percent sugar by weight. The wine can also be extremely long-lived due to the presence of this acidity. Germany may be the most famous producer of these lovely wines, but Canada is now the largest maker of Eisweins in the world. At your favorite wine shop you may also see wines called Vin de Glacier; these are wines from frozen grapes, but cannot be classified as an Icewine, because the grapes are frozen in freezers, not naturally frozen on the vine.
The Bordeaux region in France also produces one of the great sweet wines of the world, Sauternes. Produced in the Graves region of Bordeaux, this wine is comprised primarily from the Semillon grape, but also includes Sauvignon Blanc and some Muscadelle. What makes this wine so special is a naturally occurring mold called Botrytis cinerea, a.k.a. the “noble rot”…which doesn’t sound so appetizing, but believe me, these are some of the finest wines in the world. This mold makes the fruit shrivel, leaving nothing but drops of extremely sweet, concentrated and very delicious juice. These vineyards are sometimes harvested many times, picking only the grapes that are at just the ripeness and “mold” level to produce the best wine. The finest producer of the wines of Sauternes is Chateau d’Yquem, officially classified as Premier Grand Cru. A couple of years ago a few of us visiting Bordeaux took a wrong turn on an access road and found ourselves being escorted off the property by a security car. Seems we took a turn into the vineyards of Ch. d’Yquem…oops. Some other notable and much less expensive Sauternes include Chateau Rieussec, Climens, Guiraud and Lafaurie-Peyraguey. At some time in your life, please treat yourself to a bottle of one of these unbelievable wines.
You will find other great dessert style wines from around the world such as Vin Santo from Italy, Tokaji Aszu from Hungary and Muscat wines from Australia, France and California, to name a few. These are all great gifts, but you can always have a few bottles at your house to enjoy any time the occasion arises.
Ken Amendola, Wine Supervisor, North Florida