Weaning yourself off sugar…in wine


I get approached by many of my customers who are being told by their physicians and the media to drink more red wine due to the heart healthy, cholesterol lowering, health benefits. The problem is they can’t stomach the taste of any red wine as they have been drinking sweet Rieslings or Moscatos and White Zinfandels.  The analogy I give them is that #1- just like anything in life, you often can’t just take a giant leap or discontinue cold turkey–something like a medication, for example–without taking baby steps. #2- Don’t succumb to peer pressure. When you are out enjoying your Riesling or White Zinfandel and one of your friends is drinking a big red, dry wine, they always try to force people into tasting their wine saying “Try it you’ll like it,” or “Just take a sip it’s delicious.” You take a sip to be polite and then you make a face like you are having a seizure and the next day you run to your local wine shop and buy a case of Moscato or Riesling. Now, don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I love a good Asti or our Costarossa Sangue di Guida as I love all wines. It is my job and my passion. But if you are interested in getting to the point of enjoying the taste of drier red wines you can’t just go from years of drinking sweet wines to a Cabernet Sauvignon….baby steps.

I don’t say you are going to LOVE my wine suggestion, but you will be able to tolerate it and develop a taste for a wine with less sugar content if we reduce the sweetness level just a tiny bit at first. In case you didn’t know: sugar converts to alcohol. If the fermentation process is halted, there is residual sugar and the end result is lower alcohol. On all still wines the rule of thumb is, the lower the alcohol, the sweeter the wine. The only way to get higher alcohol levels is to drink fortified wines like Ports and Sherries where the wines are fortified, not with calcium or vitamin D, but with alcohol. The average bottle of dry red wine has between 13-14.5 % alcohol. The average Asti or Moscato d’ Asti or Riesling has between 5 -7%…all residual sugar. Quite a jump, so for many people, it’s easier to make if they aim for a halfway point.

Here is my “weaning program”: Go to your local ABC Fine Wine and Spirits and ask for a bottle of Skyleaf Riesling from the Waipara Valley in New Zealand. It’s the perfect first baby step. A grape that people who adore sweet wines are familiar with but made in a less “sugarfied” way and with 12.5 % Alcohol. You will get flavors of white peaches with a finish of pink grapefruit and a clean finish. By your 3rd bottle, I bet you that you will not only tolerate it, but you will love it. Next we would go to maybe a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Blanc until we slowly but surely can introduce Pinot Noir on to your former sweet-wine-only palate. After a few weeks of grape varietals like Pinot Noir…we move up to Merlots and then big dry red wines. After 2 months I suggest trying one bottle of whatever really sweet wine you used to drink.  You may still enjoy them, but probably not as your first choice for an every day wine (they’re still excellent when paired with the right foods, of course). Remember, wean yourself off of the sugar slowly with baby steps and soon you will be enjoying the taste and the health benefits of red wines….doctor’s orders!

Guest blogger Larry Baker is the wine consultant in our Pembroke Pines store. You can see more of his wine musings on his website as well, at www.larrythewineguy.net.

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