Just desserts...

Flagship Wines 30.07.15

Flagship Wines 30.07.15 - Credit: Archant

Dessert wines for those who have yet to try them are just sweet wines and a very underrated style of wine, but for those who’ve tried and enjoy them they are much more than that.

They are all complex, luscious and rich, never cloying with lingering honeyed flavours.

Not only are they great to drink on their own or to accompany desserts and cheeses, to pour over summer fruits but they are delicious when paired with rich patés!

The category of dessert wines or stickies as many down under winemakers love to call them are in a class of their own.

To produce these wines the grapes are left on the vines long after picking of the rest of the harvest.

During this extra time on the vine the grapes ripen fully, becoming much sweeter and in some regions the autumnal climates with cooler damper conditions expose the grapes to conditions that promote the development of botrytis cinerea or noble rot.

Grapes affected by this can have skins split by the rot’s growth and some of the juice will seep out and be lost.

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In the small amounts of juice left the flavours will become very concentrated and develop the honeyed nuttiness typical of botrytis affected wines.

Growers anxiously watch the development of the grapes and will pick at a time when there is still some natural grape acidity to balance the richness of the finished wines as good desserts are never cloying but elegantly luscious!

Pudding wines as they are often called fall into different categories. There are the classic stylish wines with elegant yet luscious flavours such as the classic Sauternes from Bordeaux with names to conjure with including Ch Y’Quem, Rieussec and Filhot that often have the honeyed botrytis notes as do wines from nearby Monbazillac; and Saussignac in Bergerac.

As only very small quantities are made from reduced juice the shrivelled grapes they can often be very expensive but worth it and many are in half bottles too!

The Loire Valley is home to many wines made from the Chenin Blanc grape which produces both dry and sweet wines.

The sweet ones are full of honeyed apricot notes together with an underlying thread of acidity giving them a vibrant note too. This makes them a great match with fruit puddings especially apple pies etc and also goats cheese. Look out for Coteaux du Layon and Bonnezeaux wines – a name to conjure with!

The Antipodean stickies are often described as ‘nectar’ as the Semillon and more unusually the Viognier grapes used ripen fully in the hot summer sun and produce very rich luscious wines that are great with soft cheeses and pavlovas etc.

De Bortoli, based in New South Wales, make the archetypal botrytised Semillon stickie, that is great with Christmas pudding and ages well too gaining depth and complexity over time like the great German sweet Rieslings.

Chilean wine producers make lovely light yet opulent dessert wines including Late Harvest Muscat and Late Harvest Sauvignon that are great value at only £7.99 for a half bottle.

Look out for Recioto and vin santo from Italy, Tokaji from Hungary, and ‘riche’ style Champagnes as well liquid Christmas cake aka Pedro Ximenez sherry not forgetting the red dessert wines that are naturally sweet such as Rasteau from the south of France that is really the only dessert wine to match well with chocolate due to its lovely mouth filling texture.

Something for everyone and every pudding, cheese or pate too or simply sip and enjoy on their own.