Most wine aficionados, wine geeks and the pinky lifters look at sweet wines as “syrupy, sweet little nonentities that should not be taken seriously” and dismiss them as undrinkable trash.
Unfortunately, in some cases, they happen to be right. This country, whose citizens are known to have a monstrous sweet tooth, has been subjected to some incredibly poor sweet wines that have nothing at all to recommend them except they are inexpensive, slightly alcoholic grape-flavored soda pop without the bubbles.
Enter Bordeaux, France, the ancestral home of many of the world’s finest wines where some Bordeaux vintners also make sweet wines. These wines are so popular in Europe (specifically in Russia) that we rarely see them here.
Often called dessert wines, these wines display all of the charm and character that made the classic Bordeaux wines famous, and are again appearing on our shores. Might I suggest that, in these days of political correctness, we drop our sweet wine prejudice and give these wines a fair trial. Just so you know, Château d’Yquem, a Bordeaux sweet wine, was awarded the highest rating a Bordeaux wine can achieve, premier cru supérieur. And it sells for $250 a bottle.
Let’s start by dismissing one very important point: It is illegal in every wine producing country of the world to add sugar to a wine to sweeten it or to increase its alcohol content. In ancient Germany, the penalty was death.
Wines are made sweet in Bordeaux by the growers taking the gamble of losing the entire crop to frost or disease and leaving the grapes on the vine longer to have the natural sugars enhanced by a good fungus called botrytis cinerea. The botrytis not only enhances the grape sugars, but also adds its desirable and distinctive flavor and aroma to the finished wine.
Château Dauphiné Rondillon 2015 750 ml ($42)
This wine, as do all of the Bordeaux sweet wines, displays a golden color that is almost hypnotizing in its shimmering beauty and definitely invites the first sip. The aroma is outstanding, displaying wild flowers, citrus and summer stone fruits.
On the palate, the wine presents peaches, honey, creme brulee, tangerine and the unmistakable pleasant flavor from the botrytis. These all continue on to the finish where they seem to last indefinitely. This is a prime example of a Bordeaux sweetie and may change your mind about sweet wines forever.
2019 Château La Hargue 375 ml ($15)
This wine presents a brilliant golden color and an attractive aroma of exotic fruit, citrus and vanilla.
The aroma precedes nonstop to the flavor where they are enhanced by the sweetness. The finish, I believe will impress you with its extraordinary length. If you believe that all sweet wines taste the same, the 2019 Château La Hargue will change your mind.
2018 Château de Palissades Tanesse 375 ml ($15)
Another melody on a similar tune, but this one has incorporated the Muscadelle grape into the blend for added interest, depth and color. This is truly a summer wine as it very prominently displays the aromas of summer flowers and the light-colored summer fruits.
There are also hints of citrus, such as tangerine and grapefruit, which carry onto the flavor and then to a fresh and fruity, almost overpowering finish. This wine could be considered the perfect ambassador for sweet Bordeaux wines.
Château la Rame 750 ml ($35)
This wine is the most kaleidoscopic of this quartet presenting an ever-changing experience. Here, too, the wines share the similar flavors and aromas as do all Bordeaux sweet wines but present the flavors in a different order making for even greater interest. It is the summer fruits that take preference over the floral aromas. These carry through to the flavor and are even amplified in the finish. This wine, as are all of the others presented here, can prove to be the perfect end to a perfect meal.
Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at email@example.com.
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