How Sweet Is Your Wine Really?

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - June 29, 2011
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Over-delivers on flavor

Hawaii’s palate is different from anywhere else. We have a unique blend of cultures and the different cuisines that they bring to our islands. We grow up eating a wide array of styles of food as well as beverages. Much of what we eat and drink, whether we are conscious of it or not, is quite sweet. Take a look at some of the items you might have had in the past few days: shoyu chicken, teriyaki sauces, kal bi, sweet and sour, barbecue sauces, etc. - and those are just entrees.

Here at home, we also grow up drinking sweet. Look at the rows of fruit juices in any grocery store or even at a vending machine. Can you say PoG (Passion, orange and Guava)? even the fairly recent (in the past 15 years) coffee fetishes of locals has us drinking even sweeter things. so it’s no wonder that when many people start drinking wine, they start off with something sweet. or even more so, people will ask for something dry, but when they taste through a bunch of wines, their favorite happens to be the sweet one.

When i started drinking wine, i started off with German riesling. I’m not ashamed. Yes, that beautiful white wine with a tinge of green, full of tropical fruitiness and residual sugar was my first love in wine. the varying degrees of sweetness are amazing. They can range from bone dry all the way to liqueur sweet. Many drinkers start here because it is so refreshing and light. Low in alcohol with sweetness and flavors akin to a tropical fruit juice, it’s easy to like and to drink. For beginners, Moscato d’Asti is another wine with the same flavor profile, if not even fruitier, and with a little bubbly in it.

These are wines everyone knows as sweet.

Deep complexity

There are lots of wines out there that people might think of as dry, but they definitely have sugar and sweetness in them that people in Hawaii easily love. I won’t name any brand names, but there are tons of Chardonnays that fit into this category. One of them rhymes with “menthol action” and it might be the most popular of the bunch. Most think this wine is dry, but it definitely has some residual sugar in it. I could name a dozen Chardonnays with a similar profile that, if you asked an everyday drinker if they thought it was dry, they would say yes.

But that’s only half of it. There are plenty of red wines that fall under the guise of being dry when they still have some residual sugar. Perhaps the most well known “dry red” that isn’t really dry is shiraz. You know that mid-palate ripeness that starts at the front of your tongue then works its way into the back of your palate then sits there even after the wine is already passed through to your stomach? That is actually some sweetness. Not all of them do this, but there is a fair amount. Zinfandels, Petite syrah and even Merlot have it, but in less frequency than shiraz. The popularity of these wines may or may not wane. You may matriculate to dryer styles of wine or not. That’s not the point here. but if you like your wines sweet, just say so. Please don’t confuse your poor sommelier or waiter by telling us that you want something dry but actually drink sweet. thank you. recommendations: 2009 Stonecap Chardonnay ($9) For 9 bucks, this wine completely over-delivers on flavor and texture. It’s ripe, round and super easy to drink. 2004 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino ($59) Wonderfully classic flavors, cherries, autumn flowers, deep complexity and a nobility that really stands out. This is really delicious.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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