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Sweet Wine

Sweet wines belong to one of the most appreciated categories of the boundless world wine production, characterised by the ability to preserve the primordial sweetness of the grape and to enchant for the explosion of flavours and fragrances. The different expressions vary depending on the grape variety and the method of production: the aromatics, prepared from aromatic grapes partially fermented, such as Moscato d'Asti; the late harvests, which exploit the concentrations of sugar due to over-ripening; the passiti or dessert wines, born from bunches dried in the sun on racks or in closed rooms; the muffati and the ice wines, obtained from grapes attacked by noble rot or frozen due to severe climatic conditions. Normally they are a perfect pairing for desserts and blue cheeses, but they can also be enjoyed on their own, thanks to their aromatic richness that can give unique sensations.

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Sweet wines belong to one of the most appreciated categories of the boundless world wine production, characterised by the ability to preserve the primordial sweetness of the grape and to enchant for the explosion of flavours and fragrances. The different expressions vary depending on the grape variety and the method of production: the aromatics, prepared from aromatic grapes partially fermented, such as Moscato d'Asti; the late harvests, which exploit the concentrations of sugar due to over-ripening; the passiti or dessert wines, born from bunches dried in the sun on racks or in closed rooms; the muffati and the ice wines, obtained from grapes attacked by noble rot or frozen due to severe climatic conditions. Normally they are a perfect pairing for desserts and blue cheeses, but they can also be enjoyed on their own, thanks to their aromatic richness that can give unique sensations.

Historical Origins and Curiosities

It is now well established that the first enological expressions in history had to be characterised by a sugary taste, often obtained with the addition of aromas and spices. The specific and exact knowledge of the chemical transformations that take place during fermentation was only achieved in the 19th century, thanks to Pasteur's studies that inaugurated modern enological science. In ancient times, the production process was in fact the prerogative of local farmers and priests who, lacking chemical knowledge, rarely succeeded in transforming all the sugars in the must into alcohol and often flavoured the products with honey and spices.

Early historical and literary evidence is clear: Hittite mythology, Greek stories about Dionysus and the ambrosia drunk by the Olympian gods, Roman treatises and even the Bible. The Ancient Romans, for example, distinguished between mulsum, made with honey, passum, made from dried grapes, and rosatum, a highly spiced drink favoured by Emperor Heliogabalus, who proposed adding chopped pine cones and resin. At that time, in the absence of other enological knowledge, the operation of flavouring red or white wine was also born from the need to improve the product and make it more pleasant. Today this practice is limited to the production of certain niche types, such as Vermouth or Barolo Chinato. This type is now produced using more refined techniques, aimed at enhancing the sugars naturally present in the grapes. Some sweet sparkling wines, such as Moscato, Brachetto and Malvasia di Candia, are in fact the result of incomplete fermentation. Technically they can be defined as partially fermented musts, still rich in sugar and with a low alcohol content.

It is a different matter for passito or dessert wines, such as the Sicilian sweet wine par excellence, the Passito di Pantelleria, made from musts obtained by pressing bunches of grapes left to dry in the sun and wind on traditional racks, according to an ancient Arab tradition. The dehydration of the grapes is in fact responsible for the evaporation of water and the concentration of sugars. The must obtained is therefore limited in quantity, but particularly concentrated. The production of French Sauternes and blended wines is based on the same criterion, the only difference being that the dehydration of the grape and the concentration of sugar is in this case due to the action of a parasitic bacterium, Botrytis Cinerea, called 'noble rot' because it allows elegant and fascinating productions of the highest level. This type differs from liqueur wine, also called fortified wine, because it does not allow the addition of alcohol or other spices. We are talking about one of the oldest types of wine in the history of mankind.



Canonical or Unpredictable Pairings?

Contrary to popular belief, sweet wine lends itself to a huge number of combinations. Common sense seems to allow only the combination with desserts, but it is necessary to establish some differences. Aromatic whites, such as sweet Muscat wine, for example, are very fresh, straightforward and easy to drink, and are particularly suitable with leavened delicacies such as panettone and pandoro. A fruit tart or homemade cake with jam can be enhanced by aromatic reds such as Brachetto d'Aqui, Sangue di Giuda dell'Oltrepò Pavese or Moscato Rosa del Trentino Alto Adige. Chocolate or cocoa-based dishes, such as Sacher cake, tenerina, panforte, panpepato, tiramisù and tronchetti, require more structured combinations, such as a robust and very aged vinsanto or a red passito, perhaps based on Sagrantino or Cannonau. Very intense, full-bodied and concentrated, the passito wines of southern Italy, particularly Sicily, are excellent with the famous local delicacies, such as ricotta cheese or dried or candied fruit.

The Sauternes, like all botrytised wines, is a sweet wine with a nice freshness and not a lot of residual sugar, which is why it is traditionally served with mature cheeses and foie gras. Many sweet Mosel Rieslings, on the other hand, supported by a significant and elegant acidity, are excellent with spicy foods and, for this reason, are served with great success alongside many Oriental specialities, in particular with dishes rich in curry and chilli peppers. In fact, the trend that is gaining momentum, and which has been acclaimed by gourmets all over the world, is to dare to make unexpected and once unthinkable combinations. So, more and more often, Passito di Pantelleria is drunk with blue cheeses such as gorgonzola, Sauternes with oysters and, brace yourselves, Moscato d'Asti with figs and fresh salami. The number of combinations is infinite and there is no limit to the imagination; the important thing is to follow certain criteria such as those of contrast, analogy or compensation.

Buy sweet wines on offer from the Callmewine online store, which offers a huge selection for sale. Discover prices, characteristics, history and combinations and buy the most suitable bottle for any occasion, such as a romantic dinner, a party or a formal gathering.