Jeff’s Corner 2-22-27


Buenes Noches, y Bon Soir

First, a very nice to see you, Sarah Keller last Thursday at the vineyard. Somehow, you just may have read more Jeff’s Corners than I have actually written! Enjoy the Heath wines you purchased, they are something else!

An important part of our job behind the tasting bar is to determine our guests’ palate so we can make suggestions and direct them to wines they will enjoy. This isn’t always easy, partly because there are so many confusing wine terms that mean different things to different people.

It begins with “dry” and “sweet”. We all know “dry” just means that all the fermentable sugars in the grape juice have been converted to alcohol during fermentation. Dry is the opposite of sweet, but it’s easy to relate tannins to dryness in reds, or acid to dryness in whites.

It gets even more confusing when we hear phrases like “off-dry”, “semi-dry”, and “semi-sweet”. These terms have to do with wines that contain “residual sugar”, which is sugar left behind when fermentation is prematurely stopped before it is all converted to alcohol.

Residual sugar (RS) is measured as a percentage. A sweet wine with a residual sugar of 2% has 20 grams of sugar per liter of wine, one with .2% RS has 2 grams/liter.

A wine, and we’re talking almost exclusively about white wine, is considered off-dry between .6 and 1.4% residual sugar. A wine in this range has a slight perception of sweetness.

Wines that are semi-dry are between 1.5 and 3% residual, and a wine between 3 and 5% are semi-sweet. A wine above 5% is considered sweet, and some can be VERY sweet. “Select” and “special select” late harvest wines can be as high as 35% RS or higher.

Late harvest wines are exactly that, wines made from grapes picked late in the growing season. They have a high sugar content, and grapes for “select” late harvest wines must have a minimum of 28% sugar, while “special select” must have at least 35%.

Some of the most coveted, and costly, wines in the world are late harvest dessert wines. Sauternes, from southern Bordeaux, are made from Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon; often both. The great German Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, , and Eiswein are made from Riesling. Gewürztraminer, a much too neglected grape, also produces world-class late harvest wines.

Okay, that’s too many big words; we’ll see you next time…