Despite my recent diatribe about the cloyingly sweet and nasty wine from my youth (pronounced ‘yute’ in my best “My Cousin Vinny” manner) I have largely been irritated with people who sneer at any sweet wine.
When did sweet become bad? Our bodies are designed to find sweet appealing. Indeed, almost universally, sweetness has been associated with pleasure. Yet, when it comes to wine sweet has become synonymous with inferiority. But are sweet wines really inferior?
The answer is simple. Like everything else, it depends. Are you drinking Ripple or Canei? Or Chateau d’Yquem?
They all are sweet. Only one is quality wine. Can you guess which?
Ripple and related brands were an outgrowth of Prohibition which led to binge drinking as entertainment (just proof that so-called adults can’t resist snubbing their nose at authority any more than teenagers can). High alcohol fortified wines were produced cheaply and sold relatively (by bootlegging standards) so. Unfortunately, after Prohibition was over, they became the wine standard in the U.S. Because they were inexpensive, they became associated with the poor, the underaged and college students… Wine for people looking for a buzz.
German and Alsatian wines were as varied as any other wine became painted with the “cheap and inferior” label due to the proliferation and marketing of low-quality mass produced wines such as Liebfraumilch (which itself was a venerable German wine produced by the vineyards of the Church of Our Lady in Worms who’s reputation was destroyed by association).
Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Gewurtztraminer all came to be seen as varietals that produced low quality, sweet wines. Do they deserve this reputation? It depends. The German government has changed their standards that designate what a quality wine is. They measure potential alcohol which is a measure of sugar. This does NOT necessarily translate into sweetness. Wines with balanced acid contents may even be perceived of as “dry”. And these new German wines have become very popular.
Too often I have heard people who claim to love wine turn their nose at wines with any lingering sweetness. Why? I suppose because it is not currently in vogue. But this is not always been the case. As for the other sweet wines? Ports, sherries, sauternes, tokaj’s, passito.. These can all be high quality wines who’s merits shouldn’t be judged by its sweetness.
So you don’t like sweet wine? Ok. Drink what you like. You will get no complaint from me. Particularly since you are leaving more of these jewels for me. I will try not to be too smug while you regale me with tales of things that you WON’T even try. After all, you left more for me to enjoy. But don’t denigrate their quality because of your personal opinion.