A fun tasting on the level 4 diploma the other night! After two weeks of solid theory (in which sulfur dioxide seemed to crop up a hell of a lot) it’s fair to say, I needed it.
We learnt about different approaches to making sweet wines, tasted eight and discovered a couple of gems in the process. A few of these fine samples were in the £30 – £40 range for a half bottle, the sort of wines mere mortals don’t get to taste on a regular basis.
We started with a Reciotto Della Valpolicella, an example of a sweet made from late harvest grapes that are then left to, essentially raisin, before being crushed and fermented. I am familiar with Amarone, made in a dry style, but this style of sweet red is a new discovery. Reminded me of few fortified cab francs and cabernet sauvignons tasted in NZ, but with so much more depth, complexity and balance. Dark cherry and raisins dipped in chocolate, and superbly balanced with high acid providing the yin to the Sugar’s yang. Great length, supremely more-ish and a genuine candidate for a black chocolate accompaniment.
We moved swiftly through a Vidal ice wine, to arrive at the late harvest and botrytised wines that Europe seems to do so damn well, and got a feel for the effects of age.
A young chenin blanc from La Loire, with it’s primary fruit and sweetness, a ten year old 5 putonyos Tokaji showing honey, dried fruit, oak and spice yet balanced sweetness, and an ’89 beerenauslese whose sweetness had begun to dissipate, was all wax and polish on the nose and yet showed silky subtle fruit on the palate, extraordinary.
All in all a voyage of discovery across the golden waves of the sweet sea of wine. I have certainly earned my sea legs and hope to be embarking on another journey soon.