by Paullette Gaudet
Ahhh…youth. Age may dull the memory and sharpen the palate, but there likely shines a time in the sweet, adolescent mists of your past when the word “wine” was just a precursor to the word “cooler.” You’ve of course grown since then, matured and ripened; for one thing, it’s much easier to drink indoors as an adult—no more twist-off caps left behind in public park grass! Your taste buds have also been refined to the point where a sip of your old beloved Mixed Berry cooler might make you...well, wince. Understandably so: that stuff was sweet. But sometimes…in those sweet, adult mists of your mind, you might miss the ease of empirically sugared alcohol.
There is a very adult loophole to the suppressed desire for teenaged sucre: dessert wines. There are sweet sparkling wines that fit this bill, yes—Dolce/Dulce and Moelleux—but for serious sugar-smacking reminiscence there are Gewurztraminers and Rieslings, nuanced German whites made from extra sweet wine grapes, and Moscato, made from ancient Muscat grapes. Sweetness here is induced by halting the fermentation of these grapes before yeast turns the entirety of natural grape sugar into alcohol; killing yeast = the creation of sweet. Not sweet enough for you? Try a Late Harvest Spatlese (more time on the vine results in grapes with more residual sugar), or wines from the more exotic ‘Noble Rot’ (the prized Botrytis Cinerea spore that imparts flavors of ginger and honey) tradition, like the French Sauternes and German Auslese.
Ice Wine (Eiswein) is the ultimate dessert wine — most often made from Riesling or Vidal grapes, this wine is pricey due to the rare conditions required for its existence: a vineyard must freeze, and all harvesting and pressing of grapes must occur while those grapes are still frozen. Ice wine has a thick, syrupy texture and concentrated sweetness best enjoyed in small doses after a rich, spicy meal.