C4 Deli Resident Bartender, Wine Purchaser and Texas native James Wall is the person you want on your best buddy list. Look out for his ‘red and white’ insight every Wednesday on ourWino Wednesday: Ask A Wino Q&A.
Q: What makes a wine sweet?
A:The sweeter the wine the more table sugar was added to the bottle, correct? No. While, this is true of some wines, there are multiple methods to creating sweet wine, and directly adding sugar is not at the top of the list. In these circumstances sugar may have been added to the juice to offset wines with especially acidic grapes, this method is called Chaptalization, and is usually regulated by both the classification of the wine as well as by country and location. Another “interventionist” method is to add unfermented grape juice to the wine, very similar to Chaptalization.
The other methods used for making wine sweeter utilize the existing natural sugars found in the grapes themselves. There are several different natural methods that can be used. Stopping the fermentation process before it has finished its cycle can do wonders in enhancing the grapes sweetness because the yeast has yet to have consumed all the fructose and glucose and more “fruit” flavor is retained.
In contrast, late-harvest is a sweetening process in which the grapes stay on the vine beyond the normal harvest season. As the grapes begin to dry up, almost raisin-like, the sugars of the grape begin to concentrate. If grapes are left to freeze on the vine, this also concentrates the juices and makes for a sweeter grape. Finally, there is also a process called “passato” in which although grapes are harvested on time, they are left to dry up on mats for many months until they become raisins, which are then pressed into juice and fermented to create a very sweet wine.
No matter which process is used to create a sweet wine, I personally need to continuously remind myself that even though some wines may taste like child fruit juice, drinking a full bottle will still result in a hangover.