Until recently, I felt much the same way about sweet wines as I did about that couple pawing at each other on the subway: “Gross”. But if love is unapologetic foreplay in public, then wine must surely be approaching every glass with an open mind.
Which is how I found myself nose to rim with a glass of ice wine over lunch recently. I could hardly help but to be enticed by the perfume of baked apricots, fresh almonds and marmalade that was unfurling from the preciously small desert glass. But my inner wine snob balked. “Isn’t this the stuff of sophomoric delight? Worse yet, isn’t this the nectar of naivité? A sippable incarnation of girlish silliness?”
It only took one small mouthful to quiet those snobbish reservations. On my tongue, the flavor of liquefied peach gummy candy; bright, juicy, sweet, and tangy danced a lovely little number before slinking down the back of my throat like silk.
So this was love: being so pleasantly wrong and stupidly happy. It was kind of like getting a dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day – you’d think that such a clichéd gesture would initiate ruthless eye-rolling, but the pleasure in the whole thing is disarming. There’s a reason it’s done, my friends, and so it is with sweet wines.
One of the key components in any dessert wine worth drinking is a high level of acidity. That acidity is what makes these wines delicious and prevents them from being cloying saccharine messes. Acid is to dessert wines as good sex is to any loving relationship – the key to longevity (or is that communication? Good thing I’m not a relationship blogger I guess…).
This Valentine’s Day, do yourself (and your significant other if you’re so inclined) a favor and arrange a rendezvous with a sweet wine. I’ve rounded up five sweet wines from Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes – a region that’s producing desert wines that easily hold up to the best from abroad. Much easier to get your hands on and less expensive, why not show a little love for the good ole’ USA while you’re at it? Yup. Went there.
Forget Burgundy’s Picks:
Wagner Vineyards Semi-Dry Gewürztraminer 2010 ($12.99) – Not technically a desert wine, this is a good choice for who might be hesitant to go all the way on the first date…with a sweet wine. A floral nose of roses and peonies mingles with notes of lychee and a trace of nutmeg on the finish. That rich, heady perfume carries through to the palate where the wine fills the mouth with a slightly oily texture. The weight of the sugar is gorgeously balanced by the wine’s sparkling acidity, making this an old-world style Gewürz that is an unbelievable bargain for the price.
Lakewood Vineyards 2010 Glaciovinum ($13.99) – This super affordable desert wine is made with a grape called Delaware that some claim is native to North America and others argue is the result of some sexy time between European and native varieties. Either way, Delaware yields some delicious desert wine – I likened the nose to cherry Jolly Ranchers but fancier reviewers call it “sweet tangerine.” Bright, juicy, and just bursting with sweet exotic flavor, this desert wine is quaffable delight.
Treleaven Eis Wine 2008 Late Harvest Riesling ($29.99) – Peaches, marmalade, and a streak of caramel make up the nose of this luscious iced wine. The late harvest grapes are frozen after they’ve been picked, which excludes it from being a true ice wine, but its no less delectable. Rich and juicy, this dessert wine has stunning acidity and perfect balance.
Sheldrake Point Riesling Ice Wine 2008 ($50) – The nose of baked apricots and fresh almonds brings to mind the smell of a Danish. On the palate, it’s really bright, juicy with flavors of white peaches, and even a hint of peach gummy candies. It’s sweet without being cloying at all.
Martini-Reinhardt 2008 Reiesling Trockenbaren ($100) – This wine smells like Hawaii; fragrant mango, frangipani, cocoa butter, and even a whiff of sun tan lotion. It’s bright, juicy, rich and warm – cheaper than a tropical getaway but just as indulgent.