Why aren't most wines sweet?
For those of us who've developed a taste for the dry (unsweet), acidic (tart) and even austere style of fine table wines, we tend to forget that these flavors aren't always immediately appealing to the uninitiated. Hence, one of the most frequent wine questions I hear is, "I want to like wine, but it's too dry and tart. Can you suggest something sweet?"
The missing link here is that wines are primarily meant to be consumed with food, and long experience has shown that dry wines taste best at the dinner table. Many people think of alcoholic beverages as cocktails, to be sipped alone for enjoyment before dinner. But try this approach with an excellent table wine, and it's not surprising if you get a feeling that something is missing.
But within the world's broad array of table wines there's a wide variety of styles, and all wines aren't uniformly tart or dry.
To sort this out, it's helpful to think of wine in several either-or categories in addition to "red" and "white." One useful category, for instance, is "fruity," and wines made in a fruity style may be more pleasing to people who find bone-dry wines difficult. Another is "tart," a more appetizing word than "sour," distinguishing wines with very high acidity from lower-acid wines that - depending on your point of view - may seem pleasantly mellow, or soft and flabby. (Most wine lovers appreciate wines high in acidity or tartness because this quality tends to make them more palate-cleansing and snappy with food.)
As a quick reference for those looking for wines in specific flavor categories, I've developed the following list, short enough to print out and stick in your wallet for trips to the wine shop or restaurant. Bear in mind that they are only generalizations, with many exceptions. But I hope it will be helpful whether you're trying to find a wine that's fruity and slightly sweet ... or trying to avoid that kind!
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Pleasant Venezie White
I chose this "geographically typical" ("IGT") wine from Northeastern Italy to prep for my coming visit. Because this region (like neighboring Slovenia) has a heritage in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, some of the family names - like "Tiefenbrunner" - seem more German than Italian. Clear pale-gold in color, its crisp and citric in the aroma department, with fresh lemon-lime and honeydew melon aromas. Similar on the palate, it's a bit simple but crisp and pleasant, a good food wine. U.S. importer: Winebow, Inc., NYC; Leonardo Locascio Selections. (March 8, 2001)
FOOD MATCH: A very good match indeed with pork chops pan-grilled with onions and a potato-cauliflower puree.
Chardonnay or Riesling?
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
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Vol. 3, No. 9, March 19, 2001