Yehuda Shapiro, France:
In this weekend's FT you suggested we need a better term than 'sweet
wine' or 'dessert wine'. In Montpellier the other week I came across a
menu of 'vins moelleux'. Sounded (and tasted) good to me. 'Moelleux' is
a wonderfully French word, so hopefully people would be dissuaded from
attempting to find the English equivalent.
Erica de Graaff-Hunter, Mallorca, Spain:
Re your fascinating article in Saturday's FT on sweet wines: Since I
cannot get any of those mentioned here - and couldn't afford £70 a
bottle, if I could! - can you recommend a comparable Sauternes-type
Spanish wine? I have experimented, but disastrously. They were all
horrid; insipid and sickly sweet. Many thanks in advance, and also for
all the help and advice!
Ignacio Gomez Montejo, Spain:
Very good your column today in the FT. A pity you did not mention
the Spanish Pedro Ximenez sweet wine, which at a typical price of 8
euros a bottle is probably much better value than most of the others
Phil Roberts, Singapore:
Your article in this weekend's FT on sweet whites was timely: these
versatile wines are seriously undervalued by most wine drinkers. The
producers have a lot of work to do. Wine drinkers need to be made aware
that fine botrytised whites bear as much likeness to sugared white
confections as, well, fine wine to plonk.
A few years ago I was fortunate to dine at Ch Nairac. The fact that
it was a glorious summer's evening helped no doubt, but was only
incidental. The meal consisted of four courses:
It doesn't sound like a very substantial meal, but it was as filling
as it was delicious. With each course a different vintage of the
Château's wine was served - and each matched its dish wonderfully well.
If these wines are going to be popularised, some organised tastings
with matching food will be essential. It will be a long haul, but the
producers have everything to gain.
David Schildknecht, US:
A propos nomenclature, despite the many guttural and mongrel
expressions that the German wine language has inflicted on wine
enthusiasts, I find the term Edelsüss both euphonious and useful. I
think, then, that we could do worse than adopt the English expression
"nobly sweet" in referring to sweet wines produced through the action
of botrytis. Certainly the term "dessert wine"
has been misleading and harmful as a means of calling attention to such wines.
A propos the degree to which such luminaries as Lur Saluces, Müller,
Kracher and Szepsy might be out of touch with the vast majority of
consumers, the fact is that these are among the few outstanding
vintners in their respective regions whose wines have a well-recognized
value as collectibles. And self-styled collectors are usually
considerably more creative in their hunt for the rare and highly rated
libation than they are in employing it at table.
I don't wish to minimize the value of any of these gentlemen's great
wines for purposes of vinous meditation, that is to say served solo.
In fact, most of the bottles of low alcohol, rivetingly complex
Scharzhofberger I have personally drained, whether on the Saar or at
home in the States, were unaccompanied. And anyone who could have
found something missing on those occasions would probably also bemoan
the lack of continuo or orchestral parts in Bach's violin partitas.
Still, it is vital for the survival of nobly sweet wine culture - perhaps
not of a tiny fringe of illustrious vintners, but certainly for any
talents who follow in their wake - that consumers develop the
imaginative habit of serving them in the widest appropriate range of
circumstances and culinary settings. There have surely never in recent
history - if ever - been so many vintners conscientiously farming the
ideal terroir for nobly sweet grapes, then making the sacrifices and
employing the care necessary to transform these into great wine.
Indeed, it is hard to name a major growing region for such wines -
whether the western Loire, Tokaj, Burgenland, or the
Mosel and its tributaries - that has not undergone something of a
sweet wine renaissance in recent decades. But from observing these
regions - as I do first hand every year - I fear that their qualitative
revival will be short-lived unless the drinking habits of wine lovers
worldwide change to accommodate these wines and reward the hard,
meticulous labours of vintners who wait for and work with botrytis.
Ideal "wines of meditation" these nobly sweet elixirs may well be,
but in life's maelstrom, I doubt I am the only person with little time
for getting in touch with my inner self or entering a state of wonder.
As a matter of fact, for me, time spent in the kitchen or at table is
the closest I come to either, which only redoubles my determination to
employ the fruits of noble terroir and rot on such occasions.
Your list is a good start, Jancis, but many other food groups will
reward exploration. Not just lobster, as Lur Saluces suggested,
frequently works well here, but also other shellfish that are both
inherently briney and sweet. Tokaj is locally successfully paired with
oily local sturgeon or even catfish. In these instances and in fact in
general, it is as much how the food is prepared as it is any inherent
affinity of food and wine families that makes for a synergistic pairing
on the palate, and the incorporation of buttered pastry or of fruits,
or the caramelization of ingredients can lead many dishes in a
botrytis-friendly direction. Try a nobly sweet wine to complement the
bitterness and nuttiness of greens and oils along with a dried or
otherwise concentrated fruit component in a salad, and you might decide
you have happened on the one course in a meal most likely to suit such
unctuous libations. (Around my house, a salad is often the only "other"
course we have time for, and nobly sweet rieslings or
chenins are frequent favourites.) Having said it's more a matter of
preparation than ingredients though, I almost forgot to note that
any rich concentration of mushrooms in a dish bids fair to salute its
distant fungal relative in the glass.
Finally, don't ever overlook nor think it unduly profligate or
blasphemous to pour a bit of nobly sweet wine into your sauces or
incorporate them into sorbet or ice cream. A little bit can go a
magically long way.
Lots of food for thought there, and much appreciated it is too. I
would never have thought of salads with sweet wine but obviously must
And I like the way that the question from Mallorca is so neatly
answered from the Spanish mainland. I tasted a VERY clever dark,
strong, sweet wine recently. Sticky Pudding Wine is a Pedro
Ximenez from sherry producers Barbadillo packaged to appeal to the
Haagen-dazs market rather than the average sherry drinker. It's
extremely sweet and almost syrupy but has the heartening green rim of a
wine kept for years in wood (an average of four or five, according to
the producers). So the price tag of £6.49 per snazzy half-litre is
pretty good. There's just the slightest hint of astringence on the
finish to keep the tasting experience a lively one. I'm told that for
the moment the only place this clever wine is available is at 200 top
Sainsbury's stores in the UK. Certainly Ignacio G M is absolutely right
that sweet sherry is probably the best-value sweet wine in the world
today. Even better value, and almost as well packaged if not labelled, is Marks & Spencer's Rich Cream Sherry
from Williams and Humbert which costs £4.99 usually and is on special
offer at just £3.99 03 nov-30 nov. This is 17 per cent alcohol to
Sticky Pudding's 19 per cent - it's not a PX syrup but an old oloroso
sherry from a solera established 20 years ago and the makers claim the
average age of the wine is more than 10 years. What a silly price then!
(See Peñín's best-value wines of Spain.)
I would add to Ms. Erica de Graaff-Hunter these already recommended
by you, the sweet wines of Chivite, especially Coleccion 125 from
Navarra, and Molino Real from Telmo Rodriguez. His simpler (and less
expensive) wine Moscatel M.R. was good enough to be selected for the
gala dinner in the Spanish royal wedding. I think it is amazing how the
Coleccion 125, a wine made with Muscat, resembles a good sauternes.