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I only like dry wines.


Rebel Rose
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The discussion in Wine 101: Tannin reminds me of an experience I had a few years ago . . .

An elderly lady announced to me firmly and loudly that she "only likes dry wines." I poured the chardonnay. She immediately retched into the spit bucket and declared, "Oooh, that's sour!"

Where did this snobbery come from? I encounter visitors frequently who pass over anything 'sweet.' Even if our viognier is completely dry (and it isn't always), tasters will turn up their noses if they even suspect it is. God forbid I should try to pour a dessert wine. I've actually had people snatch their glasses away, leaving me in the foolish position of pouring wine on the table.

With the holidays coming, we should probably have a 'Fabulous Dessert Wine' thread, with food pairing (ala Jim) but what about all those wonderful wines that have just a trace of residual sugar? Why are American wine drinkers so sucraphobic?

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Why are American wine drinkers so sucraphobic?

Little experience with "regular" wines, no less dessert wines. Bad memories of Boone's Farm Apple Wine? :raz:

With the holidays coming, we should probably have a 'Fabulous Dessert Wine' thread, with food pairing (ala Jim) but what about all those wonderful wines that have just a trace of residual sugar?

This is an excellent idea... :smile:

Katie M. Loeb
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People are afraid of wine with any residual sugar for the same reason they afraid of any sort of rose. People seem to think off-dry wines and pink wines are less serious for some reason. Some people never get over that, but then again there are an awful lot of people who say 'I only drink red wine!'. Whatever, more for the rest of us.

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Wine is considered a sophisticated drink, something for the highly educated, something for the elite. Most people have little understanding of how to choose a wine or what to look for, even where to find this information. So the idea that dry=good wine is taken as gospel. The cheapest, basest alcoholic beverages available are all highly sweetened (think of Night Train and the like), so it would seem natural to try to get as far away from the bottom of the heap as possible. Sweet is seen as childish, the sort of thing young people drink before they have really tasted the good stuff.

Kathy

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Now, on the other hand, I can not tell you how many times customers "talk dry" but drink sweet. They all say, I want a good dry Chardonnay. I ask, name your favorite, and invariably, the answer is "you know, dry like Kendall Jackson"....KJ is the sweetest chard on the market.

but you are also correct, in that I cannot for the life of me get customers to try a wonderful complex Riesling spatlese...

cheers,

Rob

Edited by RobInAustin (log)
"When I lived in Paris, and champagne was relatively cheap, I always enjoyed a half-bottle in the middle of the morning and another half-bottle at six or so in the evening. It did me a tremendous amount of good." - Gerald Hamilton.
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"you know, dry like Kendall Jackson"....KJ is the sweetest chard on the market.

Dover Dan once tested KJ in a lab, and indeed it does have hefty residual sugar. Which is not to say that it isn't a silky, consistent, fruity production. But hey, it's not dry . . .

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there was a restaurant that i spent some time at helping the owner out for a while. he'd often get asked by a customer if the wine was dry, and he'd pass on that question to me, since i was pretty familiar with the small list. i would always answer "yes", regardless of the wine, because that's what the customer wanted to hear. as rob suggests, they really didn't know what they were talking about. what they liked was big fruity zinfandels and oaky chardonnays.

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Last night I opened up a bottle of Savenniers -- a little-known Loire Vally wine which I stumbled across and became a great fan of, for its price and its quality -- to sip before dinner an almost spit out the first swallow. "Oh shit, it's a dessert wine." Sure enough, there on the label, in red, was the word "doux" French for "sweet." So we opened another bottle and saved the Savenniers for dessert -- a rare treat for a casual Sunday night meal. I'm a big fan of the "stickies," as the Aussies call them (my initial reatcion sprang from surprise, not dislike) and I find that most people, though initially skeptical, come around very quickly once they taste a really good dessert wine.

I think Tejon's post is spot on, and that wine angst also explains why people cling to the "red wine with meat, white wine with fish" rule as though Baron Rothchild was going to rise from the dead and skewer them on a corkscrew if they dare pour a merlot with their trout. I also had a friend who almost had a heart attack when I asked the waiter to ice down what I considered to be a too-warm bottle of cabernet.

Of course, the truth is that people on the whole prefer wines to be a little sweet. In blind tastings most prefer "extra-dry" champagne to "brut," which is dryer than the extra dry; the massive popularity of Kendall-Jackson chardonnay is based in part on the fact that it's a little sweeter than other, similarly priced chardonnays.

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With the holidays coming, we should probably have a 'Fabulous Dessert Wine' thread, with food pairing (ala Jim)

Eagerly awaiting! Unless...somebody has a good 'intro' dessert wine they'd like to suggest in the meantime!

I like sweeter wines (As well as dry)...does that make me a bad person?? :wink:

Matt Robinson

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I like sweeter wines (As well as dry)...does that make me a bad person??  :wink:

Yes. Bad. Very Bad. :wacko:

I'm kidding, you know! I LOVE sweet wine...

Edited by Carolyn Tillie (log)
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Eagerly awaiting! Unless...somebody has a good 'intro' dessert wine they'd like to suggest in the meantime!

Bonny Doon's "Vin de Glaciere" and Ceretto Moscato d'Asti, both under $20, should be easy to find, and great dessert wines for newbies. Also, if you can find the Robert Mondavi Moscato Bianco, another good one, but harder to track down.

Cheers,

Rob

Edited by RobInAustin (log)
"When I lived in Paris, and champagne was relatively cheap, I always enjoyed a half-bottle in the middle of the morning and another half-bottle at six or so in the evening. It did me a tremendous amount of good." - Gerald Hamilton.
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Eagerly awaiting! Unless...somebody has a good 'intro' dessert wine they'd like to suggest in the meantime!

There's always Savenniers. :biggrin:

Actually, I wasn't blown away by the Savenniers as a sweet wine (thought their dry wines are excellent).

Others will know better than I, but I find Muscat de Beumes de Venice, from a very swell section France's Rhone Valley -- just down the road from Vacqueyras and Gigondas -- is almost always good and sometimes extraordinary, and a very good value.

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I love the German sweet wines as well... Mmmmmm Auslese... and good French dessert wines as well... mmmmmmm Banyuls, mmmmmmmm Montbazillac, mmmmmmm Sauturnes!

However, the sweet wines that most people come into contact with are more along the lines of White Zins and jug wines like Gallo Hearty Burgundy. The white zins can often (to me) taste as if there is some rotten fruit in there... there is a hint of something not right. If other people taste that and associate it with sweet wines, I'd say that they're pretty reasonable in running as far away from them as they can get.

Wine is complex, and no one factor is going to make a wine good or bad. There are yummy sweet wines and crap sweet wines. Same for dry wines. But thinking statistically, given the oceans of crappy jug-grade wine and white zin out there that not-quite-wine-drinkers encounter, the conclusion that sweet wine is bad wine ain't too far off.

Some people like wines, and have no desire whatsoever to understand the underlying factors that contribute to the characteristics that they like. It's easy to get caught up in ridiculing the obscurantism... "Grapes from the top of the hill picked at dawn by only left-handed pickers wielding silver shears, and carried by hand to be crushed at the stroke of noon, blah blah blah."

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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"Grapes from the top of the hill picked at dawn by only left-handed pickers wielding silver shears, and carried by hand to be crushed at the stroke of noon, blah blah blah."

:laugh::laugh::laugh: Can I use that?

Meanwhile, let's move the dessert wine notes here,

and continue with a discussion of 'slightly sweet' in this thread. I'd like newcomers to the world of wine to feel comfortable with a trace of residual sugar. After all, it emphasizes spice, balances high alcohol, and helps create a heavy texture in wine.

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Mary Baker

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:laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:  Can I use that?

Meanwhile, let's move the dessert wine notes here,

and continue with a discussion of 'slightly sweet' in this thread.  I'd like newcomers to the world of wine to feel comfortable with a trace of residual sugar.  After all, it emphasizes spice, balances high alcohol, and helps create a heavy texture in wine.

Lie? I mean, uh, maybe the idea to focus on other aspects of the wine and avoid the temptation to tell people about the residual sugar until after they try it. "What we have here, ma'am, is a great little apertif wine. You'll notice it's a little "fuller" (or some other term that's both enlightening and obfuscatory) than the chardonnay." As many have pointed out, it's the idea of sweetness that seems to be the chief obstacle, rather than the sweetness itself. Maybe if you do a little misdirection -- pointing them away from the sweet by pointing to other aspects of the wine -- you can get them to try it, then let the wine do the talking.

Are the terms "fruity" and "off-dry" known to your target audience? I'm sure most serious wine drinkers would see through the euphamisms, but maybe not newcomers.

Is it feasible to lay out a little snack chosen to complement the particular wine you're trying to sell? I'm sure a Vietnamese curry -- which goes great with sweeter wines -- would be a little elaborate, but is there something else? (In Greece, I've had barbecue potato chips served with wine, but I'm guessing that that wouldn't go over to well in your establishment).

What's your forum? Winery tasting room?

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cdh already said what I was going to say, but why would that stop me? :laugh:

Sweetness brings out more variety in flavor (I think), so any off flavors in cheap sweeter wines are right there in bucketloads...and if you chill them really severely, you may be lucky enough to kill off any actual wine taste, and end up with nothing BUT the sweetness and the off-flavors! :unsure:

Since my husband can't tell the difference between nailpolish remover and pinot gris, I don't feel justified in spending a lot of money on wine for myself...what I'd like to see on a drinks menu (more often, anyway) is a wider range of wines by the glass, so that I can try out all sorts of things that I either can't find locally or can't justify buying untried. That way, I'd be totally unfettered by guilty doubts that I was keeping my husband from ordering the beer that he'd really prefer, and could try more than one wine with a meal, instead of struggling through a bottle that maybe turned out to be less wonderful than anticipated.

In a restaurant with a reasonable throughput of diners who drink, wouldn't it be possible to offer a wider range of palate-educating wines by the glass or mini-carafe? Sorry to be sacreligious etc...

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. . . avoid the temptation to tell people about the residual sugar until after they try it . . .

You're very sweet to think I'm that thorough. I'm afraid my approach to pouring is more like, "Well this here's our Bella Zin, and this here's our Old Vine Zin. I think ya'oughta try 'em side by side. Whaddya think?"

To answer your other question, most of my encounters are in the tasting room, but I also teach wine tasting courses and food and wine pairing seminars. Generally in a small group of professionals, it's easier to discuss residual sugar. In the tasting room or at trade tastings, where people simply approach and taste, is where I encounter sucraphobia. I'm not concerned about how to handle that as a representative.

I just think this would be a great place to celebrate all the wonderful, slightly sweet wines out there.

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Sweetness brings out more variety in flavor . . .

Helenjp, I thought of you this weekend . . . an American couple living in the Carribean came to taste. They were a little stuffy at first, but somehow we got on the subject of peppers, which should be on the national flag there I guess, and which we happen to have in abundance here in Paso. They said they were experimenting with their own pepper sauce, but had to dispose of batch after batch, until they added sugar. It seemed to balance the heat and highlight the flavors . . . which naturally led to recipe swapping and an interesting discussion on delicate yet sweet wines.

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An elderly lady announced to me firmly and loudly that she "only likes dry wines."  I poured the chardonnay.  She immediately retched into the spit bucket and declared, "Oooh, that's sour!"

My grandmother was at your wine tasting? :blink:

Seriously though, doesn't it depend mostly on what you're having with the wine?

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There is another side to the sweet wine question...if you follow a low carb, or even a low-sugar diet for a while, you do become extremely sensitive to sweetness. Curiously enough, sensitive enough to notice the impact of added sugars, in comparison with the flavor of residual natural sugars.

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Yes. Bad. Very Bad.  :wacko:

I'm kidding, you know!  I LOVE sweet wine...

I love mead, port, marsala, muscats... don't GET me started on the ambrosia that is Chateau d' Yquem. So yeah, I'm horrid. Bad to the bone. Punish me!!!

I love me some shugah, baby. I prefer sweet white wine over dry. I prefer red wines over white, however. I really like it all :raz:

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After all, it emphasizes spice, balances high alcohol, and helps create a heavy texture in wine.

DoverCanyon, help me understand this. Sweetness emphasizng spice...in the wine or in food? I thought alcohol brings up spiciness levels in food, sugar levels matching better (Sauv. Bl. with Thai rather than Zin, i.e.). Or do you mean sweetness level in, say, a Syrah, emphasize its spicy overtones?

Sugar balancing high alcohol? Give me the down-and-dirty winemaker's perspective on this, as I can't quite understand this. Though I do know that higher alcohol can yield the perception of higher sweetness.

Creating heavy texture - this I assume is glucose adding body?

I love this kind of info.

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Well, take for example the pepper sauce discussion above. Without a little residual sugar, sometimes a spicy grape, like Gewurtztraminer, might taste a little bizarre. There are dry gewurtzes out there, and it's a stylistic decision of course, but sometimes that little trace of sugar somehow helps amplify a spicy component.

In addition, many northern Rhones include up to 5% Viognier, an extremely fragrant white wine, in the blend. While the Viognier itself may or may not be sweet, its floral profile adds fruit and often highlights that elusive violet aroma in the Rhones.

Sugar might also help balance a high alcohol wine like a zinfandel by toning down a potentially hot mouthfeel. It will not rescue a wine that is not otherwise in balance. For instance, a raisiny, poorly racked, high alcohol zin with sweetness will just taste like a raisiny, reduced, hot, sweet zin. But a zin picked at optimum ripeness with great pigment, flavor and toast pips may benefit from a .2 to .5 RS.

As for a heavy texture, that is often contributed by higher alcohols, so sugar doesn't really "create" a heavy texture, but in a rich, heavy-bodied wine, sugar adds to the 'perception' of heavy. KJ Chard is a good example, it seems completely dry, yet has a deep, buttery mouthfeel that people find very appealing. I think it's a perfectly acceptable chardonnay (when not offered anything more exciting). :wink:

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