Sweets and bubbly by Colin Trickett

Sweets and bubblyAs we approach that time of year again, these wines which may not normally form a major part of our consumption, come to the forefront.



There are five basic methods of producing sweet wines:

  • Noble Rot or botrytis mold attacks the grapes and sucks out the water leaving high sugar content. Many of the classic sweet wines such as the Sauternes, Barsac, Vouvray, Côteaux du Layon (from the Loire), and Tokay from Hungary along with the sweet wines from Alsace and Germany are produced in this manner.
  • The grapes are harvested late ("tardive"), well into Autumn, allowing the grapes to dehydrate and is a method used in most wine- producing regions.
  • Eiswein is produced by harvesting the grapes only after temperatures reach -7°C. The world’s biggest Eiswein producer is Canada with productions also in Germany and Austria.
  • Passillerage wines, derived from dried grapes, are produced all over Europe. Grapes are harvested and then laid out to dry for up to 4 months; best known examples are Reciot and Via Santo in Italy, Strowein in Autria, and Vin de Paille in France.
  • Mutage involves the adding of a high strength alcohol (up to 95%) to the fermentation process in order to kill the yeasts and arrest fermentation. Our well-known regional Muscats of Frontignan, Rivesaltes, Banyuls, and St Jean de Minervois are made using this process along with other well known examples such as Port and Madeira.



Sparkling wines are made using two distinct methods.

 THE CLOS CUVÉE OR TANK METHOD involves injecting CO2 into a closed vessel to give it the “Fizz” and many cheaper sparkling wines are made this way.


THE CHAMPENOISE OR TRADITIONAL METHOD involves a secondary fermentation process in the bottle; many Champagnes and other fine "Bubblies" are made with this method.



What to choose for Christmas?

 For sweet wines I use a very simple guide to accompany desserts. The wine sweetness should exceed the sweetness of the food. Sauternes and other Botrytis wines have a traditional match of perfectly ripe peaches whereas it needs a Muscat or Port to cope with Marquise au Chocolat (recipe p23).


My choice would be a Loupiac or Monbazillac, both great value alternatives to expensive Sauternes and Barsacs and for richer fayre, Muscat from Château Stony in Frontignan.


For Sparklers look no further than the brilliant value Crémants and Blanquettes of Limoux and for the real treat, Domaine Rive- Blanques Pink Crémant!


A few other wines for pairing with the Christmas menu: 

  • Seafood : Picpouls from Domaines La Grangette and Savary de Beauregard.
  • Fish : Vermentino/viognier from Domaine Saint Hilaire and Saint Julia.
  • White meats : Organic Chardonnay from Domaine du Py; Muscat Sec from Château Stony. The wonderful Viognier from Domaine Verena Wyss.
  • Vegetarian and Light meat dishes : REDS: Organic Canon Huppé from Domaine Monplézy (drink slightly chilled) and Caringole from Domaine Croix-Belle.
  • Full flavour meat dishes : FULL REDS: Bénézech Boudal Faugère; Ollier-Taillefer Grande Réserve; Domaine de l’Herbe Sainte; Château Le Roc Pic Saint Loup.
  • Apéritif drinks: Vermentino from Domaine St Hilaire; Les Matelles Roussanne from Château Maylandie.



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