More often than not, when a new customer asks, “What’s your sweetest wine?”, we have some ‘splainin to do.
While we certainly have academic, analytic, and quasi-legal definitions of ‘sweet’, most often it comes down to personal physiology, ergo, taste. What is dry as dust to one person might taste like baby medicine to another. The palate a person is born with has much to do with the style of wine that they’ll enjoy. For the most readable and thorough discussion of sweet in all of its glory, we recommend The Sweet Wine Manifesto by Tim Hanni, Master of Wine. (“This book is for everyone who has got the message that to admit that you love sweet wines publicly is to risk being labeled an ignorant, unsophisticated wine doofus,” he writes.)
Some of the most expensive, desirable, delicious wines in the world are sweet by any standard. Pre-World War I, most wines would have been considered sweet by today’s tastes. Serious, sweet wines are not, and have never been, worthy of the scorn they receive, and anybody who would criticize your choice of wine is being a jerk.
However, our stylistic approach to the question of ‘sweet’ is that such wines have to be more, much more than just sweet (though here in the east, it seems like the amount of residual sugar in a wine is directly proportionate to how well it sells). They have to be balanced. Not awkwardly one sided, crying for a water chaser.
With residual sugar values between 2.5% and 3.5%, balance is achieved with either our white wines’ natural acidity, a cold climate perk, or a combination of acidity, modest levels of tannin, and aroma-in the case of our red or fruit wines.
Traditional dry wine folk are often pleasantly surprised with how much they enjoy one from the sweet end of the bar, while folk who enjoy a really sweet style might be a little disappointed. But sometimes, they’re not, and they find they’re capable of enjoying something dryer than they expect. We always encourage people to try wines they might normally overlook – as Grandma Millie says, “Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.”