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Super Sweets

Sales of sweet wines have really taken off over the past few years. People have responded strongly to the revival of a grape called Moscato which has recently gained the number 3 position among varietally-labeled white wines.

The lack of emphasis on sweet wines in the modern age I think dates to the early 1980’s. As I was learning about wine, it was felt that sweet wines were somehow inferior, or mass-market, products not worthy of a “serious” wine aficianado’s attention. It was the age of Yago Sangria, Reunite, and Blue Nun. In California’s nascent wine industry, winemakers clearly felt pressure to compete with France in order to obtain respectability.

Somehow, the worldwide reputations of Sauternes, Port, Sherry, Madeira, etc. etc., were discounted in this battle for legitimacy. Yet it is persistently clear human beings love sweet things. I know this may come as a bit of a shock to fine wine lovers, but Virginia is already ahead of the curve in its production of elegant, fragrant expressions of ripe, lush and fruity sweet wines.

We’ll start off with late harvest, “ice” and sauterne-like wines, then move into rich reds (a pair flavored with raspberry), and finish up with a port-style wine.

Our tasting panel for this session included Sandra Brannock, Don Kinnan, and myself. Sandra was formerly an on-premise sales representative with Virginia Imports, Ltd.  She’s traveled to the West Coast and throughout Europe to visit winemakers and producers and has coordinated numerous winemaker dinners and seminars here in VA.

Don Kinnan, Certified Wine Educator, recently retired from the position of VP of Education for Kobrand Corporation. He has served on the board of the Society of Wine Educators, and regularly teaches seminars to sell-out crowds. He’s just back from presenting a 10 day wine program to guests aboard a Celebrity trans-Atlantic cruise.

And me, I’m certified by SWE as well, as a Specialist of Wine, and have visited cellars in Champagne, Burgundy, Languedoc, Tuscany, Napa and Sonoma. I recently accepted the position of general manager at Narmada Winery in Amissville, but will continue to operate VWG-Online as an independent publication. (You’ll note the Narmada wines in this report are reviewed by other members of the tasting panel.)

Virginia White Dessert Wines

Barboursville Vineyards Malvaxia 2006
A deep amber color leads to impressions of caramel and roasted nuts on the nose. The wine is sherry-like, with pronounced nut and bread/yeast aromas. Rich but not cloying. MA

This decadent wine from Barboursville Vineyards can be quite versatile with food. I’d certainly consider serving it as an aperitif, particularly with Spanish tapas.

Breaux Nebbiolo Ice 2010
An intriguing deep salmon color with an enticing strawberry bouquet. This is a silky wine with honey and candied flavors. Unusual varietal to find in a dessert selection, and delicious. MA

We initially tasted Breaux Nebbiolo Ice in the red flight, and were charmed/delighted that this noble Italian grape produces such an ethereal wine. In flavor profile, it fits in with this group.

Breaux Soleil 2006
Golden color with nutty, roasted, caramelized (possibly slightly oxydized?) bouquet. Nice soft mouthfeel, lingering finish. Very nice: sauternes-like. SB

Virginia winery Mountain RoseMountain Rose Autumn Gold nv
Light gold in color, with visible legs. Aromas of honey and white flower notes (jasmine, honeysuckle), and on the palate unctuous flavors of nectarine, lychee and kiwi, with maybe a touch of botrytis. MA


Virginia winery Narmada WineryNarmada Winery Lotus 2010
Pale straw. Bouquet shows woodsy notes with a delicate intensity. Pleasant, light, lacks fruit definition. Easy, balanced acidity, fairly short finish. DK


Virginia Red Dessert Wines

Fabbioli Raspberry Merlot
A candied bouquet, opulent, with hints of apple. On the palate, bright raspberry fruit. Acidity a bit high but not out of balance. SB

The group consensus was that this is more of a “table wine” for your friends who do not like dry wines. Think of your relatives gathered around the Thanksgiving table.

Virginia winery Mountain RoseMountain Rose Pocahontas Red
Deep ruby in color with intense, focused yet subtle pruney bouquet. Nice balance of acidity, residual sugar and fruit with black cherry and blackberry flavors. Slightly cloying, lacks freshness on the palate. Good. DK


Virginia winery Narmada WineryNarmada Winery Primita 2010
Medium-dark ruby. Very nice sweet blackberry/raspberry primary nuances. Raspberry, chocolate-y flavors, good acid, the the palate. Smooth texture, pleasant, long finish. Very good. DK

I have to share my favorite way to savor Primita. Take a cognac glass, the tiny, single ounce kind, preferably with very thin, fragile glass. Slice a generous hunk of pound cake, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzle Primita over the top. Drink the glass separately, of course! Refill, and repeat!

Virginia Port-Style Dessert Wine

Virginia winery Narmada WineryNarmada Winery Allure 2009
Dark ruby, opaque. Aromas of prunes, black cherry, and  a slightly oxydized note. On the palate, port-like black cherry/prune: a nice flavor complex. Balance is excellent; clean lingering finish. Very good. DK

Check out Sylvie Rowand’s decadent dessert recipe. Let us know what you think the best pairing would be!