We like the Mediterranean country and landscape. The strong
sun gives its energy to the grapes. The grapes absorb and
concentrated the water from
soil. The sunlight encloses sugars in the grapes. When you see a bottle
of sweet wine
you have in front of you bottled Mediterranean sun ready to spread it
anyplace you are,... Barcelona or New York.
WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
They are called sweet wines because of the method used to produce them.
The method attempts to keep in the wine the
natural sugars from grapes. Wine is fermentation of grape juice
by yeasts to produce alcohol. Drinks made by mixing
grape juice with alcohol are not considered sweet wine. You can find
some drinks like this called 'mistela'
or grape liquor.
wines contain some sugar and sometimes they can be a little sweet but
we are referring to real sweet wines. That is, when the content of
more that about 60 grams per liter. That creates a well defined sweet
The alcohol content could be between 15 and 20% vol.
can make sweet wine from any variety of grapes nevertheless wine
producers have been selecting the better varieties to make sweet wines
centuries . We can find the following varieties in our land:
Moscatell d' Alexandria (very common and has a typical taste) ,
little grain o Moscat fin (more aromatic than the previous one),
negra (Black Grenache , typical fruity taste and tanicity),
Garnatxa blanca (White Grenache with particular fruity taste) . Other
grapes: Macabeu, Malvasia and
MAKE. PRODUCING METHODS
Three methods to produce sweet wines are known. All are traditional and
being used for many
Every method starts from grape juice of a specific variety. It is very
important to select the best grapes to obtain quality wine. Only
are selected on harvest and defective ones are rejected. The grapes
will be squeezed
at low pressure. That allows to get primary juice without strange
seeds, skins and wood.
The natural sugars from the grape are converted into alcohol by yeasts.
alcoholic content at the end depends on the sugar content in the grape
and the method used
to produce it. Today the fermentation process is performed at
temperature in order to preserve the aroma in the wine.
The first method is the one most used in Catalonia. The
method was described in the 13th century by Arnau de Vilanova. He was
medicine doctor in old Aragon Kingdom (It included
Catalonia+Aragon+Balearic Islands+ some
territories south of France at that time) . The method is
stopping the fermentation by adding some pure alcohol
wine distillation. The fermentation stops because the yeast cannot
alcohol content rises above 15% vol. The sugar content kept in the wine
strongly when the moment when the alcohol is added. Sweet wines
this method are specially sweet , have a flower smell and are well
flavored with the original
taste of the grapes.
The second method consist on leaving the grapes to mature completely in
the fields in
order to have more sugar than could be converted into alcohol by
the yeast. When
the alcohol rate kills the yeast , part of sugars remained.
This wine tastes stronger, is very sweet, has a fruit smell and a
dry grape taste.
The application of any of the described methods depends on the climate
the country. Only in some warm areas the grapes are mature and dry
enough to enable to
production the wine using the second method. Every producer selects the
appropriate time of harvest and the method in order to get the desired
features of the future
There is a third method used in those lands where the grape could not
amount of sugar necessary to make sweet wine by the other methods. The
juice is boiled to evaporate water and concentrate the sugar in order
to get the appropriate
amount needed to ferment to alcohol as well as keep some part of
the original sugar. The
obtained syrup can be mixed with fresh juice to improve
the wine. This wine is often sweet enough but very flat, without aroma
by boiling) and is similar to liquors or
'mistela'. Traditionally, in some places, the third method is used to
produce drinks for home consumption and that products are not
sold in the normal market
procedures applied to produce normal dry wines
are used for sweet wines as well.
It is very common to preserve the wine in oak barrels
to mature it. The wood flavors will pass to wine and change its taste.
wines normally don't acidificate because of their relative high
alcohol, however some ageing processes in barrels take place in contact
air and that oxidation creates special taste known as 'rancio' in the
Another practice is to mix in the barrels some new wine with the
one. These wines are called ’reserve’ or 'hors d'âge'. These wines
complex because of the wood and a special rare fungi living in the
We talked about sugar but which ones do we have in the grapes?
We can find the followings sugars:
Fructose: Fresh flavor and fruity.
Glucose: Dense and less sweet.
Glycerol: Greasy sugar. It creates tear
shaped drops on the cups.
We can find organic acids too. A characteristic acid in grapes is
dark red color in red grapes comes from colored compounds called
polyphenols. They create the red color of the grape's skin.
are astringent compounds coming from seeds and skin. There are
volatile organic compounds responsible for the good smell. There
FLAVOR - AROMA
There are many differences between wines
according to their variety and the production method . Some
typical smells and flavors in sweet wines:
AROMA : Flowers, honeysuckle
and jasmine, apricot,
peaches, cítrus, date, dry fruits...
FLAVOURS: Fruits: peach ,plum, apricot, fig. Honeycomb and honey,
jams, candy ...
Each variety gives its properties to create
the flavor and aroma:
Muscat, Moscatell : Flower smell.
Grenache : Tanins, berries, jam.
Try to taste and identify.
Sweet wines can be served as an
appetizer (very frequent in the Roussillon), as dessert wines and why
any time for pleasure. We recommend
moderately cool. At high temperature
smell too much alcohol vapor. In
general we can keep open bottles i but we recommend to refrigerate
we keep them for a long time (weeks) they show oxidation (darker color)
and lose freshness
(taste flat). Therefore
it is recommended
to drink them over a short period of time. There
is no problem to finish a normal bottle (50 or 75 cl) when
some guests are
invited and the wine is as its best quality. Try it !
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Last update : 04-Jun-2014