Created on: February 10, 2013 Last Updated: February 21, 2013
When speaking of dessert wines, the word “decadent” comes to mind. Some of the rarest and most expensive wines in the world happen to be sweet dessert wines. As a matter of fact, the most expensive white wine in the world according to WorldRecordAcademy.com is a 200-year-old bottle of 1811 Chateau d’Yquem, a sweet wine from Sauternes. It sold for $123,000 in 2011.
The stories behind the crafting of the best dessert wines are quite extraordinary. Some of the wines are from grapes left to freeze on the vines and harvested in the dead of winter. Consistent below-freezing temperatures over a few days are needed. If this doesn’t happen, the vine grower can lose his crop.
Another natural phenomenon in the vineyard that paves in the production of honeyed and highly complex sweet wines is the infection of the grapes by a mold called Botrytis cinerea, causing the grapes to shrivel and concentrating its flavors. But if the weather conditions are not right, this beneficial mold will become destructive and the entire harvest will be lost.
The making of the best dessert wines is a leap towards economic risk. It is also labor-intensive, since in some wines, the grapes are handpicked berry by berry and only when they reach optimum ripeness. This requires the vines to be harvested several times.
Great dessert wines may happen in a year, or they may not. The above factors make these wines rare, highly sought-after and expensive.
There are, however, different types of dessert wines, with varying degrees of sweetness, complexity, rarity and price range. This means that for every occasion that you may have, there is a perfect dessert wine to go with it.
Below is an overview of some of the best-known dessert wines, their origin, wine-making traditions and links where you can preview examples of these wines.
Late-harvest wines are from grapes that are harvested late in the season to allow them to ripen even more. This results in higher sugar content in the grapes. Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc are good examples of wines that are made in this sweeter style. These wines are usually well-balanced, with the right level of sweetness and bright acidity. They go very well with fruit-based desserts, and are even recommended to drink with spicy Asian dishes such as Thai and Szechuan.
Look for German wines with the word “Spatlese” on the label. Spatlese means late harvest. The Alsace, in France also produces wonderful late-harvest
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