Winemakers & Educators Discuss The Case For More Sweet Wine

on 20/01/11 at 10:23 pm

Industry

International symposium explores production challenges and sales opportunities.

Consumption and sales of sweet and dessert wines in the United States are at a historical low point as a percentage of overall wine sales, but some industry experts believe there is potential for expanding market share in this category by re-educating and re-introducing consumers to high-quality products that are well balanced and properly marketed.

A symposium Jan. 12 at the University of California, Davis (UCD), presented by the Robert Mondavi Institute, explored the issue. Titled “Sweet, Dessert and Dried Fruit Wines: A World View,” it provided a historical overview of sweet and dessert wines, presented styles and production methods, and examined consumer issues along with potential opportunities for new products and markets.

With a lineup of international authorities and California producers as presenters, the symposium was organized and moderated by UCD viticulture extension specialist Dr. Matthew Fidelibus, with assistance from Mendocino and Lake County Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist and Wines & Vines columnist Glenn McGourty, and wine retailer and authority (and Vintners Hall of Fame inductee) Darrell Corti of Corti Brothers Market in Sacramento.

Domination and decline

Providing perspective, Corti explained, “Historically, sweet wines have been considered to be among the finest wines in the world because they were stable, had good longevity, they often required more processing and aging, and they were produced in locations with a history of tradition and practices in place.” Before modern technology and refrigeration, the best way to increase wine stability was to increase the sugar content in the must. Sun-drying grapes after harvest to increase sugar content is one of the oldest methods of making sweet and dessert wines. Corti noted that Italy continues to make about 43 types of “passito”-style dessert wines from dried grapes. Vin Santo, for instance, is made in Tuscany from harvested grapes hung in attics or rafters to concentrate sugar and flavors.

Corti said the symposium should give California growers and winemakers “a reason to look at potentially new types of products that can be produced here with something we have an abundance of—the sun.”

{Full story via Wines and Vines}

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