IT’S OKAY TO LIKE SWEET WINE

From the day I started studying wine in earnest, I’ve noticed that people think that they are not allowed to like sweet wine. I know this because I was one of those people. I thought asking “Which one of these rosés is driest?” would be shorthand to the somm/bartender/waiter-who-likely-didn’t-give-AF that I was no fool! At least when it came to wine. Now I know. It was I that was fool, and fooling no one. Because when you get to know good quality wine you learn… IT IS OKAY TO LIKE SWEET WINE! *Disclaimer: If it is GOOD sweet wine. I’m not talking about those luscious nectars we know as dessert wines. Those deserve a column of their own. I’m talking wines that have some residual sugar, but that aren’t full on ambrosia. I stan my girl Bel because she unabashedly brings moscatos to my parties in case my wine is too dry for her. What refreshing transparency! What a triumph over wine snobbery! What balls! If you are HONEST about where you get your jollies, THEN I’ll respect you the most. You don’t need my respect, but I promise it’s not bad to have. What makes a truly good sweet wine? After all, there are some generic unbalanced icky saccharine wines out there. But in the good ones there is balance of the sweet and acid. There is some complexity of flavors. And that complexity and sweetness comes from the wine, not added chemicals. There are merits (beyond general delightfulness) to sweet wine! They’re both excellent aperitifs AND apropos nightcaps. Usually lower in alcohol, if you start the evening with one you’ll be able to go the distance. If you end the evening with one it serves as dessert, but not sweet enough to induce a sugar hangover—which is worse than a booze one in my opinion. And the alcohol isn’t high enough to make you either a) go to bed buzzy or b) become convinced you can handle another. Slightly sweet wine might be the vinous alpha and omega. So, lets get some of these wines into your thirsty sucrose-fiending soul. I tackled Moscatos, Rieslings, Chenin Blancs, a bonanza of sparkling reds, and also the dreaded sweet rosé. Oh, and if you want final thoughts and shower wine treats, scroll down. But first, please consider the following wines as ways to make your evening sweet. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MOSCATO In honor of my truthful tippling friend Bel, we start here. Moscato, aka Muscat, is a confusing grape in that there are quite a few Muscat varieties. Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains is considered one of the finest, but there is also Muscat Ottonel in Alsace, Muscat of Alexandria all over the place, and a handful I won’t bore you with. Whatever the Muscat variety, I found some keepers. Vietti Moscato d’Asti Sublime. It is sweet nectarine in the jolly rancher range. I’d put it in the medium-dry to medium-sweet category with light bubbles. Notes of grapefruit rind and Cocchi American drift through. They lift the cloy. And the cloy grounds the bubbles. Cloy and bubs sounds like it should be an Irish dish, but I’d pair this with fruit salad, a cheese plate, and/or friends. 2017 Jam Jar Sweet White Muscat Barely sweet, and balanced by bitter. Like the friend who comes off as flippant and is secretly at home doing calculus for kicks. Cheerful orange blossom and apricots with cheeky bitter orange. Dig. RIESLING I don’t want Riesling! Because I don’t like sweet wines! We’ve all been told to say that. I did. Now that I know great ones exist, I try to indoctrinate others into the church of high-quality off-dry to semi-sweet Riesling. 2016 Fritz Haag Brauneburger Juffer Spätlese Riesling Hiiiii. This has that petrol-y and acidic nature that keeps you rethinking…life? Or at least this wine. It is off-sweet peaches and elderflower blossoms and mandarin oranges dancing with minerals and salt rocks. Just do it. 2018 Pike’s “Hills and Valleys” Clare Valley Riesling Including this in part because it reaffirmed why I wanted to write this article. I tried it at a trade tasting, where the woman pouring it very cautiously told me to “hear me out this has just a liiiiiittle sweetness”. Even after I reassured her I was seeking slightly sweet wine that she seemed worried I would turn my nose up. Not I. It was very fresh. Very…well this was a cross between a ripe vintage Alsace and a Kabinett. Get in. 2017 Rudi Pichler Smaragd Achleiten Riesling If the two above don’t win your sugar-distaining pals, then this will. It’s golden. And there is a battle betwixt acid and sugar that will keep you going back for more. The texture is wealthy. The taste is too; it’s all golden apple, coated with honey that has been infused and broken down to less sweetness with some sort of juice from mandarins and the love child between a lime and flowers. If I were going to climb a tree and swing from the branches with a wine, I’d pick this. Although at 15% abv I probably shouldn’t. But I’d also drink it with dinner. CHENIN BLANC If you doubt that I love Chenin, I wrote a whole column on the variety around the world you can see here . Given the current passion for dry, I kept finding dry Chenins. But if they were sweet, they were sweeeeet. Like Goldilocks I kept trying until I found one that was jussst right. This one was. 2018 Vignobles LaCheteau Vouvray This sweet will also make your mouth water. It has so much ripe apple and raw pineapple and something almost tangy. Also a good kick of lanolin in texture and taste. You can really feel the sweetness in the texture and body. It’ll coat your mouth like liquid gold that is light as sunshine. RED BUBBLES Let’s dive into Lambrusco , Brachetto d’Acqui (the Piedmont’s also-ran), and various other sparkling reds. Naturally, I did some due diligence and tasted a couple of inexpensive offerings. Stella Rosa Black Lux was one. My aforementioned gal Bel liked it. We were at a Dodger’s game and wine picks were slim don’t judge. It wasn’t awful but not a game-changer. I felt similarly about the supermarket’s Riunite . But you know what? Five bucks? I’d do it again and make sangria. But to sip solo I endorse the following: Cleto Chiarle Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Amabile I preface this with the fact that not all Lambruscos are sweet. Some are delightfully bone dry. But “Amabile” indicates some sugar and this is indeed barely sweet, then acid AF. And gorgeous in the glass. It is like the balsamic vinegar you sorta wanna sip solo. Which you should feel free to do. I eat bowls of salsa with a spoon. I shan’t judge your proclivities. 2017 Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui Pineto Super lovely. It has these indulgent sweet-sweet tones that for a second make you think—is this going to suck? But no. It won’t. It’s candied strawberries and maybe even candied pecans with vibrant spritz and acid. A bit of orange blossom waves from the back. I guzzle with an open heart. PINK This category was rough. Again, I did a lot of due diligence, tasting the less lauded yet more known pinks. I even tried Sutter Home White Zinfandel . Aside from the slight metallic zing it wasn’t…the worst? In fact I tasted a few that definitely ARE worse. Way too many bottles perished in my kitchen sink on this journey. I won’t lie, I got a kick out of Barefoot Wine Pink Moscato , but it is not a wine to convince someone who “doesn’t like sweet wine” to change their mind. It is overtly saccharine and proud. Fun as a confection, but not a mind-changer for un-sugar-tooths. And then I went to Portugal, home of the very famed Mateus rosé in its cheeky squat bottle. It tasted like…well, not even really barely off-dry, if that. Is the formula for Mateus different in Portugal? I thought it was supposed to be obviously sweet. Should I have brought a bottle home and compared with one bought in the US? Maybe. Again, it is a drinkable thing but not something to teach someone about slightly sweet wine. For somewhat sweet rosé, I kept returning to ones I had had in the past and will have again. Pacific Rim and Company “Eufloria” Omigod you guys this is what I get for writing about canned wine: I find one I adore so much I keep grabbing cans at my local grocery. It is a bit spritzy, a bit sweet and if you want the full notes they are here . I swear this isn’t me being lazy. This is me having a hard time finding sweet rosés I can fully stand for. And I keep grabbing cans of this at the store because it’s just too tasty. Marquis de Goulaine Rosé d’Anjou You can read more here . But to recap, it’s strawberry candies in limeade and it is superb. CONCLUSION Moscatos were the big surprise in this story. I now find myself craving them. What is life and where is my head? You make the call. After having a good Moscato. Now, for shower treats! Maybe it’s that “d’Acqui” sounds like aqua, and so I think shower thoughts? But the Brachetto is it. Red bubbles seem naughty and a bit tawdry. Like booze in the shower. Oddly this felt aromatic enough to conjure body wash but also had a spritz like the spray so… yeah. The Marenco with the shower. Try it. Try sweet wines. It’s okay. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Ellen in LalaLand Take One: Nighttime at Wally’s Wine Wine is Virgo, Virgo Wine Old World vs. New World Round Eight: Cabernet Franc! You can also listen to Ellen's podcast with Shaughn Buchholz, The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Caroline Liem Wine Situation Final Five! With Adam Roberts Wine Situation Final Five! With J Ryan Stradal

Vietti

Cascinetta Vietti Moscato d'Asti 2018

This is my favorite moscato yet. Thank you Vietti for being a beautiful winemaker and also making this. If there were white peach jolly ranchers tossed into some grapefruit and Meyer lemon juice and then you dashed in some orange blossom and magically gave it velvet bubbles that’s this. It’s...delicious. You’d think at a mere 5% abv I’d have a cooler word than “delicious” but damn this is. — 2 months ago

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Ellen Clifford

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@Joseph Barsky oooh this is something I need to try!
Severn Goodwin

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@Ellen Clifford It must be autocorrecting based on your recent virgo wine feature article, some of it had me LOL for real. 👍
Ellen Clifford

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@Severn Goodwin haha, you’re likely right! And thank you, happy to hear it made you laugh:)

Rudi Pichler

Ried Achleithen Smaragd Riesling 2017

Love this. How could I not? If kittens were dancing to NIN in could not step away any more than I could this, which was very bright and blistering of honey, apples and orange blossom. If blossoms can bluster. Terrific fun in a bottle. — a month ago

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Severn Goodwin

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That must have series funk @Paul T- Huntington Beach
Ellen Clifford

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@Severn Goodwin but isn’t there that story The Owl and the Pussycat? I don’t remember if they got along in it though. Hmmm

Marenco

Pineto Brachetto d'Acqui 2017

This petite bottle of sweetness made me content. Candied everything. Even nuts which led a...nutty complexity. Light and bright and also just the right of indulgence. Drinking it made me feel the way people that say they can be satisfied after “just one bite”. Which I don’t believe in typically but this wine did the trick. Yum. — a month ago

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Jam Jar

Sweet White Muscat 2017

Surprisingly pleasing. I expected syrupy sweetness but this is a legit off-dry wine. Nice citrus like white grapefruit and orange flower water, hints of butter almond and a bit of linen. Bits of bitter offset the hint at sweet. — 2 months ago

Jeffrey, Neil and 8 others liked this

Pikes

Hills & Valleys Clare Valley Riesling 2018

Had this at a trade tasting last week and been meaning to post it! It has just a smidge of sweet to it but also sings of freshness and delight. Different than most Australian Rieslings I’ve had—in that it tasted indelibly like Riesling. Which is not shade against their Rieslings so much as it is shade on me for always failing to identify them in tests. Anyway, adored this wine. Would guzzle again. — a month ago

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Bob McDonald

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@Ellen Clifford You might like Pikes “Traditionele “ even more if you can source it.
Ellen Clifford

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@Bob McDonald I think I did!! And it was terrific. But for purposes of what I’m writing focused on this one. But everything I tried at the tasting of theirs was great!

Cleto Chiarli

Amabile Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Lambrusco 1960

Just barely sweet with enough vinegar undertones to give it a punch. Umeboshi plum-esque funtimes — 2 months ago

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Trixie

Trixie

Cheers to plumesque happy times!🎊
Ellen Clifford

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@Trixie to plums! 🍷

Mateus

The Original Rosé Blend

When in Portugal you must...and I wonder if the formulation here is different than the US because this is mayyyybe off-dry. Def not sweet. I was prepared to either hate or adore and found myself saying, “I wish I had a better chill on this than my hotel room fridge”. Hmm, instead, I’m thinking it tastes like rosé you pour at someone’s party and say, hey, I think this is processed but it ain’t the worst (until it gets too warm.) But the warmer it gets the more chemical it tastes.The nose and then ripe berry and super ripe stone fruit on the palate. Lame acid. But not straight up sweet. I am confused. I am in a foreign country on like 4 1/2 hours sleep in the last...too many days. So I should obvi buy more and rate again properly chilled right? Or cut my losses and keep the cute bottle? — a month ago

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Ellen Clifford

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@Richard Jayson oooh thanks for the tip!
Ellen Clifford

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@Trixie thanks!! Technically it’s a working holiday but...fun work:)
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@Paul T- Huntington Beach ps to those interested apparently Portuguese Sheratons don’t believe in ice machines—I looked 🤔

Fritz Haag

Brauneberger Juffer Spätlese Riesling 2016

Does the world need one more glorious review of residual sugar? Trick question it needs many. This wine gives medium-dry (for the WSET crowd), or semisweet wine a jolly good name. It has that petrol-y stank then airs out and peach Melba jams up. All with an undercurrent of gaseous mineral and—okay we need find new word for mouth-watering—acid. What am I supposed to say, mouth-filling-up-with-saliva acidity? Refreshing? It’s not exactly. Punctilious acidity? That doesn’t even really make sense but it sort of does. Your mouth will water promptly. The petrol notes are pretty hitting so give it some time unless like me you love that stink. Sweet tangerine juice is the ocean all this chaos floats on. It’s very good. — 2 months ago

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Ellen Clifford

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Interesting! Maybe I’m confusing suphur for petrol? Hmmm I’ll have to look up the article. Thanks for the knowledge!
Aaron Tan

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Haha. Not sure. Just throwing in an idea. May well be tdn. Lots of people love it, especially Australian riesling lovers 😁
Ellen Clifford

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@Aaron Tan hard to say, I probably would need to taste it with others and see what they say! I also sometimes confuse gunflint type notes like you get in Chardonnay with petrol but I thought I had that under control lol

Vignobles Lacheteau

Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2018

Totally delightful. An off-dry delight that quenched my thirst and stoked my thirst for Chenin for life. Grinnin’ for Chenin? Nice balance of apples n pears and lanolin. Not exceedingly expressive when really cold so make it dinner, caress it’s punt and wait for it to open up. — a month ago

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Ellen Clifford

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@Severn Goodwin uh-oh did I cross a line?
Ellen Clifford

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@Severn Goodwin @Paul T- Huntington Beach oh wait, realizing Severn was replying to Paul. Paul you have great fashion sense.
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@Ellen Clifford I'm not sure there is a line...

Barefoot Cellars

Deliciously Sweet California Pink Moscato

Ummm I feel bad endorsing this but also not. It tastes like...a sweet wine. Not a chemical laden extravaganza which maybe it is but this is a tasty medium-dry (in WSET terms) Rosé and I’m enjoying it. Please don’t hate me but this is a fun grocery store buy. — a month ago

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Ellen Clifford

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@Aaron Tan glad you agree!
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@Paul T- Huntington Beach Now you really probably think I was roofied 🤣
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@Trixie thank you! I do believe I will:)