What do I need to know about dessert wines?

Unfashionably popular

Dessert wines are not the height of fashion, or at least that’s the perception. Why then, is London’s Les 110 de Taillevent, selling so much of them? The restaurant, which gets its name from the number of wines it offers by the glass, was surprised to find that one of its customers’ most popular choices was a dessert wine – a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.
This popularity goes against industry wisdom, which often has dessert wines being ‘dumped’ through special offers or included in deal packages with the most popular sellers to shift the stuff. Internet retailers, including online wine merchants in Northern Ireland, all offer inducements to buy these wines.

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Get-round-to-it-itis?

Is it perhaps, as Victoria Moore stated in her lifestyle piece for The Telegraph, that it’s not so much a matter of taste, but what she calls ‘get-round-to-it-itis’. Moore speculates that customers might not think to buy a bottle of dessert wine, as a whole bottle of the rich and potent beverage may seem daunting, but a single glass is harder to resist. Perhaps that’s why they are recommended for Valentine’s Meals.

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Types of dessert wine

So what is considered a dessert wine? Some are made by partially fermenting grape juice and then adding spirit, and these wines have the intense sweetness of grape juice with the warming hit of alcohol. Other types are made by leaving the grapes on the vine until they are shrivelled, concentrating the sugars inside the fruit. The most extreme wine of this type, ice wine, is made from grapes that have been left on the vine until after a good bout of freezing weather. Perhaps the most acclaimed dessert wines are made from grapes that have a particular kind of mould growing on them. Botrytis Cinerea, also known as Noble Rot, gives dessert wines their distinctive fruity-sweet flavour and a thick mouth feel that is much prized.

Dessert wines remain widely available, whether it’s through your local supermarket or reliable online suppliers, such as http://thewinecompanyni.com/, you will find a good range in stock. Victoria Moore says that even the cheaper wines have good flavour.
If you haven’t tried a dessert wine, or haven’t for a while, perhaps you should take inspiration from the customers at Les 110 de Taillevent and try a glass?

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