Why do so many of us think we don't like sweet wines? My theory is this: When we just turned 18, or for some of us maybe a bit younger, we went on dates with people who tried to get us drunk. Invariably the drink of choice was cheap and sweet. The idea was not to be a connoisseur of wine, or even to really get to know us. The idea was to get to know our southern bits.
Of course we eventually matured, each at differing speeds. And we learned to drink mature drinks. We remember with embarrassment our immature experiences with immature, sweet wine. So we thought, ah, mature people drink dry wine.
This was a mistake, I know now. We should have learned to date mature people.
Some of the greatest wines in the world, the longest lived, and the most expensive, are sweet. What is the secret to great sweet wines? How do they avoid that heavy, syrupy, cloying, cheap taste? The secret, as in all wines, and perhaps all things, is balance. The sweetness must be balanced by acidity. The wine must lift in your palate, not weigh down.
Often people ask me what wine is the very best? I try to avoid answering. I duck, I deak. I say, "It depends. Wine is situational. The best wine for the summer patio is different than the best wine for the fireplace on an autumn evening. The best wine for your wedding reception is different than the best for family dinner. The best wine depends on the situation, the people and, of course, your palate."
I speak the truth, but still, still I lie.
Now the thoughtful questioner will ask a follow-up question - What is the best wine situation? What is the situation that is most important, that requires the greatest wine?
The answer, of course, is the love-trap. Think spider. Think web.
Today over 30,000 commercial wineries around the world churn out new wines every year. How can there be a 'best'? How would anyone know, since no one could try them all?
In 1855 the French government tried to answer this very question. They ranked the wines of Bordeaux by 'Crus' (growths). Crus are like leagues. The list they made in 1855 lives today and has only been changed once. If the wine made the list it will say so on the bottle: "Grand Cru Classé en 1855."
Of course the list is controversial and people today argue about its relevance and composition and everything that wine people enjoy arguing over. At the top of the list is one wine that no one argues about - it was put in a league of its own. And it remains there today - the only "Superior First Growth."
Chateau d'Yquem (eekem)
Yquem is sweet, comes in small bottles, is ridiculously expensive and can age up to one hundred years.
Before you die you really should try Yquem. Preferably with someone nice and mature. In the meantime please open your mind to the amazing sweet world of sweet wines.