Raisin or passito wines: peculiarities and late harvests

Fratelli Vogadori’s winery produces a wonderful dessert wine got from raised grapes: “il Passito Veneto di Garganega” an excellent white wine ideal to be tasted alone, or paired with a nice cake or biscuit. It has a beautiful golden yellow color, smells of ripe fruit and fresh flowers with a light hint of vanilla and has a full, warm and pleasing taste. This premise is necessary in order to explain, in detail, what are passito or raisin wines  and what characteristics they have. They are wines that, sooner or later, everyone brings to the table, drinks, or gives as a present. Let’s try to know them better and to learn more about this fascinating subject.

Vini passitiVinification of raisin wines

Sweet sparkling wines, passito wines and fortified wines all fall within the category of dessert wines. Raisin wines, in particular, are considered as a category all by themselves. Technically speaking they are normal wines, that is they are produced with the same vinification techniques used for the other wines, however there is a substantial difference. Grapes, used for the production, are, before being vinified, subjected to drying (appassimento).

It should be remembered withering, which can last more or less time according to the final product and to the grapes used for its production, is the diminishing, or reduction, of the water present in the grape. Dehydration increases the level of sugar content and of any other non fermentable substance. The resulting must is, therefore, very thick and concentrated, that is suitable for the production of a raisin wine.

In raisin wines the residual sugar is significant. In some cases it can even reach 200 gr/lt. When and in case fermentation is completed, the result is a much drier wine, alcoholic and rich in polyols. Amarone della Valpolicella is the most famous example of dry raisin wine.

Late harvests and appassimento

The same result can be obtained with a technique called “surmaturation“. It is a delayed harvesting beyond the technical ripeness of the grape. Technical maturation means the exact point of balance between acidity and sugar concentration. With over-ripening the concentration of sugar is the one to be obtained. By delaying the harvest, in fact, the concentration of sugars, organic acids, mineral salts and aromas, increase inside the grape.

The result is a late harvest wine having a high alcohol content and a residual sugar which varies according to the final product.

As for drying, not all grapes are suited for this technique. The grape must have a high acidity and a very resistant skin. In this way is avoided the predisposition to the formation of unwanted molds. Aromatic grapes are often used. In the case of Passito Veneto di Garganega is used, in fact, the Garganega grape withered for 4 months.

In order for the drying process to be successful, it must be free from undesired molds and it must guarantee a homogeneous dehydration on all the grapes to be processed.

The drying of Passito Veneto di Garganega grapes is still done by hand respecting an ancient tradition. Even today only wooden crates and racks are used. Grapes are left to dry until January/February in dry and well ventilated rooms with periodical controls on the state of health of the grapes. The pressing takes place, according to the years, at the end of January or beginning of February.

Serving Temperature, Glasses and Pairings

Serving temperature for passito wines varies according to the product. Generally speaking, however, it can be said this temperature should be included between 10° and 12°C for white wines and between 14° and 16°C for red wines. Passito Veneto di Garganega, for example, should be served between 13 and 16° C (61 and 61° F).

As for the perfect “glass” to fully taste a passito wine, a small glass with a long stem can be used. Passito must be poured in small quantities, also because of its high sugar content.

Passito is traditionally matched to sweet foods. As a matter of fact, according to the classic scheme of food and wine matching, sweet foods are matched by concordance to sweet wines. As a matter of fact, many raisin wines are also perfectly matched to blue cheese, or very mature cheese. Not to mention that dessert wines are wonderful meditation wines. They can be tasted as excellent dessert wines, or they can also be appreciated alone, in the evening in company of friends.

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