In the previous article: “Passito wines: peculiarities and late harvests” we began to address the topic of sweet wines and, in particular, that of the category of raisin wines. There are various types of sweet wines in Italy, each of which offers very distinctive distinctive characteristics. There are, for example, sweet wines and dry wines and substantial differences also between the various nuances they present depending on how they are produced. For example, it is one thing to talk about Garganega’s Passito Veneto and another to discuss Recioto Della Valpolicella. But let’s try to better understand why.
Sweet wines: types and classificatio
Let’s start immediately with the classification of sweet wines. The main types are:
- Natural sweets – they are usually prepared using only aromatic grape varieties (brachetto and moscato for example). During preparation, fermentation is stopped to increase the sugar content and enhance the sweet taste.
- Passiti (raisin) – as we have already seen in the previous article, they are sweet wines prepared with grapes that have undergone a slow and progressive natural drying. Withering can take place directly on the plant (then we speak of late harvest), or on racks once the bunches have been harvested (just like it happens for Recioto and Passito Veneto).
- Muffati – in this particular type of sweet wine, the grapes are attacked by a mold that tends to enhance the amount of sugar in the grape.
- Fortified – these are wines in which alcohol or cooked must is added (this is the case of the famous Marsala).
Sweetness and sugars in wines
The main characteristic of sweet wines is their sugar content. It is the sugars that contribute to creating a pleasant sensation of body and density of the liquid. As the amount of sugar increases, so does the sweetness of the wine. To influence this parameter are the residual sugars, that is, those not fermented at the time of bottling.
A dry wine contains approximately up to a maximum of 4-5 g / l of residual sugar. A value that can reach up to 45 g / l when the wine, at that point, can be defined as having marked sweetness and therefore lovable.
Above 45 g / l the perception of sweetness is marked and decisive and at this point the wine is defined as “sweet“.
However, the sweetness must be well balanced by the acidity. Alcohol, on the other hand, helps to give the wine a pleasant sensation of warmth. It therefore performs a complementary function to sweetness and contrasts with acidity and any tannin / bitterness / flavor.
Still sweet wines
Let’s focus on still sweet wines. When they have a potential alcohol content of at least 10 °, the residual sugar determines their sweetness. Fermentation, in this type of wine, is blocked with different techniques:
- lowering of temperature
- addition of sulfur dioxide (SO2)
- sterile filtration of the must in order to completely eliminate the yeasts that would otherwise resume fermentation.
Passito Veneto di Garganega
As the name of this wine explains, the Passito Veneto di Garganega is a sweet wine with a golden yellow color, with an elegant aroma of ripe fruit and fresh flowers with a slight hint of vanilla and a full and warm taste.
Produced by Fratelli Vogadori winery, it is an excellent passito wine to combine with sweet dishes, but also ideal as a meditation wine. We include it in this article precisely because it is part of the category of sweet wines analyzed (to be precise, sweet wines) produced with the drying method of the grapes.
The best grapes are left to dry in boxes and wooden racks until January / February, before moving on to the pressing phase.
Recioto Della Valpolicella
Another sweet wine produced by the Fratelli Vogadori who exclusively use Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta, Negrara grapes to make it. Excellent dessert wine with a ruby red color with violet reflections. Warm, velvety with hints of cherry and morello cherry. Perfect to be enjoyed with chocolate desserts, almond paste, pandoro panettone, dry biscuits, cantuccini, sbrisolona.
A brief note on the drying of this noble wine. Like the Passito Veneto di Garganega, the Recioto della Valpolicella always respects the most ancient traditions regarding harvest and drying. Only the best grapes end up being selected and used for production. The drying lasts several months and always and only on wooden racks or boxes. The grapes are left to dry until January / February in dry and well-ventilated rooms with periodic checks on the health of the grapes. The result is a prestigious sweet red wine to be enjoyed on any occasion.