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Wine, Beer, Spirits

What is a Dessert Wine?



A dessert wine is a term that many people hear every now and then. However, people who do not know much about wines tend to get a little confused when they hear the term ‘dessert wine’. They often wonder what wine has to do with an after-dinner treat. Well, to answer that, a dessert wine is basically a sweet wine that is served with dessert. It is also sometimes referred to as pudding wines.

When it comes to the principles for the harmony of food and wine, one of the most important to note is that the meal should never be sweeter than wine. Therefore, the wine should be at least as sweet as the food or dessert. And, if you drink a dry or non-sweet wine while eating a sweet dessert, the wine you are drinking will have a very sour taste.

If you want to know more about dessert wine, then read on as we’re going to explain further what it is, how it becomes sweet, and the different dessert wines that you can try.

How are Wines Get to Be So Sweet to Match with Desserts?

If you haven’t tried dessert wines yet, then you might be thinking about how come they are sweet, unlike other types of wine, which are usually bitter in taste. Well, there are basically three methods on how they are made sweet.

The most popular and straightforward method is by making them out of very ripe or sometimes overripe grapes, which are harvested at a very late stage. The grapes also form sugar in such a high degree that they still show a high degree of sweetness even after being fermented to wine.

When vintners want to make particularly high-quality dessert wines, then they go a step further. This is by hoping for an infestation of their vines by what they call noble rot. This happens when the skin of the grapes become permeable, and the water evaporates from them. This causes all other ingredients, including the aroma, the acid, and the sweetness, to become stronger.

There’s also a different way of concentrating the ingredients and sugars in the grapes, which are used in rare ice wines. What they do is they leave grapes hanging on the vine until very late in the year, with vintners hoping for an early winter. Once the temperatures drop to 19°F or lower, the frozen grapes will be harvested and quickly squeezed out. Since the water in the grapes is frozen, it will be retained in the grapes. The little juice that can be pressed out f the frozen grapes contain highly concentrated sugar, acid, and aroma.

There are also liqueur wines, in which fermentation of the sweet grapes is interrupted by adding alcohol. This results in a sweet wine that is high in alcohol content. They are called fortified wines.

Dessert wines, aside from being perfect pairs for sweet desserts, they are also great to pair with spicy cheese. It’s because the fruity sweetness of the wine can help cut the salty flavor of the cheese.

Different Types of Dessert Wines You Can Try

To further understand dessert wines, we are giving you the different types that you can try matching with your favorite sweet treats.

1. Fortified Wines

Fortified wines are one of the most historically significant categories of wine. They are made by adding grape spirit or brandy to wine either during or after fermentation. This depends if the winemaker wants the finished wine to be sweet or dry. If the wine is fortified before fermentation is completed, the wine will turn out to be sweet because there will still be sugar left in the wine.

This technique started during the Age of Exploration. It was during the time when voyagers need to strengthen their wines to be able to withstand long ocean voyages. This is the reason why most fortified wines today are ageable. And whether fortified wines are dry or sweet, they have one thing in common, which is they contain high alcohol.
Here are some of the fortified wines you can try:

  • SherrySherry is one of the coolest dessert wines in the world. However, many wine lovers steer clear of this wine because it can be a little intimidating. It’s because this type of dessert wine is made in several different styles in the Spanish region of Jerez. It means that this wine has many personalities, unlike other wines that do not have a single character.When making Sherry, three grapes can be used, such as Palomino Fino, Pedro Ximenez or PX, and Moscatel. Sherry is also branded by its unique solera aging system, where old barrels of Sherry are topped up with younger wines from the system. Sherry can be confusing at first, but to make it easier, you can categorize it in two ways, which are dry versus sweet. Sweet Sherry wines include Cream, Moscatel, and Pedro Ximenez, and all of them have significant sweetness and fig-like flavors.
  • PortPort is also like Sherry, which comes in different styles. But the difference is it is always sweet and typically a red wine. Port came from Portugal’s Douro River Valley and is made using local grapes called Touriga Nacional, together with other local supporting grapes.If you want a sweet dessert wine that has fresh red fruit flavors, then you must try Ruby Ports. This wine carries a deep ruby-red color and has chocolate and berry flavors. If you want nuttier styles of dessert wine, then Tawny Port is perfect for you. It is oxidatively aged and has dried fruit, nut, and toffee flavors.
  • MadeiraMadeira wines are made from four core grapes, which are Sercial, Bual, Verdelho, and Malmsey. It ranges from drier to sweeter, and when it’s labeled Rainwater, it is generally a blend of medium sweetness. Madeira wine is characterized by tastes of dried and cooked fruit, nuts, honey, toffee, and much more. It can also last for centuries and can be kept open and out of the fridge.
  • MarsalaMarsala wine is thought of as a simple wine used for cooking. But did you know that it has a long history, which sits among the ranks of the world’s most popular fortified dessert wines which are Sherry, Port, and Madeira? Hence, making it one of the best dessert wines that you can try, too.
  • Rutherglen MuscatThis type of dessert wine is made from Muscat Rouge a Petits Grains, which is a reddish-skinned white grape. It is left on the vine to gain sugar throughout the harvest season. It is fortified during fermentation, that’s why much of its sugar remains in the wine. It is then aged oxidatively in barrel, resulting in a rich, brown, and sweet wine that has intense flavors of raisins, burnt caramel, prunes, coffee, and more.

2. Late-Harvested or Noble Rot Wines

As mentioned earlier, noble rot wines are those wines created from grapes that are left on the vine until the end of the harvest season. This method allows them to get super-ripe and gain lots of sugar. It is a version of late-harvest wine, but the healthy grapes are attacked by Botrytis cinerea, which is a type of fungus that punctures grape skins to dehydrate them, creating concentrated flavors, sugar, and acidity in grapes.

Here are some of the different noble-rot dessert wines that you can try:

  • RieslingRiesling is one of the most versatile grapes in the world. It is grown all over the world, but its sweet-wine home is in Germany. Sweet Riesling wine range from off-dry to late-harvested versions with more concentration. Riesling is also being produced in Austria using the Pradikat system. This type of dessert wine is low in alcohol.
  • SauternesThis dessert wine is considered to be the world’s greatest sweet wine. And it is also one of history’s most sought-after and expensive sweet wines. When it comes to noble-rot wines, Sauternes is the gold standard, being made from the easily-attacked Semillon grape, together with Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc. Even though the purple fuzz-covered grapes may seem disgusting, they transform into a lusciously sweet dessert wine that is aged in oak before release.
  • TokajiTokaji is a dessert wine that comes from Hungary. It is made from the local Furmint grape, which is high in acid and very susceptible to botrytis, too. These wines are uber sweet and are barrel-aged, as well. They are also low in alcohol. One variety of this is the Tokaji Esszencia, which is made only from the syrupy free-run juice that comes from the aszu grapes. It is probably the sweetest wine in the world, but it is difficult to find, too. It can age for more than a century and is usually sold by the teaspoonful.

3. Dried Grape Wines

Drying grapes is a traditional technique done in Italy, Greece, and Austria. Dried grape wines are made by drying health grapes after harvesting them. Most of the time, they are hanged from rafters or placed on straw mats. This method dehydrates the grapes, which concentrates the remaining sugar and flavors, creating a sweet wine with clean flavors.

Here are some of the dried grape dessert wines you can try:

  • Vin Santo Del ChiantiThis dessert wine is also known as the holy wine. It can be found in some regions of Italy. It is made from Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia grapes, which are hung in whole bunches from rafters. This wine is barrel-aged in small oak or chestnut barrels between three and eight years. It is sweet with dried fruits and raisin flavors.
  • Recioto Della ValpolicellaThis one is a sweet red wine that is made from dried Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella grapes. These grapes are traditionally dried on straw mats or in lofts, ensuring that air circulates through the grapes during the drying process to avoid molds from forming. This type of dessert wine is characterized by dried berry and raisin, along with vanilla and chocolate.

These are some of the different types of dessert wines and how they are made. These wines can be a dessert themselves, but bakery sweets can make a good match. Just remember the general rule that the wine should be sweeter than the food it is served with. We hope the information we shared was able to give you more knowledge about what a dessert wine is.

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Wine, Beer, Spirits

SommCon 2024: A Premier Gathering for Wine, Beer, and Spirits Professionals in San Diego




SommCon®, the leading symposium for wine, beer, and spirits professionals, has officially announced its return to the vibrant city of San Diego, California. Scheduled from October 5-7, 2024, at the Town & Country Resort, this preeminent event is gearing up to offer an unparalleled immersive experience into the world of beverage. Having established a strong community of beverage trailblazers over nearly a decade, SommCon® presents an unmatched platform for on- and off-premise buyers, wholesalers, importers, distributors, sommeliers, beverage directors, educators, and media.

The 2024 conference promises over 30 workshops and master classes across six diverse tracks, including Advanced Tasting Techniques, Beer & Spirits, Climate & Sustainability, Financial Acumen & Business Management, Professional Development, and Regional Explorations. These sessions are designed to foster both personal and professional growth in the beverage industry.

With a notable increase in attendance and brand participation in the previous year, the SommCon Beverage Expo returns with a robust marketplace. This segment of the event will connect over 1,000 on- and off-premise buyers, importers, and distributors with domestic and international producers. The trade show is set to feature innovation zones and educational stages, a Craft Producers Pavilion, facilitated buyer-supplier meetings, and showcases of 2024 Concours d’Spirits and Concours d’Vin medal winners. Additionally, the Bottle Shot Lounge will offer producers the opportunity to obtain professional product photography, enhancing their brand visibility.

Several new experiences await attendees at the 2024 Conference & Beverage Expo. A Hosted Buyer Program invites professional alcohol beverage buyers to apply for a complimentary full conference pass, including travel and accommodations. The Women in Craft Forum, hosted by the Craft Beverage Expo, will focus on the pivotal role of women in the craft beverage industry, offering a day of education centered around business development and expansion.

Furthermore, a Career Coaching & Resource Center will provide resources for those looking to advance their beverage careers. This space will include career coaching, resume workshops, mentorship, a professional headshot studio, and brand partners offering training for continuing education and certifications. Attendees can also look forward to engaging in Fun & Games, including trivia, spelling bees, and blind tasting battles, designed to foster networking in a competitive yet enjoyable atmosphere.

The BevTech Showcase will introduce cutting-edge technology brands revolutionizing the beverage industry, offering insights into the intersection of technology and the professional alcohol beverage industry. The Content & Creator Studio will provide a bespoke filming environment for brands and creators to collaborate, producing high-quality educational content, industry podcasts, and more.

The event will take place at the iconic Town & Country Resort in San Diego, a property known for its retro charm and comprehensive facilities. With newly renovated guestrooms, a resort-style pool, award-winning on-property dining, and extensive meeting and event space, the venue promises an exceptional experience for all attendees.

Registration for the SommCon Conference & Beverage Expo is now open, with details and sign-up information available on their website. As the premier gathering for professionals in the wine, beer, and spirits industry, SommCon® offers unparalleled opportunities for education, networking, and career development.

SommCon® is a trademark of Fast Forward, an event production house specializing in consumer and business events in wine, beer, spirits, culinary, and hospitality. The conference and expo are produced in partnership with The SOMM Journal, featuring the Concours d’Spirits and Concours d’Vin competitions, and SommGo, an on-demand streaming service with educational content for the global wine, beer, and spirits industry.

As the beverage industry continues to evolve, SommCon® remains at the forefront, providing a dynamic platform for learning, growth, and innovation. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the field, the 2024 conference and expo promise to be an invaluable experience for all who attend.

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Wine, Beer, Spirits

The Resilient Rise of Spirits: Outpacing Beer and Wine in Market Share




In an era where consumer preferences are rapidly evolving, the spirits industry has remarkably maintained its edge over beer and wine, marking the second consecutive year of its market share dominance. Despite facing the headwinds of high inflation and rising interest rates, which have generally dampened discretionary spending, the spirits sector’s resilience is noteworthy. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), U.S. spirits revenue saw a modest increase of 0.2% in 2023, reaching $37.7 billion. This growth, albeit slight, underscores the industry’s ability to navigate through economic uncertainties and consumer shifts, outpacing beer and wine sales by 0.4% and 26.1%, respectively.

The pandemic era brought about a significant surge in alcohol consumption, with many turning to premium spirits as a form of indulgence during lockdowns. Vodka retained its position as the top-selling spirit, while tequila and mezcal not only secured the second spot but also widened their lead over American whiskey. The categories of tequila, mezcal, blended whiskey, and American whiskey emerged as the fastest-growing in terms of revenue, signaling a shift in consumer tastes towards more diverse and premium spirits.

Despite the overall market’s modest growth, the premium segment of the spirits industry faced challenges. Major players like Diageo, LVMH, and Constellation Brands reported weaknesses in their premium spirits and wine segments. Diageo, for instance, experienced a significant stock drop after cutting its growth guidance, reflecting the broader trend of slowing luxury spirits sales post-pandemic peak.

However, the industry found a silver lining in the rapid rise of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails. This category, which includes spirits-based products like vodka and tequila-based hard seltzers, was the fastest-growing in 2023, with a 26.7% increase in revenue to $2.8 billion. The success of RTD cocktails can be attributed to their premium positioning and the consumer’s desire for convenience without compromising on quality. Companies like Coca-Cola have entered the RTD market, launching cocktails in collaboration with Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s, further validating the category’s growth potential.

The American whiskey segment, in particular, received a boost with the extension of the suspension of EU tariffs on the liquor until March 31, 2025. This agreement between the U.S. and European Union is a positive development for the industry, potentially opening up European markets for American whiskey producers and contributing to the category’s growth.

In conclusion, the spirits industry’s performance in 2023 reflects its adaptability and resilience in the face of economic pressures and changing consumer preferences. While the luxury segment may have experienced a slowdown, the rise of RTD cocktails and the strategic focus on diversifying spirit offerings have kept the industry in a strong position. As we move forward, it will be interesting to see how the spirits sector continues to innovate and respond to the evolving landscape of consumer tastes and economic conditions.

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Wine, Beer, Spirits

The Art and Science of Crafting Alcohol-Free Beer and Wine: A Deep Dive into the Brewing Revolution




In a culture where alcohol has been a staple for centuries, the rise of non-alcoholic beer and wine marks a significant shift in consumer preferences and technological advancements. This trend is not just a fleeting fad but a reflection of a deeper change in societal attitudes towards alcohol consumption.

The Growing Trend of Mindful Drinking

The concept of “mindful drinking” is gaining traction worldwide, particularly in Australia, where alcohol has been a part of the social fabric for over 240 years. This shift is evident in the expanding range of non-alcoholic beverages available in supermarkets and online retailers. Unlike their earlier counterparts, these new-age drinks are not limited in variety and boast flavors that closely mimic their alcoholic versions.

The Science Behind Non-Alcoholic Brews

The journey of creating non-alcoholic beer and wine begins with traditional fermentation, where yeasts convert sugars into ethanol. This process is crucial as it contributes to the beverage’s flavor profile. The challenge, however, lies in removing the alcohol while retaining the taste.

High-Tech Methods: Filtration and Distillation

Advanced techniques like membrane filtration and distillation are at the forefront of this brewing revolution. Membrane filtration, particularly reverse osmosis, involves passing the beverage under pressure through filters to separate ethanol from other compounds. This method is favored for its ability to maintain the integrity of the drink’s flavor.

Distillation, on the other hand, separates compounds based on their boiling points. To prevent flavor alteration due to heat, this process is conducted under low pressures and in a vacuum, allowing ethanol removal at lower temperatures, as explained in a study published in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing.

The Craft Brewer’s Approach

Craft breweries, especially in Australia, are adopting innovative methods to produce low-alcohol beers without the need for expensive equipment. These methods include manipulating fermentation conditions and using unique yeast strains. Some breweries use yeasts that are less efficient in producing ethanol, resulting in beers with very low alcohol content, sometimes even below 0.5%. This approach not only offers a low-alcohol alternative but also introduces a variety of new flavors to the beer market.

The Future of Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Creating non-alcoholic versions that taste exactly like their alcoholic counterparts remains a challenge. Ethanol contributes significantly to the flavor, especially in wine. However, producers are continually refining their techniques. Preliminary investigations have shown that even experienced beer drinkers often cannot distinguish between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beers.

Embracing the Non-Alcoholic Wave

The non-alcoholic beverage market is not just a response to consumer demand for healthier options; it’s also a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of the brewing industry. As technology and brewing techniques evolve, the gap between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages in terms of taste and variety continues to narrow.

The rise of non-alcoholic beer and wine is a clear indicator of a broader societal shift towards mindful consumption. It reflects a growing awareness of the health implications of alcohol and a desire for inclusive social experiences where everyone, regardless of their drinking preferences, can enjoy a flavorful beverage.

As we move forward, the non-alcoholic beverage industry is poised to play a significant role in shaping drinking cultures around the world. It’s not just about removing alcohol; it’s about adding choice, inclusivity, and innovation to our social fabric. The future of drinking is here, and it’s surprisingly sober.

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