This Week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© Dessert and Aperitif Wines

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Ciao Mambo, “Eat Like You Mean It”, located in Missoula on The Hip Strip.  Find them online at

Sleep City Missoula

Liquid Planet “Best of Beverage” and a great place to find your holiday wine located in the heart of downtown Missoula.

W.J. Deutsch & Sons since 1981 has been marketing quality wines produced by prestigious families from major wine regions of the world. 

Georges Distributing in Helena, Montana.

Good Sunday morning and welcome to the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© This week on the show I decided to discuss Dessert and Aperitifwines as a prelude to a special guest that will be joining me on the show in the coming weeks.  Donald Ziraldo ,co-founder of Inniskillin Wines Inc., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario and current President of Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards Inc., Oliver, British Columbia, the world authority on Icewine. 

Stay tuned for this show it’s one you will not want to miss.  A friend of mine recently was asking about Dessert and Aperitif wines so I thought this would be an appropriate time to explore this area of wines that many are just not sure about.

My friend Aimee Ryan asked me; Mike I like to drink dry or crisp wines but I never seem to like aperitif or dessert wines.  Can you recommend how I might approach these types of wines?  Aimee thanks for asking, let’s take a moment to understand these wines types and styles a little bit better.

There are some naturally sweet grape varietals such as Muscat, Huxelrebe, and Ortega that are used to produce sweet wines.  The Sweetness of these particular varietals is enhanced by pruning techniques – eliminating bunches of grapes on the vines to concentrate sugar and flavor.

There are a few techniques that are used to produce sweet wines as well.  One winemaking technique that is used is Chaptalization.  This is when sugar or honey is added prior to fermentation process.  Süssreserve is a German technique of winemaking that adds grape juice to the wine after fermentation has been completed.

Today though we will be focusing on Icewine, a winemaking style where grapes are naturally frozen on the vine, harvested during the middle of the night or early morning and pressed in the extreme cold to separate the juice from the ice crystals.  The fermentation requires special yeast and many months of time.  This remarkable process concentrates the sugar and acids and intensifies the aroma and flavor of the grapes.  The result is very special wine that expresses aromatic flavors of white and tropical fruits.

Natural Icewine by wine regulations require a hard freeze; in Canada the temperature must drop to (-8C or 17°F) colder, and in Germany (−7 °C or 19 °F), this usually occurs months after a typical harvest.  If the freeze does not come soon enough the entire crop can be lost to rot and if the freeze is too severe it can prevent any juice from being extracted when the grapes are pressed.  Animals also love these sweet grapes and left to hang to long grapes will naturally drop from the vine.  This is a very tenuous circumstance waiting for the “perfect” climatic conditions.  Canada and Germany are the world’s largest producers of ice wines.  About 75 percent of ice wine in Canada comes from Ontario.

Late Harvest or Noble Rot wine is made from moldy grapes, a fungus known as Botrytis Cinerea.  This process occurs best in vineyards that experience heavy evening moisture with hot sunny days.  This fungus dehydrates the water from the grape and imparts nuances of Honey, and Apricot once the wines are made.  Sauternes from Bordeaux, Hungarian Tokaji, or  Germany’s Trockenbeerenauslese are some of the world’s finest examples of Late Harvest and Noble Rot wines.

In Austria, Germany, the United States, and Canada, the grapes must freeze naturally to be called ice wine.  Cryoextraction is yet another method (that is, mechanical freezing) used to simulate the effect of a frost.  The grapes are not left to hang for extended periods as is done with natural ice wines.  These non-traditional wines are sometimes referred to as “icebox wines”. 

Good Dessert and Aperitif wines are sweet but remain balanced due to balanced acidity.  These wines can be served alone or with foods less sweet than the wine.  Quite often, the wine itself can be a dessert, but bakery sweets can be a good pairing.

Whites Dessert or Aperitif wines should be served slightly chilled while the red wines should be served at room temperature or ever so slightly chilled.

A sweet or dessert wine that I really enjoy and recommend is the 2010 Deglace Dessert Wine from Adelsheim Vineyard.  This is a beautiful example of a very sophisticated dessert wine made in the Cryoextraction method.

Adelsheim Vineyard

Wine Background:

Dessert wines from red-skinned grapes – especially Pinot noir – are relatively rare in the world.  Adelsheim Vineyard produced their first Deglacé, almost as an experiment, in 2001.  Initially, the wine was created for use at the end of winery dinners.  Neither of the two ways in which dessert wine is traditionally produced – using grapes that have been desiccated by Botrytis Cinerea (“noble rot”), or pressing after the grapes had frozen on the vine – would work for us.  A Pinot noir producer would never want Botrytis in its vineyards (it ruins red wines), and they couldn’t remember a fall when a freeze came before the rains of winter.  That year, winemaker Dave Paige selected one block of grapes to take to a freezer instead of the winery, and then followed the traditional approach to producing an ice wine. (Well, not entirely traditional.  He didn’t have to do any of the work in the middle of the night which is when grapes for Ice Wine are traditionally harvested.)  Their Deglacé dessert wine has a soft pink color produced from contact with the Pinot noir skins.  The residual sugars are on the low end as compared to traditional ice wines, resulting in a consistently balanced wine.

The Wine

Even with this sweet wine, they have stayed true to their winery philosophy that a wine’s highest use is in pairing with meals.  That means retaining enough of the grapes’ natural acidity to ensure that the wine never becomes too cloying.  The Deglacé has amazing strawberry shortcake, citrus blossom, and nectarine aromas that meld with the viscous yet firm texture on the palate.  It should prove to be a perfect match with red berry tarts, pumpkin cheesecake, and a wide range of other desserts.

"from my table to yours"

"from my table to yours"


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