La Vino Dolce

There's No Shame in Being Sweet ™
March 20th, 2014 by Troy Stark

Sweet Wine Master Class

Hello there! What’s this place? I remember having a blog at one time. This must be it. I’m sure no one is following this site anymore, due to my lack of diligence in maintaining it, but I’ll throw this out there just in case…

I’m teaching a Master Class on Sweet Wines at Sunfish Cellars on March 22, 2014. That’s this Saturday, for those of you keeping track. Tickets are available online if you click this link. That said, it looks like there might only be a few tickets left. The class will discuss the four main ways of making sweet wines: adding sugar, removing water, using overripe grapes and stopping fermentation.

July 9th, 2012 by Troy Stark

Sherry, redux

The summer has not been kind to this blog. The only person to blame for that is yours truly. In the interest of getting things back on track, I thought I should post a series of articles that were recently published by the New York Times’ wine writer, Eric Asimov. Mr. Asimov explores the changing face of Sherry in depth in two blog posts and two articles. Anyone curious about Sherry, where it came from and where it’s headed, should take some time to read them:

Blog Posts:

The Essential Elements of Sherry
The Business of Sherry


Sherry Producers Should Think Small
Sherry Seeks Image Makeover

Coincidentally, it sounds like we might be tasting some Sherries at the wine market this week, so I may post some tasting notes soon.

May 11th, 2012 by Troy Stark

Midwest Sweet Wines

I was recently asked to write an article for a publication called Midwest Wine Press. The audience for that publication is primarily wine producers in the Midwest and sophisticated wine enthusiasts interested in the technical aspects of Midwest wine making. The article itself discusses using hybrid grapes to make sweet wines. As a rule of thumb, sweet wines need a little more acidity to balance out the sugar. This makes hybrid grapes, which almost always have high acidity, well suited for such wines.

As part of my research for the article, I was privileged to visit 3 of Minnesota’s best wineries: St. Croix Vineyards in Stillwater, Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings, and Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls. What follows are my tasting notes and recollections. Read the rest of this entry »

April 18th, 2012 by Troy Stark

Vintage Port Follow Up

Not too long ago, I wrote an article explaining the differences between Late Bottled Vintage Ports and other styles of Port. I made a couple of claims in that article that I wanted to follow up on.

- LBV Ports without a traditional cork don’t age well -

A couple of my friends who read this blog questioned me when I claimed that LBV Ports with a cork stopper, as opposed to a traditional cork, don’t age well. Most people are under the impression that just about any type of port can be aged. The fact is, I stand by my assertion that, unless your port has a traditional cork, it will not age. To test my theory, I decided to consume the oldest bottle of LBV I could find.

Needless to say, this bottle of Sandeman’s 1989 Late Bottled Vintage Port was not good. It had absolutely no fruit left and was nothing but alcohol on the palette. I suppose if you were desperate you could probably have choked it down, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Read the rest of this entry »

March 31st, 2012 by Troy Stark

Late Harvest vs. Ice Wine

Having discussed some of the best known sweet wines, Port and Sherry, I thought it might be fun to briefly examine two lesser known styles of sweet wine; late harvest and ice wines. Both are made from grapes picked very late in the season, but there are some key differences.

Late Harvest Wines

Late Harvest GrapesLate harvest wines come in many different shapes and sizes. From France’s famed Sauternes (“saw-tairn”) to Hungary’s precious Tokaji (“toe-kai,” like when you say “hi”), there are hundreds of “late harvest” wines. Not all late harevest wines are created equal, though. Sauternes and Tokaji are some of the most sought-after and high-priced wines in the world, whereas a late harvest “Auslese” Riesling from Germany might only set you back $15. The difference in price comes partly from how the grapes are harvested and vinified and partly from the quantity produced, but more on that later.

By definition, all grapes used to make late harvest wines are allowed to hang on the vine longer than those intended for dry table wines. This causes the ripening process (véraison in French) to continue through late fall and early winter, which greatly increases the sugar content of the grapes. The “Brix” of grapes, which is a measurement of their sugar content, is often around 24° to 26° for dry table wines, but it can be over 35° in late harvest wines. Each 1° Brix represents approximately 1 gram of dissolved sugar per 100 grams of liquid. Table grapes, as a point of reference, typically have around 17° to 19° Brix, which gives you an idea of just how sweet wine grapes are when harvested and how very sweet late harvest wine grapes would be if eaten. Read the rest of this entry »