What to drink…

Mas­ter of Wine Richard Hem­ming ex­plores the dif­fer­ent types of dessert wine

Living France - - À La Maison -

A glass of good sweet wine served with pudding is surely one of life’s most in­dul­gent plea­sures. True to her gas­tro­nomic rep­u­ta­tion, France makes a whole host of dif­fer­ent styles of sweet wines to match any sort of dessert.

There are three ba­sic main ways to make a sweet wine. The first is late har­vest, known as ven­dange tar­dive in French. That sim­ply means leav­ing the grapes on the vine longer, so that they ac­cu­mu­late more su­gar.

It’s a sim­ple tech­nique, but it re­quires good weather through­out the au­tumn to en­sure the grapes stay healthy.

An al­ter­na­tive is to use for­ti­fi­ca­tion. This means adding alcohol to a fer­men­ta­tion to kill the yeast, re­sult­ing in a wine that is both strong and sweet, usu­ally with a pow­er­ful pri­mary fruit flavour. These are known as vins doux na­turels and are more com­mon in the south of France.

The third method pro­duces wine of su­perla­tive qual­ity, but is spe­cialised, ex­pen­sive and re­quires very par­tic­u­lar con­di­tions. It re­lies on the devel­op­ment of a mould called no­ble rot. Also known as botry­tis, this is a benev­o­lent fun­gus that con­cen­trates the juice in­side grapes, re­sult­ing in a su­per sweet liq­uid with hugely com­plex flavours. The most fa­mous lo­ca­tion in France to use this method is the Sauternes area in Bordeaux, but the same method is used in the Loire and Al­sace.

Here are three rec­om­men­da­tions that will make a great match for the apri­cot and laven­der al­mondine – or they can be en­joyed all by them­selves.

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