Be­yond su­gar

Decanter - - SWEETNESS -

The im­pres­sion of sweet­ness in a wine isn’t just down to how much resid­ual su­gar and acid­ity it has. The fol­low­ing list of fac­tors can also play a role:


Age­ing in con­tact with oak can re­lease sweet-tast­ing com­pounds into the wine. It can also im­part flavours that are as­so­ci­ated with sweet­ness, such as nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring vanillin, or caramel or cof­fee flavours pro­duced from toast­ing the oak over a flame.


The flavours of very ripe grapes – over­ripe, jammy or dried fruits – can prompt us to think of the sweet­ness that would usu­ally ac­com­pany these flavours in na­ture, even if the wine which con­tains these flavours has been fer­mented to dry­ness.


Al­co­hol can taste sweet (as can glyc­erol), so a wine with a high al­co­hol con­tent can taste slightly sweet even if it con­tains prac­ti­cally no resid­ual su­gar.

Serv­ing tem­per­a­ture

The lower the serv­ing tem­per­a­ture, the less sen­si­tive the palate is to sweet­ness. A very sweet wine can taste cloy­ing at room tem­per­a­ture, but more re­fresh­ing and drink­able when chilled.

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