By Murray Schulman
I decided to look through my wine rack and cooler to see what I could find that may make an interesting topic for this month’s column. First, I dug deeply into the bottom of the cooler. There, way in the back I found a bottle that I can’t remember purchasing. Nor could I remember who may have given it to me. The same dilemma challenged me with the discovery of another bottle from the far reaches of my wine rack. I’m not sure that you can refer to these bottles as lost in the traditional sense of being misplaced. Yet these were certainly lost in terms of my memory. Whatever way we want to look at this, these bottles can be marked as found. I have an inkling as to why these bottles were lost to my memory. Both are dessert wines. Not my favorite and for me easily forgettable. However, as a topic of discussion, I’ll concede that I owe these products equal exposure here.
Dessert wines of Italy fall into three categories. They are often used in cooking or as stand-alone between-meal wines. Passito wines are unique in that they are made from late harvest dried fruit. A good example of Passito wine is Vinsanto. The next category is one that most if mot all of you will readily recognize. These are the Syrupy wines. You will recognize them as Marsala and Moscato among others. Our third category of course are the Sparkling Sweet Wines. In the case of these wines, the fermentation process is stopped by chilling the fermenting juice. The result is wine such as Brachetto d’ Acqui and Moscadello di Montalcino.
Unfortunately, my find included none of these delightful products of Italy. I found a 2001 Black Tower Riesling Pfalz from Germany. This dessert wine went out of production in 2013. At that time the 750 ml bottle sold for around $7. There is a well-
deserved stigma attached to this particular Riesling. Germany flooded the markets with this product in the 1970s. People worldwide purchased huge quantities due to great marketing and a low price. Finally, after over forty years of production Black Tower Riesling went the way of the Dodo bird. I gave my bottle a proper burial and shed not a single tear.
On the other hand, I found a midpriced dessert wine at the $17 price point for the 50 cl bottle, from dare I say it, France. Domaine de Valcros Banyuls Hors D’Age is a respected dessert wine made from the Grenache grape. This grape is prolific primarily in Spain, France, Italy, Australia and the USA. The Grenache grape is every bit as important to the wine industry as Cabernet Sauvignon. The Banyuls Hors D’Age wine is rated around 87 points on most scales and boasts a 16% alcohol content. Keep in mind that a good Porto will generally have a 20% alcohol content. Still, there is enough heat on the tongue to make the wine interesting and palatable. Yes, it is quite sweet with the quality of presenting the nuances of currants, coffee and black raspberries. You may even pick up a hint of cherries and strawberries on the nose and teasingly on the palate. The wine is known for a short finish with some lingering heat. This wine has good character. But, with a flavor that is much too sweet to put a smile on my face. I can say that if you like sweet cordials, this is certainly a different type of aperitif. I am now sure that this had to be a gift. I would not buy something like this for myself. No, I am not running out to purchase more of this wine. However, I always derive pleasure from discovering a new taste experience be it positive or not so much. For this reason, I am pleased to share my thoughts with all of you. IAH
From the far reaches of the wine rack, something long-forgotten
By Murray Schulman