Friday, February 4, 2011

How Sweet It Is…or Isn’t

There’s a certain rhythm to the year for us winos.

Sure, there’s the viticultural year…dormancy, budbreak, flowering, green harvest, veraison, harvest, pruning.

There are the familiar labels that show up in the Vintages release at the same time every year.

Even some issues seem to pop up at the same time, one year to the next. Here’s one of my favourites.

Decanter reports that Olivier Humbrecht, the boss of Zind-Humbrecht, one of the top producers in Alsace and Biodynamic to boot, is calling for a “sweetness code” on the labels of Alsatian wines.

Certainly one of the biggest challenges that both Alsatian and German wines (particularly Rieslings) have is that consumers are never quite sure how sweet a particular wine is. Vinification styles vary widely.

My strong preference is for bone-dry white wines, and I’ve been disappointed with some wines (including from Zind-Humbrecht) that are sweeter (perceived or actual) than I prefer. I know that many other Riesling fans out there have the opposite preference, and have been equally disappointed when an Alsatian or German white wine doesn’t meet their expectations.

Sure, in Ontario, we have the sweetness ratings provided by Vintages/LCBO, but I’ve found that system has its drawbacks, largely because there are other factors (pH levels, acidity) that affect the perception of sweetness in a wine.

So, when I posted about the International Riesling Foundation’s Taste Profile at this time last year, I said that I liked the solution of having the winemaker put a Taste Profile right on the label. Still do. Good for the consumer, good of the producer. An idea whose time has come?

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