“Is it sweet or fruity?” is the question someone asked me this weekend at a wine tasting. The red wine we were tasting was definitely a dry wine, but his question warranted more of an explanation rather than just a simple answer.
With the exception of the experienced “wineaux” wine tasters, when we taste a new wine many of us sometimes confuse its sweet fruity flavors with a level of sweetness and do not realize that it’s the fruitiness we’re tasting. When we do figure out the difference between sweet or fruity it can be hard to explain it without going into the details from grape growing and picking right through the wine-making process.
Simply put, during the wine’s fermentation the natural sugar in the grapes is converted into alcohol (ferment the wine to dryness) and the wine then becomes more fruit forward. The fruity wine suggests to our palate the wine is sweet, though it’s really the fruit flavors we taste in the wine.
If you would like to taste the difference between a sweet wine and a fruity wine, you can have fun with your friends by having a taste test. You can do this at home or at a restaurant, though you might have more fun doing this at home.
- Choose a Sauvignon Blanc and a dry Riesling for this taste test. Start with the Sauvignon Blanc which has tropical and/or citrus flavors which you might think tastes “sweet”.
- Now taste a Riesling. Rieslings are well balanced wines that are made with more residual sugar than Sauvignon Blanc. You should notice the difference in the level of sweetness in the Riesling which you might say is very “sweet”.
- Taste the Sauvignon Blanc again. Notice that the wine is not really sweet but what you really taste is the delicious tropical fruits with a hint of the citrus.
When you do the tasting, cleanse your palate after tasting each wine. Take a couple of bites of a plain cracker and wash it down with plain water that is not too cold. If the water is iced and too cold it will numb your palate so you will not be able to really taste the actual flavors in next few sips of wine.