Home Enjoy Wine - Boela Gerber Sweet wine is sweet wine?

Sweet wine is sweet wine?

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Sweet wine is a topic of great confusion. I don’t think people always realise that there are so many different types of sweet wine and that they are all made differently. It is not a matter of sweet wine is sweet wine is sweet wine. Let’s look at a few stickies and how they’re made.


Port

I’ve always been very fond of port, especially in front of a fire after dinner. Port is basically made like red wine, but fermentation is stopped by fortification halfway through the process. Oops. Too much information.

Okay, traditionally port comes from the harbour town of Oporto in Portugal and the name is reserved for the sweet wines from that region. Even though we can make a similar product in South Africa, we are not allowed to export a product with the word “port” on the label.

Although red varieties like Pinotage and Shiraz can make decent port-style wines, traditional Portuguese varieties like Tinta Barocca and Touriga Naçional are used to make classic ports. To make port you use very sweet grapes and start fermentation on the skins, like red wine, to extract colour, flavour and tannin. As fermentation progresses sugar turns into alcohol, so the sugar concentration decreases while alcohol increases. When you reach the desired sugar balance, you fortify the port. Fortification implies the addition of alcohol, specifically brandy spirits, to stop fermentation and also to prevent future fermentation or spoilage.

The port is then aged in barrels for a few months before bottling. Ruby port is bottled when young to show a ruby red colour and fresh berry fruit. Tawny port, on the other hand, is aged for far longer before bottling, allowing the wine to turn slightly tawny in colour and nutty on the nose.


Noble late harvest

This is a very specialised and tricky product to make. During harvest time, the grapes are left hanging on the vine, way beyond ripeness. Under very humid conditions, a fungus called Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot, can grow on the grapes. This fungus causes the grapes to desiccate (become raisin-like), concentrating the flavours and sugar of the grapes. The sweet raisined berries are picked and pressed, and the juice is fermented to produce a sweet wine with a unique dusty character. This is a very difficult and high-risk wine to make, but if done properly it should result in an amazing product.


Jerepiko

Jerepikos are typical South African, with Montagu Muscadel one of the most well known thanks to local singer and song writer David Kramer. Most sweet Muscadel and Hanepoot wines are made in this style.

Bit of a tricky subject, as jerepikos are technically not wine. Wine, per definition, is fermented grape juice but jerepiko never ferments. To make jerepiko, you pick the grapes, press it to get some juice and then add alcohol immediately to fortify it. So, from picking to jerepiko takes a day or two. It is obviously not as easy as I’m making it out here. A few producers in the Worcester and Robertson areas make delicious jerepikos that age beautifully over decades.


If you have any questions of queries, please do not hesitate to email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


 

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