I read a wonderful article in Food and Wine Magazine last Autumn about different tasting procedures you can go through to help yourself understand the different properties of wine tasting. I wanted to save these exercises and the wines used to go through them with friends in the future.
Residual sugar is the defining factor of sweetness in a wine. This is the sugar in the liquid after fermentation. Acidity can sometimes mask the sweetness in wines by balancing out the sugar.
Sweetness in wine balances the spiciness in a dish. If the meal you are savoring incorporates spicy notes, it is beneficial to imbibe with something that has a cooling effect on your mouth. This can be challenging because the alcohol in wines often antagonizes the heat of the hot spice, reducing the likelihood that your palate is able to cool down. Because of this, it is vital for wines that you drink with a spicy dish to contain a lower alcohol level. Balancing the spice by drinking a wine with residual sweetness diminishes the perception of heat.
Equipment: 16 ounce glass filled half full, 2 lemons, 1 cup of sugar
Squeeze the juice of the lemons into the water and stir. Taste the mixture; it will be very tart. Stir in sugar, one teaspoon at a time, tasting after each addition. You should notice when the juice achieves the right level of sweetness and balances the acidity of the lemon.
The following wines will help illustrate the concept of sweetness. A type of wine is listed, followed by a specific vintage and brand that would work well. Each are listed in order from driest to sweetest.
* Dry Riesling (2010 Robert Weil Kiedrich Turmberg Trocken)
* Off-dry Riesling (2011 Hexamer Kabinett)
* Sweet Riesling (2010 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese)
(The wines in parenthesis were not necessarily the wines I found and used when first doing this experiment. They are wines suggested in Food and Wine Magazine.)