Wines are classified into different categories, which are sometimes difficult to define. Between sweet wines, sweet wines, sparkling wines and dry wines, let's take a moment to focus on sweet wines .
What is a sweet wine?
Sweet wines are a type of wine with a high residual sugar content . They then have a pleasantly sweet flavor in the mouth. Sweet wines and sweet wines are therefore part of sweet wines.
Sweet wine can be made from different grape varieties, but its particularity is that it undergoes incomplete alcoholic fermentation , where the sugars are not completely transformed into alcohol.
Among the big names in sweet wines in the world, we can note Sauternes from Bordeaux, Moscato d'Asti from Italy, or even Vin Santo from Tuscany, in Italy.
The particular case of natural sweet wine
Generally speaking, wine lovers don't talk about sweet wine to talk about sweet wines. Indeed, the term sweet wine rather refers to natural sweet wine , another type of wine, very different.
Natural sweet wine: definition
Originally, a natural sweet wine is a still wine (white wine, red wine or rosé wine). It then undergoes the same vinification technique of a classic sweet wine, with incomplete fermentation. The big difference is that the winemaker adds eau-de-vie or brandy to the wine at an early stage of fermentation. Adding a high-alcohol spirit, called mutage , stops the process, allowing residual sugars to remain high, while also increasing the alcohol level.
Natural sweet wines are therefore fortified wines which have a complex flavor, with notes of caramel, dried fruits and nuts. And if we give them the name “sweet wines”, it is above all for their very pronounced sweet taste. The notion of “natural” indicates that no addition is made to flavor the wine.
Fortified wines can be red wines, white wines or rosé wines.
A very alcoholic fortified wine
Natural sweet wines are not ordinary still wines, which are consumed throughout a meal or a convivial evening. Indeed, these types of wines are very alcoholic , and should therefore be consumed in moderation.
The alcohol content of natural sweet wines is generally between 15° and 22°, which is much higher than a conventional wine.
The origins of natural sweet wine
Fortified wine originated in the 13th century, in Roussillon. At the time, wine was difficult to store, as the containers were not yet as airtight as today's glass wine bottle. Arnaud de Vilanova then had the idea of adding strong alcohol to his wine , to increase the alcohol level while retaining the sweet flavors of the grapes. The manufacturing technique then quickly spread to many countries around the world.
The main natural sweet wines
Although natural sweet wine was created in Languedoc-Roussillon, this wine-growing region remains the largest producer in France, and 95% of natural sweet wines (VDN) are produced there.
In France, we automatically think of Rivesaltes , Banyuls Grand Cru and Maury . Abroad, there are also big names, such as Port from Portugal, and natural sweet wines from Spain, sometimes called "vino de licor" or "vinho generoso".
Natural sweet wines are also produced in Canada, Australia, the United States and South Africa.
When we talk about sweet wine , it is important to distinguish still wines with a high sugar content from very sweet and alcoholic fortified wines. In all cases, these wines undergo incomplete fermentation which gives unique characteristics to exceptional wines .