Goodbye to summer

Here’s a paean to one of my favorite summer wines, and my last chance to drink it before it becomes all red wine all the time. (At the restaurant, actually, the shift has already started. It’s cool enough now for the customers to want red with dinner, and red wine sales have gone back up.)

It’s delicious.

Right now the 2006 is open. It retails for about $18 and it has a screw cap, so you can have a glass with lunch and then put the rest in the fridge for later. But it’s hard because the wine only has nine percent alcohol and is so easy to drink.

It’s light and fruity with a little sugar (residual or süssreserve?) to mitigate the high acidity reisling achieves in the Rheingau. It’s almost like a peach wine cooler crossed with quality flinty lemonade. In a good way.

But in many ways it’s a hard sell. My mother and her friends, whom I consider a valuable demographic — wine drinkers all with some money to spend — initially say, “Oh, I don’t like sweet wine.” And sometimes decline a taste. But when they do, and I ask them to picture themselves out in the sun having lunch, I can see the wheels start to turn, as they take another sip.

Don’t let the summer pass without a taste. There’s still time.

Süssreserve from the OCW:

German term for sweet reserve, the sweetening agent much used, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, for all but the finest or driest German wines. Its use is declining for two main reasons: Germany is making an increasing proportion of dry wines (see trocken and halbtrocken); better producers of off-dry and medium wines prefer to stop the fermentation while there is still some residual sugar in the wine rather than add unfermented juice.

OK. What’s sweet reserve?

preserved grape juice held for blending purposes, usually to sweeten, or at least soften, wines high in acidity. The unfermented grape sugars counterbalance the tart flavours of wines produced from grapes grown in cool regions such as much of Germany (where it is such juice is known as Süssreserve) or grapes naturally high in acidity such as ugni blanc and colombard.

Historically grape juice was preserved simply by adding offensively high doses of sulfur dioxide. Modern refrigeration and near-sterile filtration enable the production of sweet reserve that does not reek of sulfur dioxide. The sweet juice usually undergoes clarification and refrigeration so as to precipitate any tartrates and can be stored at very low temperatures for up to 12 months.

In many wine regions, sweet reserve is being replaced by grape concentrate or rectified grape must. Grape concentrate is cheaper to store because it is much richer in sugar, which also prevents the growth of micro-organisms so that it can be stored without recourse to expensive refrigeration. Rectified grape must is preferred simply because it more closely resembles a solution of sugar and water than does preserved juice.

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