USA: U.S. Dessert Wines
What About US Dessert Wines?
Most U.S. dessert wines are late harvest or Botrytised styles, which means that the sugars are concentrated in the grapes allowing for a sweet and often viscous wine. These methods are applied to many varietals around the country, but broadly speaking, there are two major styles. The first involves Sauvignon Blanc and/or Semillon and is modeled on the famous sweet wines from the Sauternes district of Bordeaux. Most are Botrytised and then aged in oak barrels to add an overlay of luxuriant oaky flavors. Semillon achieves a rich, figgy sort of personality while Sauvignon tends to have a bit more acidity and comes across as being not quite so lush. They are sometimes bottled individually but often work best in combination for this style of wine.
Beyond the Sauternes style, U.S. producers make late harvest or "Icewines" from aromatic varietals such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, and Muscat. These wines often emulate classic European styles such as Piemontese Moscato, German Trockenbeerenausleses, and Alsatian Vendange Tardives. California provides the vast majority of the late harvest dessert wines, blessed as it is with a dry, lengthy harvesting season. Washington State has a suitable climate for making high quality Icewine from naturally-frozen, late-harvested grapes, as does New York and other northern tier states. With a labor intensive production process, these wines will always be more expensive than dry table wines, but they often represent considerable value when compared to imported French and German alternatives.
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