Sweet Wines
Superlative examples and high prices on the Gold List, so if it’s bargains you’re after, look lower down!

Always a popular flight, the stickies showed once again that, while they might not be on many punters’ radar, they are still a good place to go for value for money, at least at lower price points. Oddly, as prices moved north, the quality didn’t always improve accordingly.
‘There were wines here from all over – Gewürztraminers, Tokaji, the New World – but the New World ones were generally better value for money,’ said Ivo Stoyanov.

There were, to be sure, wines that were cheap and terrible, just as there were ones that were expensive and didn’t deliver for the money, but in between there were wines with real balance and acidity as well as lush fruit. And wines like that are worth seeking out.
‘This is a category that people tend to pass over because it needs real concentration
to find something that delivers, and it can be so expensive it tends to scare off the customers,’ said Matthew Cocks. And given that the wines are so often a hand-sell in any case, Andrea Briccarello felt this category was more about the wines than the prices.

‘When it comes to sweet wine you need to put price a bit to the side. These are definitely wines I could sell though,’ he said.

Sergio Benito, too, felt that ‘at least half would work on a wine list, and would be easy sells’. This suggests, perhaps, that restaurants could be doing a bit more with their sticky selections. Perhaps by including some sweet, non-white wines, for instance. Again, these were quite well received by the tasters, not least because of the food-matching possibilities they opened up, even though none made it onto the final Gold List this year.

The tasters found nothing for the Gold List below £16 (and that was for a 50cl bottle). ‘[The Vin Santo] has an intensity, fresh acidity, fantastic character, and would be great as an all-round after-dinner drink,’ said James Hocking. ‘It really is very good at the price. Though the Silvaner was the wine of the day for me, it really stood out: complex, multi-faceted, offering so much in the glass.’

Ah yes, the Silvaner. At £50 per half-bottle this Hans Wirsching Trockenbeerenauslese goes down, arguably, as the biggest indulgence in the five-year history of the SWAs.

A great wine, yes, but even the judges admitted they had ‘no idea how they would sell it’.
So, if it’s value for money you’re after, take a closer look at the Silvers where, as well as an exceptionally well-priced Brachetto, there’s some good stuff from Spain and Australia.

“This was a high-quality flight, we could have given medals to most of these wines. ”
Alvaro Marcos Garcia, Home House

“The Old World is getting complacent with sweet wines, and they are expensive, too. ” Ivo Stoyanov, L’Atelier


Hattenheimer Schutzenhaus Riesling Auslese 2007, Rheingau, Germany
£17.95 @ The Wine Keller
SWA 2011 Gold List Honey, dried apricots and raisins with hints of orange peel and great acidity, this delight of a sweet wine is made to go with blue cheese and foie gras. ‘Unctuous, rich and syrupy with a gripping mouthfeel and good length,’ said Nick Chiu.

Vin de Constance 2005, Constantia, South Africa
£24.16 @ Mentzendorff & Co
SWA 2011 Gold List Floral and delightful with apple spice and tropical notes, a hint of pollen and plenty of honey. Great acidity gives this a long, elegant finish. ‘Very complex and moreish,’ said Jamie Goode. ‘It has the wow factor,’ said Robert Giorgione.

Leonardo Vin Santo Tegrino 2005, Tuscany, Italy
£16.71 (50cl) @ Liberty Wines
SWA 2011 Gold List A delightfully complex mix of flavours, with attractive dried notes and fruit, toffee, coffee, walnuts and tobacco. ‘With its long finish of star anise and cinnamon sticks, this would be great with apple tart,’ said an impressed Philippe Loiseau, Hakkasan.

Hans wirsching, Silvaner Trockenbeerenauslese 2009, Franken, Germany
£50 (37.5cl) @ The Winebarn
SWA 2011 Gold List Universal acclaim for this wine, despite its price. ‘Fantastic length,’ said James Hocking. ‘Great acid to fruit balance. Expensive but unreal! The essence of wine.’ ‘Classic, luscious and rich,’ was Andrea Briccarello’s verdict, while Peter McCombie MW simply said, ‘Wow!’


Finca Antigua Moscatel Naturalmente Dulce 2009, La Mancha, Spain
£6.95 (37.5cl) @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Packed with ripe, sweet peach, apricot and passionfruit with hints of orange, this is lively with some citrus freshness. ‘Gorgeous,’ enthused Ivo Stoyanov.

Beverford Gold Botrytis Semillon 2006, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia
£9.07 (37.5cl) @ Cockburn & Campbell
Much appreciated by all for its racy but luscious nature, this has a well-balanced freshness and a good length. Robert Giorgione found ‘unctuous citrus marmalade, tangerine and apricot’.

Seifried Estate Winemakers Collection Sweet Agnes Riesling 2010, Nelson, New Zealand
£10.50 (37.5cl) @ Chalie Richards & Co
A slight spritz and an intense bouquet of flowers, spices and lime. ‘A streak of acidity balances the syrupy palate,’ said Natasha Hughes. ‘Try with strawberries,’ advised Philippe Loiseau.

Durbacher Plauelrain Scheurebe Beerenauslese 2008, Baden, Germany
£26.95 (50cl) @ Durbacher Winzergenossenschaft
‘Apricots, flowers, lemon and honey,’ said an impressed Peter McCombie MW. Exotic and poised, with intense sweetness and clean acidity. ‘Vibrant and delicious,’ said Andrea Briccarello.

Alasia Brachetto d’Acqui 2010, Piedmont, Italy
£5.04 @ Boutinot
Notes of rose petal and grape, this is ‘lightly sparkling, fresh and fun. Not complex but a good way to end a meal,’ said Natasha Hughes. ‘Interesting for the money,’ added Philippe Loiseau.


Domaine de Grange Neuve Monbazillac 2005, Monbazillac, France
£6.46 (50cl) @ Boutinot
Lush, rich and enticing with honeycomb sweetness and balanced acidity,’ said Caspar Auchterlonie, while Matthew Cocks liked its complexity with its burnt sugar and exotic fruits.

Rupe Re Vendemmia Tardiva 2008, Trentino, Italy
£11.56 @ BOUTINOT
Well balanced and quite fresh, this has good concentration and complexity. Notes of barley sugar.

Cazes Muscat de Rivesaltes 2007, Roussillon, France
£13.08 @ Liberty Wines
Both grapey and gingery, with a pure sweetness, not overly complex, but good value.

Saint Albert Pacherenc du Vic Bilh 2008, Gascony, France
£11.4 (50cl) @ Producteurs Plaimont
Lots of white flowers and peaches with a slightly subdued, waxy nose. On the palate, this comes through again alongside a hint of oak and ripe flavours. ‘Pure elegance,’ said Andrea Briccarello.

The Noble Prankster Chardonnay/Semillon 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia
£9.05 (37.5cl) @ Bibendum
Mid-gold in colour, the intense honeyed nature of the dried apricot and marmalade flavours are balanced by spicy notes and just enough acidity. ‘Great with apple strudel,’ said Philippe Loiseau.

Maculan Torcolato 2006, Veneto, Italy
£12.82 (37.5cl) @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
With hues of orange, this sweetie has intense notes of honey and apricot on the nose. Its palate is full and balanced with great acidity alongside the intense apricots, roasted almonds and spices.

Maury Grenat 2007, Maury, France
£9.49 (50cl) @ Bibendum
Herby, chocolatey and intense, with plenty of dried fruit on the nose, the palate is full,
balanced and cassis-laden, with a long, silky finish. ‘Pair with milk chocolate and praline,’
advised a happy Philippe Loiseau.

Serego Alighieri Casal dei Ronchi Recioto 2007, Veneto, Italy
£20.89 (50cl) @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
With treacle, liquorice and chocolate flavours alongside elegant blackberry notes, this is a very complex sweetie with great balance and a long finish.

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

Add your comment

Please sign in or register if you'd like to comment.

Register Forgotten password? Sign In

Subscribe Imbibe Magazine