The winefully Magazine
SUGAR CALLS SUGAR: WINE PAIRING WITH CHRISTMAS SWEETS.
Christmas holidays are unique because, for many, it is the right time to treat yourself to something special at the table. Special cured meats, maybe that caviar to be tasted once in a while, or a good handmade nougat as well as an artisan panettone. The world of Christmas sweets, in particular, is full of choice to close a lunch or dinner at home. Sometimes we tend to think that a Classic Champagne is perfect for both opening the meal and closing it with dessert pairing. That’s true just in case the chosen one has a certain amount of residual sugar. A demi-sec sparkling wine, for example, can work, because its sugars fluctuate between 33 and 50 grams per litre; as well as one sweet sparkling wine, where the threshold of 50 g/l is exceeded. Without going into the technicalities, it is enough to keep in mind a very simple quote: sweet calls sweet. It is not an absolute principle and there are many exceptions, for example when it comes to dark chocolate, but it’s a good basic rule. Not only to avoid unsuccessful pairings, but also not to waste a valuable bottle, perhaps that Champagne kept for months and months waiting for the right opportunity. It’s a typical holiday risk, and it doesn’t happen only with sparkling wines: we have a valuable bottle aside, we’ve been waiting for a long time the right opportunity to open it, and, driven by the enthusiasm of the Christmas spirit we make the wrong choice.
So, in order to avoid mistakes at the end of the meal, let’s remember to always indulge the presence of sugar with other sugar. Technically that’s what it’s called pairing by concordance. The rule does not concern sparkling wines only, but all sweet wines. Among them, in particular, there are the raisin wines, of which Italy is very rich at all latitudes, from Alto Adige to Pantelleria. These are wines made through the processing of grapes withered. The withering can take place on the plant, with a late harvesting process of over-ripening, or after harvesting the grapes, leaving the berries dehydrated for a certain period of time.
What is sought through the withering process is a greater concentration of aromas and sugars, which will be found, then, also in the glass after processing. For a good wine pairing with a dessert, choosing just any passito it is not enough. The structure of the cake we are going to eat, for example, is a key element to be taken into consideration. A Paradiso cake, for example, has a very different structure compared to a panforte, decidedly more important, since, among the ingredients, we have honey, almonds, candied fruits and various spices. If in the first case we can opt for a delicate wine, for example a Moscato d’Asti, in the second case the choice can go up a more structured product, such as a Vin Santo. Another point to be considered concerns the level of sweetness, so the amount of sugars present in the dessert recipe, because there is sweet and sweet. A yogurt plumcake, in in this sense, is very different from an apricot jam tart. In the first case a light sparkling wine from Malvasia grapes can be a good solution. In the second case you can opt for a raisin Zibibbo arriving from Sicily, where the warm climate facilitate the sweetness of the grapes and, consequently, the final product. Continuing with the factors to keep in mind when looking for the right match for a dessert, we can consider its aroma too. This can result from the aromatic herbs included in the recipe or from the intrinsic scent of one specific ingredient. An example can be that, unmistakable, of candies in panettone, characterized precisely by a marked aroma. In this case for the pairing, always in a logic of concordance, can be evaluated a wine of good intensity. Intensity, to be clear, is that parameter that describes in quantitative terms the strength of the scents expressed on the nose and on the palate. Different wines obtained from aromatic grapes typically have great intensity such as Moscato, Malvasia or Gewürztraminer. The latter is the basis of the passito Rechtenthaler Schlossleiten signed by the historic South Tyrolean company Hofstätter, ideal to combine with a good panettone. A Gewürztraminer from late harvest of great thickness, which takes its name from one of the prestigious cru from the estate vineyards. A key characteristic is its surprising freshness, decidedly above the average in the category of sweet wines, and essential to avoid weighing down the end of meals which at Christmas can already be challenging in themselves. The low alcohol content, around 7%, also helps outline a lean and elegant profile. Honey and aromatic herbs on the nose, apricots, pears and candied citrus fruits on the palate. The very long persistence characterizes this Gewürztraminer as the right choice to round off a Christmas lunch or dinner, with the idea of carrying the sweet flavour of the holidays with you for as long as possible.