Cuisine Wine

NZ & International Sweet Wines Tasting results

30 October 2023 (Cuisine magazine Issue 220)

MARY-THÉRÈSE BLAIR hopes we are not calling time on dessert wine just yet.

I read an article recently that started with the confronting statement, “The death knell is tolling for dessert wine”. This made me sad. The rest of the article didn’t reveal anything I didn’t already know: sweet wines no longer sell as they once did, particularly in restaurants. We are feeling the pressure of the cost of living crunch and the addition of another seemingly decadent and pricey wine at the end of a meal may seem like a bridge too far for most consumers.

They’re expensive to produce, too, so common sense dictates that it’s foolish for wineries to invest in the production of a costly wine that isn’t going to sell.

Perhaps the demise of dessert wine is a sign of the times and shows that these wines aren’t recession proof. My hope is that when we return to a time of fiscal affluence, dessert wines will return to vogue. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

top NZ & International Sweet Wines

Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes 2016 (Bordeaux, France)

Two years ago the 2012 Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes was the top wine in this category and it would be simple to say there’s nothing new to report, but it would also be incorrect. Wines of this calibre are most certainly consistent when it comes to quality, but no two years are ever the same and therefore no two of their wines are the same. So while this wine bears the same logo as the previous top 2012 vintage, 2016 is a different beast indeed.

The 2016 is a blend of 90% sémillon and 10% sauvignon blanc. The grapes were hand harvested over four individual picks between 22 September and 9 November. When we talk about selective picks we are not referring to bunches of grapes but to individual grapes which are selected depending on the level of botrytis present in the grape. Botrytis cinerea is also known as noble rot, a beneficial fungus which dehydrates the grape causing it to raisin and shrink. The end result is extremely sweet berries which can be made into a rich and lusciously sweet wine. Although single berry picking is a time-intensive and laborious task, the 2016 harvest was generous and rewarding with a complex, rich harvest which subsequently became the wine that wowed our judges.

Mid-gold in the glass with a rich and inviting nose resplendent with honey, cream, spice, caramelised pears and crushed cashew both on the nose and through the palate. Well-handled oak is evident and the rich, lusciousness of the palate is perfectly balanced by the crunch of the bright and vibrant acid present. (A)

| $29
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  • Outstanding 2
  • Excellent 4
  • Very Good 5
  • Good 2
  • No Award 0
  • Total Entries 13