Tag Archives: Sweet wine

Moscato Mania

Once in awhile I like to check the search data to see what you really want to know. And, what came in first? “What is Moscato.” Here’s a little info:

Do you have a favorite Moscato brand or Moscato pairing? Help us out!

Visit A Million Cooks for more brief videos from experts on the food you eat: Where it comes from, where to buy it and how to prepare it.

Send me your wine question.  I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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What is Dry Wine?

no sugar

I was checking search data on the blog, hoping to find out what it is that you really want to know. The top search over the last several months is on “Moscato.” I’ve got a post on that coming right up.

What came in second? “What is dry wine?”

Okee dokee. That’s a pretty good question because it’s not cut and dried – pun intended 😉 – dryness is relative.

While, in the rest of the world dry is the opposite of wet, in the wine world dry is the opposite of sweet. I’ve noticed that a lot of folks who want to appear sophisticated about wine make a point of saying that they don’t drink the sweet stuff. Well, let me tell you, they’re missing out on a whole lot of fun because some of the most exquisite and sought-after wines in the world are sweet wines done right! Continue reading

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How About a Glass of Late-Harvest Wine?

Well – I’m a little late getting this out, but surely you have some left-over pumpkin or apple pie to go with a delicious late-harvest wine!

Here’s what it’s all about:

Far Niente’s Dolce is one of my very favorite examples. They call it “liquid gold”, and with good reason! What are some of your favorites?

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A Really Cool Wine to Beat the Heat: Ice Wine!

While most of the country swelters, I thought it would be refreshing to talk about something really cool – ice wine! enjoy this two-minute video. 


What’s your favorite dessert-wine pairing? 

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Brioche Bread Pudding Paired with Dolce Wine

I had the pleasure of interviewing the Executive Chef and the Winemaker for Dolce a few weeks ago ((Dolce is part of the Far Niente group here in Napa Valley). They put together a delicious pairing: Brioche Bread Pudding with the Dolce. YUM!

Dolce is a late-harvest, botrytized sweet wine that’s made from Sémillon blended with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s exquisite! A glass of Dolce does very well in place of dessert or served with a nice piece of blue cheese or, of course, with this recipe. Don’t worry – the recipe isn’t hard to do. See it here

Anyway, the Winemaker explains how the wine is made and he and the chef talk about pairing the Dolce. Enjoy! 

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What’s This Gunk in my Wine?


Question from Shelly: I have a bottle of port that someone gave me. It’s got gunky stuff just below the bottle neck. Is it okay to drink? 

Reply: Hi, Shelly. Thanks for writing! There’s nothing to worry about when you see that “crust” on the shoulder. It’s quite natural for full-bodied, intense Port wines to throw a significant amount of sediment as they age, particularly when they’re not filtered. In fact, sediment is so much expected and accepted that there’s actually a small category of Port wine called Crusted Port

What it tells me, is that the person who gave you the Port picked out a good one. 

Vintage Port is the top of the line and a tiny part of  the total production of Port. It’s released, unfiltered, after two or three years of barrel age and those lucky enough to own one should plan on aging it at home for at least a few more years before drinking it. There are many of the opinion that you shouldn’t even think of opening Vintage Port until it’s at least ten years old. During those years of bottle age, sediment forms and, assuming you’re storing the wine sideways, it settles there in the shoulder. 

It could also be a LBV (late-bottled vintage) that wasn’t filtered or a Single Quinta (a vintage-dated, single-estate Port but from a lesser year than normal Vintage Port). And, of course, it could be a Crusted Port. Continue reading

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What is Moscato?

Question from Richard: What is Moscato? Some friends served it to me and said it’s really popular but I thought it was awful!

Reply: Richard’s friends are right. According to Market Watch, moscato is the fastest-growing wine variety in the US right now.

Moscato is the Italian word for Muscat (but not Muscadine). With its beautiful perfume of apricot, orange blossom and tropical fruit the muscat grape lends itself to making sweet wine. But sweet wines don’t have to be bad. You can find delicious examples of Moscato or Muscat that absolutely seduce your nose and please your palate because the sweetness is balanced by refreshing acidity – and sometimes it bubbles.

The classic example, Italian Moscato d’Asti is fruity, floral and softly fizzy. It’s light as air at around five or six percent alcohol and can be lovely.

Muscat from southern France, the Beaumes de Venise, is heavier because it’s high in alcohol. The best are sweet and yummy after a nice meal.

A handful of wineries here in the Napa Valley produce delicious Muscat wines. Try the Moscato d’Oro next time you’re at Robert Mondavi winery. Or try ZD’s Muscat Canelli.

But these aren’t the ones flying off the shelf right now. New-world brands like Barefoot, Sutter Home, Woodbridge and Yellow Tail are the ones that really move. They’re sweet and evidently they don’t fizz. It sounds like you had a bad example or maybe you just don’t like Muscat. Continue reading

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Q & A: Is Dryness in Wine Relative?

Question from Jon: I remember from my early days, just getting into wine, I took a component tasting class at Merryvale. What kept blowing all us away is that whenever we were asked if a wine we were tasting had any residual sugar, we always said, “yes.” But the correct answer kept coming back as “bone dry!” 

Reply: In truth, Jon is the owner of Pantheon Cellars these days so, for him, this question was answered yea, long ago. But it’s still a good one!

In my early days, like most novices, it was comforting to cling to absolutes and my answer to the question would probably have been “No.” But, as we learn more about virtually everything in life – not just wine – we figure out that there are many shades of gray. It makes life more complicated, but also more interesting don’t you think? 

Here’s the deal: If you work in the absolute environment of a wine lab then you’d know that we say the wine is dry if it measures half of a percent sugar or less. Winemakers generally let the yeast use up all the ferment-able sugar, when they set out to make a dry wine, and that will put them at around .02% or something like that – very, very dry. However…

Fruitiness tricks your brain/palate into detecting sugar that ain’t there. When I serve a bone-dry Viognier there’s a pretty good chance that the taster will say “This is too sweet for me – do you have anything drier?” And, I’ve learned that this taster actually doesn’t much care for very ripe, fruity wines.  Continue reading

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