I have a sweet tooth. Several of them, actually. And ‘tis the season when they all emerge at once, jockeying for position, to get first dibs of whatever sacchariferous morsel I have to offer. I try not to disappoint them, as they’re all I got…
They know I love wine. Acidic, tannic, bold, bone-dry wine. But, in keeping our relationship intact, especially during pumpkin pie and fruit cake season, I reward my choppers with Kohler-esque showers of vino dulce, giving thanks for their tolerating the countless gallons of droughty bottlings they endure all year long.
Now, dessert wines and I go way back. In fact, my first experience with the great Alsatian (France) grape gewürztraminer, one of the finest noble rot grapes in the world, was when I foolishly poured it all over my vanilla bean ice cream. I was young and not so smart. But, once I took a proper sip of the wine on its own, it was game over.
There are numerous, fabulous dessert wines that can be found all around the world, including France, Germany, Canada, Hungary and, of course, the USA. Grapes that are picked late in the harvest, when sugars are most concentrated – hence the moniker, ‘late-harvest’ wines – are many, including the above mentioned ‘gewurtz,’ riesling, chenin blanc, viognier and, of course, muscadelle, as well as the entire muscat family of grapes. And styles can range from sparkling to a complex collection of rich, still offerings of both sweet white and red wine grapes…I’ve enjoyed them all.
As you know, I love Italian wine; so, it only makes sense that one of my favorite dessert wines is Moscato d’Asti. A relative of the ancient muscat family of grapes, Moscato is the premier Italian dessert wine, and Asti is considered its true home.
For this final column of 2019, I’ll introduce you to a small family who produces beautiful dessert wines, and hopefully they will make their way to your table for the holidays.
Elio Perrone is the name of both the father and son of Stefano Perrone. A former motorcycle racer who took over his father’s domain in 1989, Stefano has emerged as one of the brightest stars in Piemonte’s wine galaxy, and his Asti winery is an “oenological tailor’s shop” known for its unique attention to detail with each harvest, wine, and label.
Because of its delicacy and dependence on perfect balance, great moscato is difficult to make. Stefano knows this well. While he carefully tends to vines and cellar, his wife and business partner Giuliana is involved with other facets of the family operation, including the creative needs, crafting the labels for Stefano’s bottle choices. Even little Elio helps around the place, getting ready for what will perhaps one day be his turn.
Back to moscato…
The most widely planted white wine grape in all of Piemonte, moscato is predominately used for the production of the world’s most popular sweet sparkling wine – Asti Spumante. It is also used to craft the still white wine Moscato d’Asti, an aromatic and palate-enveloping jewel of a wine.
Stefano captures all of this magic in his beautiful bottling called Sourgal Moscato d’Asti. Taking its name from one of the vineyards in an area called Castiglione Tinella, Sourgal is pure in its essentials. Grape colors moving from yellows to greens are vivid and brilliant. In the glass, Sourgal is intense with orange flowers, yellow peach and sage…a blend of nuances unlike anything else. Sweet and harmonic, it is well balanced, with great acidity. It’s a delight with cookies, tarts, and even savory finger foods. It can be enjoyed any time of the day, any day of the year.
One of the other great surprises of Piemonte dessert wines comes from a grape called brachetto. An aromatic red varietal, brachetto’s origins are uncertain, although most consider the town of Acqui Terme in the province of Alessandria as its home. As a wine, brachetto finds its best expression in sweet red sparkling wines, where the floral notes and fresh wild strawberry and raspberry aromas shine.
Staying true to his art, Stefano has created a fabulous wine called Bigarò, a magical blend of both the brachetto and moscato grapes.
As he states, “When I thought of Bigarò (mottled in Piedmontese dialect), I wanted to create something new and exciting.”
He’s certainly done that, as both grapes interweave, providing the best of what each has to offer; moscato acquires the red fragrance and flavors, brachetto absorbs all the fruit nuances of its companion.
Bigarò is bright cherry in color, with purplish tinges. Scents of wild strawberry, raspberry and rose petals dominate, while mouthwatering acidity defines the palate. This is a clean, fresh wine, balanced in all the right ways.
Both wines retail for about $20 and have holidays written all over them.
I hope you’ve had a fantastic wine year. It’s been a true pleasure to try and bring you something new every month and I look forward to the great wines of 2020. Have a great end of the year and Happy Vino’ing!