Summer sipping

on the sweeter side…

Fruit wines have been made for centuries.  Early Egyptians made wines from pomegranates.  Archaeological evidence shows that date wine was being made in prehistoric Mesopotamia.

Despite their antiquity, today’s fruit wines are generally considered relatively frivolous.  Sophisticated wine lovers sneer derisively if someone has the audacity to present them with a glass of fruit wine.

Perhaps one of the issues is that most fruit wines – as well as wines blended with fruit juices – are sweeter than your average dry table wines.  Most dry table wines are a lot sweeter than they pretend to be, although, in most cases, the natural acidity outweighs the residual sugar.

White wine with the addition of grapefruit juice, begging not to be taken seriously by wine aficionados, Zentini Rosé Pamplemousse (298828) $13.99 needs to be chilled or - better yet! – poured over ice. Gently sparkling, it overflows with candied lemon rind and sweet pink grapefruit flavours. At 8 per cent alcohol by volume, it might be the perfect breakfast wine.

Purists will argue that grapes are the only fruit that comes with a sufficient bloom of natural yeasts on their skins to ferment the juice into alcohol without intervention. With our modern fascination for cleanliness, we forget that wine is made by encouraging grapes to go bad, to rot, to ferment.

Red wine doesn’t have to be dry and tart, particularly when it's amped up with orange and lemon juices and spices. Sangria is a traditional and popular drink in many Spanish towns, an integral part of the country’s history and tourist culture. But not all Sangria comes to us from Spain!

An affordable ‘Cellared In Canada’ version of Spain’s Sangria, Naked Grape Sangria (30161) $8.49 is a sweet red wine full of jammy berry fruit flavours with just a splash of orange and lemon flavours lingering in the finish.  Keeping it squarely in the seriously frivolous category, the label actually changes colour and says ‘TIME’ when the wine is sufficiently chilled. 

Despite the purist argument around grapes and their natural yeasts, it is likely that some form of fermented fruit juices was first discovered and, perhaps afterwards, deliberately made, from the time early humans began picking and then trying to store berries.  There are enough airborne natural wild yeasts that any sweet juice would eventually begin to ferment.

Like many Nordic countries, Japan had no traditional history of wine grape growing and initial plantings of European wine grapes in the late 1880s were abandoned with the arrival of the phylloxera louse that had already decimated the vineyards of Europe.

Shochu is a Japanese spirit distilled from grains or vegetables – typically rice, barley or potatoes.  When Ume – a kind of 

oriental plum – are steeped in Shochu and sugar for a year or more, the result is Umeshu.  Ume Japanese Plum Wine (568907) $12.50/300ml is a delightfully sweet sipping liqueur that clocks in at 10 per cent alc/vol.  Not surprisingly, it tastes like plums and

apricots.

 

From Germany’s Dr. ZenZen, Battista Brasil (177741) $15.99 is a trendy wine cocktail for people who love wine and its fruitiness. A slightly sparkling fruity cocktail with exotic flavors of mango, acai and coconut. Light alcohol content of 6.9 per cent makes this wine suitable for any brunch or a sunny afternoon drink, as well as being an easy party drink.

Recipes for authentic Sangria vary from region to region in Spain and even from house to house but Lolea Sangria (612440) $16.50 is a perfect pre-mixed combination of red Spanish wine and fruit juices that just needs to be chilled and poured over ice.  Sassy, luscious and bright! The eye-catching red bottle with large cream coloured polka stands out.

True fruit wines made from fresh picked local fruit have become something of a Vancouver Island specialty.  Just north of Courtenay, Coastal Black Winery is the centerpiece of a 600 acre family farming enterprise that includes bees and honey… and meads!

Almost 80 acres of blackberries are grown on site in Black Creek, making Coastal Black’s plantings the largest cultivated blackberry farm in all of Canada. 20 acres of blueberries and 20 acres of raspberries multiply their fruit winemaking options.  Coastal Black Sparkling Blackberry (808766) $20.40 is an off-dry explosion of spicy blackberry flavours and captures numerous wine lovers who find traditional wines too dry.

Reach WineWise by emailing

douglas_sloan@yahoo.com