The Growth of Sweet Wines – Bordeaux Moelleux and Off-Dry Whites

We have known for a while now that the taste for sweet and off-dry white wines has been gathering momentum. Sales of Moscato in the USA have been growing and the boom is credited to millennials growing up – apparently there is even a drive towards sweet red wine. (See my blogs Crisis in Sauternes? What Crisis? and Bordeaux Wine Merchant Launches ‘World’s First’ Coca Cola Flavoured Wine).

Now it seems that Jacob’s Creek and Brown Brothers have taken note of the trend and are producing off-dry whites with the Moscato grape playing a supporting role.

According to the Guardian Jacob’s Creek have produced Twin Pickings, a new range aimed at bridging the gap between sweet and dry wines:

“The range comprises two white wines based on crisp, dry varieties that Australians are guzzling by the bucketload right now: sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio.

The twist comes with a dash of moscato, enough to give the wines a notable dose of sweetness. Brown Brothers, meanwhile, has just launched a blend of mosacto with a dash of sauvignon blanc. It’s a trend that’s likely to keep growing, reflecting changing tastes.

At the International Wine Challenge in London this year the market research firm Mintel pointed to a 31% increase in sugar consumption in Britain since 1990 as evidence that consumers had developed a sweeter tooth.

In the US, moscato consumption grew by a 33% last year. It’s now that country’s third most popular white wine, accounting for 6% of all wine sales. And Australia isn’t immune. The size of the moscato bianco grape crush more than doubled again this year, with the market valued at more than $40m.”

The article points out that off-dry and slightly sweet wines date back to the ‘dawn of booze’ and you can find these wines in Old World wine producing countries as well as those of the New. Bordeaux Moelleux are semi-sweet wines that you don’t often see feted outside France but which have a growing following.

They have their own AOC (Bordeaux Moelleux) and the French term Moelleux describes the sensation of the wine as well as its taste: ‘soft, smooth, velvety, lush, mellow’. These types of wines are quite exceptional – slightly sweet, rounded and supple with mouth quenching acidity and superb balance.

Chateau Le Rondailh is a good example and the wine is made from a blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is vibrant, fresh and lively and the sensation of sweetness is ethereal and light.

Typically Le Rondailh has superb balance with flavours of pear, peach, melon and lemon and delicate notes of hazelnut and crystallized pineapple.

You’ll also find that Bordeaux Moelleux wines are not only fantastic aperitifs but are also brilliant food wines that will accompany desserts, chocolate, cheeses (Roquefort or Goats Cheese), pâtés, poultry, seafood and Asian cuisine.

Le Rondailh sits on the hills in Saint Macaire which lies on the right bank of the River Garonne between Sauternes and Saint Emilion. Some of the world’s greatest sweet wines are crafted from the Semillon grape – including those of neighbouring Sauternes but Moelleux wines have long been a speciality of the Côtes de Bordeaux Saint Macaire.

However only 160 acres are now dedicated to producing these beautiful Moelleux wines.

Sainte Foy La Longue, the home of Chateau Le Rondailh, is also home to Chateau Paradis Casseuil (an old property of the Sauternes First Growth Chateau Rieussec) which was acquired by Baron Eric de Rothschild in 1984.

Why the chateau was named “Vines of Paradise” no one knows but it is an illustration of how good the terroir is in this area and of the quality that you can expect given the right tenure.

These off-dry and slightly sweet Bordeaux wines definitely warrant rediscovery so if you are a fan of sweeter wines they are well worth checking out.

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