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Producer Profile 6: Chateau d’Yquem — Sweet Wines

Sweet wines can be made using 3 different approaches:

  • Stop the fermentation early—such as the Spätlese Riesling style
  • Concentrate the grapes before fermenting—by allowing a Botrytis infection, by freezing the grapes or by drying the grapes
  • Sweetening the wine after fermentation (this method is not discussed)

Wines in this style tend to have:

  • A range of alcohol strengths according to the sweetness and style
  • An extraordinary ability to age
  • For sweet wines where the fermentation has been stopped early
  • The harvest is usually late, allowing enough sugar to accumulate for the desired alcohol level and sweetness

For sweet wines where the grapes are concentrated by Botrytis:

  • The level of Botrytis infection determines what type of style is made, how rich, sweet and complex it will be.
  • Botrytized wines have a distinctive taste, usually of apricots
  • Extremely sweet styles cause difficulties for the fermentation. Often only very low alcohol levels are reached because the yeast stop working

For sweet wines where the grapes are concentrated by freezing:

  • Extremely late picking dates are needed
  • 8 or 9 hours where the temperature is below –7°C are required
  • Have a distinctive sweet and sour sensation

For sweet wines where the grapes are dried:

  • Botrytis may or not be attractive, depending on the style
  • Grapes may spend up to 5 months being dried before processing