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Noble wine

A common way of making would-be dry wine sweet is by killing off the wine`s yeasts mid-ferment; fermentation being the process where yeasts convert the sugar in the grape juice to alcohol. By doing so the wine is left with a natural sweet taste from the unconverted sugars. This can be achieved in several ways: by chilling the grape juice down, by pasteurisation, using sulphur-based chemicals, and, in the case of fortified wines such as port, sherry and Madeira, by adding spirit. The only other way to make sweet wine is to first get a dry one, by letting the yeast convert all the sugars, then adding sweet grape juice to the dry wine (in Germany, known as `suss-reserve`).   But the more interesting processes in the making of sweet wines are the means of enriching the grapes. Again, various methods: Certain vineyards are blessed with perfect conditions for the growth of the mould Botrytis Cinerea which requires a period of moisture followed by dryness. The mould-spores puncture the over-ripe grapes left hanging on the vines and shrivels them, concentrating the sugary juices. They call this Noble Rot, entirely natural, however it can be induced artificially, by spraying, with some notable successes. Another means of shrivelling the grapes and concentrating those sugars is by drying out the grapes, typically on straw mats in the sunshine or on bamboo racks in barn-like structures.   One particularly delicious example is Pieropan `Colombare` Recioto di Soave from Veneto in Italy. The wine, also slightly touched by botrytis, has an intense gold colour with dried apricots, toasted almonds and baked peach characters.  Yet another is Tuscany`s Vin Santo which the Italians famously use for dunking biscotti!  And although rare and necessarily expensive, one style possibly caps them all: Ice wines. These rely on the late frosts to freeze the late-hanging grapes on the vines, achieving a great concentration of juices which in the resultant wines can be exquisite. Canada`s Peller Vidal is typical with intense candied pineapple, pear, peach and tangy citrus fruits, simply perfect with lemon tart.

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