With over 40 years experience Quady has earned the mantle: "America's grande dame of sweet wines" Now there is a new appreciation for sweet wines, and in January a conference,“Sweet, Dessert and Dried Fruit Wines: A World View” convened at the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute. There were 75 participants. This was the first ever conference on sweet wines at UC Davis. In one day this ambitions event attempted to deal with history, production, and marketing of sweet wines.
A winemaker panel discussed production. Michael Blaylock, winemaker at Quady, talked about Purple, made from the Sunbelt variety and sold only in our tasting room. Other experts talked about the history of sweet wines and the different styles which are made: ice wines, botrytis, port, and relics of the past such as Angelica. Master of Wine, Doug Frost, talked about Vin Santo and how popular this sweet wine is in Italy. Darryl Corti from Sacramento put forth the thesis that sweet wines are the greatest of all.
Why now, a conference on sweet wines? The reason undoubtedly is the marketplace. For the last two years, the only grape variety in California which has increased in price is Muscat. Muscat grapes,used almost entirely to make sweet wines "moscatos" have doubled in price whereas others are either down or flat. Nielsen surverys of wine sales at retail show that the inexpensive moscato category has tripled in volume in the past three years. Most of these wines are inexpensive, $5.00 a bottle or so, but higher priced moscatos are selling better as well, including Moscato d'Asti and Quady Electra and Red Electra.
It is not clear why this happened but one fact is clear: Consumers discovered sweet wines without the help of so-called wine experts who for years and years have been teaching people that sweet wines should not be drunk - except at special times and that the only ones worth drinking were the expensive ones.
It is significant that those sweet wines having increased sales are the ones with lower alcohol levels - a fact emphisized by Blaylock at the symposium as making them more food friendly. It is now coming to light that, with or without food, to great numbers of people, low alcohol sweet wines are the correct choice. This should be a shock to the world's "wine experts" who assume that peole can be trained or "educated" to like alcoholic, acidic, tannic wines; and wines which are totally "dry" (having no sweetness whatever).
Could it be that it is the "wine experts" who are wrong? Tim Hanni thinks so. He has been involved in research on individual variation in sensitivity to wine components and maintains that the fraction of people who will never be able to enjoy traditional dry wine may be over half of the world population. He sites case histories of persons who for professional reasons have drunk dry red wines all their adult lives and never learned to enjoy them.
The current fad for alcoholic, extracted, dry, and tannic red wines is turning more people off than on. Think about it. What sort of wines get really high scores in the Spectator or from Parker: big bold reds. Restaurants price these wines high. If you were a customer, looking for something special, wouldn't you go for an expensive one ? Unless you were in the minority, with low sensitivity to alcohol and tannin, you wouldn't like it, and the next time wouldn't waste your money.