Sweet wines — whether natural or fortified — often have the reputation of being somewhat ephemeral and delicate, like lace window curtains billowing on a spring breeze. And some are. But many are almost burly, with earthy tones and assertive alcohols.
If that’s your style of sassy sweeties, here are five to consider:
2010 Lucien Albrecht Alsace Gewurztraminer Réserve
Tropical floral aromas with spices and citrus. The flavors are not clearly defined, like those in a cocktail that have been muddled in the bottom of a shaker. Not as tangy and spicy as many gewurzes, it is moderately sweet with pepper around the edges but a bit short on length and acidity.
Verdict:Nice muscularity, but could use a little buffing and toning. ($20/750 ml)
2011 Les Petits Grains Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois
Don’t be fooled by the frou-frou aromas of mangos and macaroons — this is a sturdy wine with complex flavors bolstered by 15 percent alcohol. OK, I can detect very ripe oranges, those mangoes and macaroons a bit, some grapefruit, lots of ripe figs, especially in the finish, along with some rough-cut tobacco and the textures of macerating grape skins.
Verdict:Not for the faint (or feint) of heart. ($14/375 ml)
2007 Pacific Rim Vin de Glacière "Selenium Vyd" Columbia Valley Riesling
Light in alcohol, high in residual sugar. A bit awkward, with concentrated juiciness, forest floor notes and lots of sorghum syrup flavors.
Verdict:Catch and release. ($16/375 ml)
2009 Château de Cosse Sauternes
Passably good, but a touch heavy, with typical honey and honeycomb sauternes flavors and textures. Some dark overtones and tangy edges.
Verdict: More and more sauternes are being used as table — not dessert — wines, and I could see this one with a plate of cheeses and charcuterie. ($25/375 ml)
2009 Clos de Paulilles Banyuls Rimage
A red old-school wine with 16 percent alcohol, it has smoky aromas with echoes of fermented grape skins. It is very close in flavor tones to red vermouth, and I am tempted to add rye, bitters, and a marinated cherry to it. Lots of herbal notes.
Verdict:This wine should wear dark glasses — but I loved sipping it with dark, lightly bitter chocolate. ($20/500 ml)