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Discovering wine: Special wines

Italian tradition Tradizione Italiana vino Wine

written by Raimondo Capasso


In the previous article we talked about bubble wines - spumante -  we continue our journey by talking about particular types of wines that, thanks to the maturation process or the extreme climatic conditions or through the addition of other ingredients, take on very particular characteristics and flavors that lend themselves to being served in particular circumstances. We are talking about: raisin wines, ice wines, mold wines, fortified wines, and flavored wines.

Raisin wines (Passiti)

The raisin wines are wines obtained from the vinification of raisin grapes, that is, grapes left much more than necessary to mature enough to make the fruit "withered".

vini-passitiThe purpose of this process is to evaporate the water contained in the fruit and to concentrate the sugars, mineral salts and perfumes more than after the vinification process - learn more here -they will be much more intense. We have two methods of drying the grapes:

Pre-harvest drying: the harvest is deliberately delayed for a few weeks to allow the grapes to dry on the plant and then be vinified.

Post-harvest drying: the grapes, harvested in advance to obtain a good acidity, are left to dry, in the sun or through mechanical processes, on mats or racks.

    The musts obtained from these grapes are particularly concentrated and suitable for the production of sweet raisin wines, that is, which have a significant sugar residue (it can even reach 200 g / l or more). If the fermentation is completed, the passito wines thus obtained are dry but particularly alcoholic and rich in sugar alcohols, which give them a very characteristic softness to the flavor. Amarone della Valpolicella and Sforzato di Valtellina are the two most famous examples of dried raisin wines.

    The most suitable grapes for drying are aromatic grapes: they are particular types of grapes that significantly present substances belonging to the group of "terpenes". This allows to recognize in the vinified product the primary hints typical of fresh fruit, which is not possible to find non-aromatic or semi-aromatic grapes. The main aromatic grapes are: Moscati (all), Malvasie (some), Brachetto, aromatic Traminer and few others.


    Ice wines (or icewine or eiswein in German) are dessert wines obtained from the vinification of harvested bunches still frozen by the plant.


    The pressing is carried out outside, at very low temperatures, below - 7 ° C, so as not to melt the ice crystals formed in the grapes and thus obtain a must very low in water but dense with sugars, acids, salts and other extractive substances.

    As it is easy to understand, ice wines need particular climatic conditions, in which cold is an indispensable component. The winters must be really cold with temperatures that drop very quickly below freezing to allow freezing in the vineyard.

    Although there are several attempts at imitation, the countries that produce ice wines are still few. In addition to Germany, his homeland, they are also produced in neighboring Austria, Italy and Canada.

    Ice wines (icewine / eiswein) are mainly obtained from white grape varieties. In Germany the choice falls on Riesling, in Canada the chosen grape is Vidal, a cross between Ugni Blanc (our Trebbiano) and Rayon d'Or, originally intended for the production of brandy then converted to icewine thanks to the thick skin and strong resistance to cold as well as high natural acidity, perfect characteristics for the production of ice wines. In addition to these two main vines, grapes such as Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Kerner, Pinot Blanc, Cabernet Franc can also be used.

    Muffled wines

    Molded wines are obtained when, in particular climatic conditions, the delay of the harvest favors the formassi of the noble mold Botrytis Cinerea on the grapes.

    vini-muffati-italianiNormally Botrytis gives rise to a disease known as gray mold: the bunch becomes covered with a grayish-colored mold and rots. In addition to having a loss of bunches, the wines obtained from the grapes affected by Muffa Grigia undergo serious qualitative alterations. In some areas, such as in the Graves wine district, in France, there are particular climatic conditions that hinder the normal development of Botrytis Cinerea preventing the establishment of the Gray Mold. In fact, in the morning the vineyards are immersed in the humidity of the fog, while, in the afternoon, the sun dries the bunches and favors the aturation. And it is precisely in these particular climatic conditions that Botryte develops, therefore, a particular form of mold which takes the name of Noble Mold. This mold, working inside the grape, not only causes a loss of water and therefore a concentration of the sugar level, but also produces glycerin and aromatic substances. From these grapes, called "boratised", wines with a high alcoholic strength are obtained, endowed with an aromatic, sumptuous and elegant outfit.

    The formation of these grapes takes place in more or less long times and not always in a uniform way, it is therefore necessary to carry out the harvest in several steps, collecting each time only the grapes that have reached a sufficient development of mold.

    In addition to France, other moldy wines are present in Germany and Austria with the Trockenbeerenauslese, while, in Hungary, we find the Tokaji Aszù (Aszù means mold), which is classified according to the number of panes of botrized grapes added to the base wine, from 3 to 6. The rare Tokaji Eszencia is made from only botrized grapes.

    Liquorosi wines

    vino-liquoroso-siciliano-marsalaLiqueur wines, also called fortified wines are obtained from a base wine, or a partially fermented must, the fermentation of which is stopped by adding alcohol or brandy (fortification), obtaining a product of variable sweetness (depending on the fermentation stage at which fortification takes place) and an alcohol content between 15 ° and 22 ° vol. Fortified or fortified wines should not be confused with raisin wines and are not necessarily dessert wines. Liqueur wines or fortified wines are one of the most interesting categories for the study, being products very different from each other both from the organoleptic and production point of view.

    This type of wine was born out of the need to store wines during long voyages by ship from the place of production to the final destination.

    The sweetness of fortified wines may depend on the moment chosen to add alcohol:

    During fermentation: there is an inhibition of the activity of the yeasts with consequent consequent premature end of fermentation and the presence of unfermented sugars in the wine;

    End of fermentation: since the sugars have already been transformed into alcohol, the wine will be dry and, if necessary, its sweetness will depend only on any subsequent addition of must;

    Some of the most famous fortified wines are: Porto, Sherry, Malaga and Marsala.

    Flavored wines

    Flavored wines are those wines to which various ingredients are added to the base wine to give unique characteristics and flavors, impossible to find only in the vinification of grapes.

    Vermouth-italiano-torinoYou can find flavored wines with the addition of ethyl alcohol, brandy, flavors, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, bitter orange bark, etc. This technique has very ancient origins, in fact, already to the ancient Greeks and Romans, they used to add seawater and aromatic plants inside the wine and referment everything in large terracotta amphorae, all in order to give it a particular flavor.

    Among the most famous flavored wines we remember:

    • Barolo Chinato: sugar, ethyl alcohol, and spices are added to the Barolo DOCG, among which stands out the bark of China Calisaia, from which it takes its name.
    • Vermouth: flavored wine of Italian origin, created in Turin. It can be composed of a white or red base wine to which are added, in addition to sugar and alcohol, some spices, among which the most characteristic is the Absinthe Major;
    • Retsina: is a flavored wine of Greek origin that has its roots already in the times of the ancient Greeks. The peculiarity of this flavored wine is to add Aleppo pine resin to the must.

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