Can a wine be fruity and sweet? Fruity and dry? Sweet and Dry?

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The answers are yes, yes, and no. Fruitiness is a flavor idea: the wine’s flavor and aroma are more reminiscent of fruit than say, flowers, dried herbs or crème brûlée. Sweetness or dryness refers to whether all the natural sugars were fermented into alcohol. That appetizing term residual sugar accounts for natural sugar purposefully left in the wine to balance the grape’s bright, lively acidity. Keep in mind that a wine with a teeny bit of leftover sugar isn’t destined to be the dessert course any more than a quarter teaspoon of sugar will make an espresso taste sweet. Wines with 1 to 2 percent residual sugar, such as California Riesling or Gewürztraminer are, in fact, perceived as dry by most people. And just in case you thought Chardonnay was dry, think again. In many of them, a little bit of natural sugar has been left in.

Where would you find the steepest vineyard in the world?

In Germany, where south-facing hillside vineyards are precisely angled to catch the elusive northern sun. Germany’s steepest vineyard is named Calmont and it’s near the village of Eller on the Mosel River. With its stunning 76-degree incline, the vineyard appears almost as a vertical wall of vines, all tenaciously gripping the slaty cliff.

What are Port tongs?

Vintage Ports that are more than 30 years old can sometimes have fragile, difficult-to-remove corks. Traditionally, such bottles would be opened using a pair of Port tongs instead of a corkscrew. The tongs (which look like medieval instruments of torture) are heated until red hot, then clamped around the bottleneck below the cork. After about ten seconds, the tongs are removed and cool water is poured over the neck, causing a single dramatic crack that severs the neck from the bottle. The bottleneck with the cork still
inside can then be lifted off the bottle—usually with great flourish—and discarded. Port tongs are not the easiest tools to find, but a good mail order wine accessory company will have them.

Originally published in our Gold Wine Club's Wine Press Wine Wizard, Gainey Vineyard 2003 edition.