Sipping wine for those with sweeter tastes

An overwhelming number of wine lovers obviously liked the sweeter, fruitier style of Yellow Tail Shiraz

When Yellow Tail Shiraz (624544) $11.49 made its amazing debut in North America in 2001, it shook the wine world.

By 2003 it was by far the best selling imported wine and by 2005 it had sales of 7.5 million cases in North America.

An overwhelming number of wine lovers obviously liked the sweeter, fruitier style of Yellow Tail Shiraz. Wine without measureable residual sugar tastes sweeter thanks to exceptionally ripe grapes and higher alcohol – because alcohol itself tastes sweet! Modern stainless steel winemaking also contributes.

California’s E&J Gallo brought their equally phenomenally successful Apothic Red (125617) $12.70 to wine lovers all over North America.  A couple of years later it had moved ahead of Yellow Tail Shiraz both in the US and in Canada.

Sweeter wines have always been in fashion in the USSR and many adjacent European countries. Tucked between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova – which split from the Soviet Union in 1991 – has a climate which is moderately continental.

Introduced to Alberta in 2013, and made in Moldova, Lonely Shaman wines have recently become available in British Columbia.  Self-described as ‘semi-sweet’, the wines are more ‘off-dry’ than sweet. Lonely Shaman Merlot (859454) $15.15 ‘Semi-sweet’ red is a deliciously off-dry blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lonely Shaman Chardonnay (516823) $17.05 marries Chardonnay and Muscat in a lush little off-dry white.

Both wines come half-wrapped in eye-catching burlap pouches that might be perfect for keeping medicinal tokens – leaves, feathers, stones, sweetgrass, sage, cedar, lavender or pinion, and other objects that might be considered spiritually significant.

Here in British Columbia, certain wineries have realized that there is a market for wines that are not either tart, tannic or dry in any way.  Combined with vividly eye-catching outrageously colorful packaging Vibrant Vine Winery makes wines that are unabashedly on the sweeter side.

Vibrant Vine Gewurztraminer (386847) $19.20 has honeyed aromas of rose petals, lychee, ginger, peach and apricot.

The same medley of flavours leads to a lush and vibrant finish.

A blend that includes Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc, Vibrant Vine Woops? (397282) $19.20 was judged the “Best White Wine in The World” at the World Beverage Competition in Switzerland in 2013.

Behind its flamboyantly colourful upside down label it offers a fruit salad of lemon, apple, apricot and mango flavours that will please any sweet tooth.

A lighter style of red, Vibrant Vine Phantom (75424) $20.45 oozes juicy red strawberries and raspberries.

Delicate red berry flavours, sweet fruit and a faintly herbaceous note from a splash of Syrah make this quite a unique and complex red wine.

It is difficult to grow wine grapes that ripen consistently, year after year, on Vancouver Island.

Even when the weather is sunny and warm, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are technically cool climate growing regions.

Grapes grown in the world’s warmer regions ripen quickly and can make lusciously sweet, big wines that are low in acid and high in alcohol. Wine grapes grown in cooler regions including Ontario, Germany, northern France, as well as Vancouver Island tend to have refreshingly higher acidity and more subtle flavours.

Acknowledging the difficulties of ripen wine grapes consistently there are a handful of wineries on Vancouver Island that have chosen to make fruit based wines.

Coastal Black is an award winning fruit winery on the outskirts of the Comox Valley. A busy enterprise, the farm is made up of four generations living and working together to produce wine, fresh market fruit, raw honey and custom milled lumber. The flagship wine Coastal Black Blackberry (151472) $18.40 is rich in its blackberry depth and well-structured with natural fruity acidity, it pairs well with local bison or lamb and gives some serious body splashed into sauces in place of grape wines.

Made from Estate produced honey Coastal Black Spiced Mead (646059) $19.20 showcases the subtle fireweed nectar with hints of cinnamon and ginger. This wine enhances any traditional holiday meal and is great to share with friends around a glowing hearth.

There are always wines that are sweeter than you might think!

Why not join your WineWise guy at The Riptide Pub & Grill for a wine and food pairing featuring bubblies and dessert wines on Nov.21. Call Doug at 250-914-5569 for details or reach WineWise by emailing

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