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Valentine's DayFor your Valentine celebration, consider the perfect sweet wine for your sweetheart. (OK, I agree, that was a bit cheesy as an opener, but it is Valentine’s week.)

Americans possibly use the phrase “sweet, but not too sweet” more than any other country in the world when describing wine – not that shocking for those of us in the South, when we consider our tea order is followed by “sweet” or “unsweet.”

Sweet wines can exhibit some of the most alluring examples of the complexity of winemaking. The key to understanding the difference is a simple and uncomplicated comparison of sweet wines with sugar added in the process and sweet wines whose complexity and sweetness are miracles of nature. Both processes will produce sweet wines, but grapes developing natural sweetness endure an astounding complex life overthose with just added sugars.

I consider the sweet wines of Sauternes, France, one of the most romantic stories in viticulture. Keeping in mind wine, unlike other beverages, faces a long labor of love simply to arrive on your dinner table. This region is one of those examples. Sauternes has a unique microclimate created by the rivers Garonne and Ciron. Each year in the fall the cool spring-fed Ciron waters flow into the warmer tidal waters of the Garonne. This unique occurrence initiates late evening mists enveloping the vineyards until the morning of thefollowing day. As the sun rises and shines upon the vineyard it slowly burns off the mist. This distinctive occurrence in the vineyard encourages the growth of a fungus known as botrytis rot that attacks grapes and causes them to shrivel and rot. The miracle is in the mist covering the vineyards activating the rot. Without this mist, the grapes would not gain the complexity and concentration that give these sweet wines their enduring legend.

So finding a romantic wine gift of sweetness is easy, but a gift of a romantic miracle is a gift any wine lover will appreciate and adore.


  • 2010 Barton & Guestier Sauternes, France (about $25 retail)


  • 2007 Chateau Rieussec Sauternes, France (about $72 retail)