A Guide To Late Harvest Wines
Late harvest wine is made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer than usual, allowing the grape to develop a higher sugar concentration. A fungus called noble rot helps the water in the grape evaporate and causes the grape to shrivel. This results in sweeter, richer wine most commonly used as dessert wine. In some regions where winter is cold enough to produce ice, the grapes are allowed to freeze before harvesting to make ice wine. Ice wine has a distinctive sweetness with high acidity that keeps it crisp and clear.
Origins: True Story or Legend?
In Germany, it is believed that late harvest wine
dates back to 1775 when a messenger was sent to Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau region to give the official order to start harvesting the grapes
. His arrival was delayed when he was robbed on the way, and by the time he got to the wine estate, the grapes had begun to raisin on the vine. The grapes were picked anyway and produced a unique and delicious sweet wine
, the story begins with a chateau owner telling his workers not to pick his grapes until he returned from a trip. By the time he returned, the grapes were infected with a fungus (noble rot) that shriveled them. Despite their raisin-like appearance, the grapes were harvested
and turned into wine
. The owner loved the taste so much that he made the decision to pick the grapes only after the fungus had arrived late in the harvest season.
Every country in which late harvest wines
are produced seems to have its own story, or legend, about the origins of its late harvest wines
. True or not, wouldn’t you like to believe that these are accurate accounts of what really happened?
Popular Late Harvest Wines
This French wine
by the same name is made mostly from Sernillon but usually includes some Sauvignon Blanc and sometimes Muscadelle. The Sauternes
aren’t necessarily made every year. If the grapes don’t ripen properly, winemakers may simply produce dry wines and label them as Bordeaux
. Typically, the wine is aged in a barrel for two to three years before it is bottled. Some Sauternes
wines can age in the bottle for more than 30 years, although they normally peak 10 years after the vintage date.
Germany German winemakers
classify their wines according to the ripeness of the grape at the time of harvest. Germans use Riesling
to produce their Beerenauslese (selected berries harvest) and Trockenbeerenauslese (selected dried-berries harvest) wines.Tokaji
These wines are produced in an area around the town of Tokaj in Hungary
, a region that has been producing wine since 1650. The Furmint, Yellow Muscat and Hárslevelű grapes are the primary grapes used in Tokaji
, which is aged in partially filled barrels with a film of yeast on top and stored in underground wine caverns.
View our Top Late Harvest Wine Picks