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Wine Wise - Sweet Wines

( Originally Published 1933 )


Port, the best seller of all sweet wines, originated in Portugal. It is made from the grapes that grow along the Douro River, but the name of the wine really comes from the seaport city of Oporto, from which Port has been shipped for many centuries to all parts of the world. Port is particularly popular in England, where the fogs and chilly weather make a strong-bodied wine of great tonic value a popular beverage.

In the trade, Port is known under three names: Vintage Port, Ruby Port, and Tawny Port. Vintage Port is the wine of an exceptionally favorable year. Tawny Port is one that has matured in the cask and changed its color. Ruby Port, on the other hand, is Port which is aged in the bottle. Port is not a natural wine, being made by arresting fermentation through the addition of pure grape brandy before the sugar is exhausted. It is decidedly sweet in taste and of heavy consistency.

California Port is a blend of Zinfandel, Mission, Petite Sirah, Grenache and several other types of red wine grapes. It is true to the type of European Port.

American Port is made from blends of several varieties of red grapes grown in New York, New Jersey and Ohio. It is a rich, full-bodied wine of deep color comparing favorably with European types and California types of Port, but characterized by the fruity flavor of American grapes, particularly when made from grapes of the Concord type.

Port should be served at the temperature of the room and should never be chilled. In fact, many connoisseurs of Port cup their hands about the glass so as to increase its temperature from the warmth of the body, thereby releasing the fragrant bouquet of the wine. Port is renowned for its blood-building qualities and is used in the culinary arts.


Sherry is a sweet wine that originated in Spain, the bulk of this type of wine being produced within ten miles of the town of Jerez-de-la-Frontera in Andalusia. In Spain there are four popular types of Sherry, a dry variety that is usually served before luncheon, a pale soft Sherry suitable for table use, a very brown golden Sherry for after-dinner use, and the old-fashioned mellow nutty dry Sherry known as Sack.

In California, Sherry is made from grapes that grow in the hot interior valleys the Palomino, the Pedro Jiminez, the Mission and several other character grapes. After an almost complete fermentation the wine is fortified by the addition of grape brandy and is then stored in what is known as "the oven." This is a room filled with casks or tanks and heated to a temperature of 142 degrees Fahrenheit day and night. After some months of slow "baking" in this heat, the wine becomes Sherry. It is then handled, clarified, and aged until ready for the market.

Sherry is never chilled and is unique in that it can be served before the meal, during the meal, and as an after-dinner beverage. It is an invigorating wine and much prized by chefs for cooking.


Angelica is a distinctly California type of sweet wine which originated in Southern California and was named in honor of the City of Los Angeles. It is known as a nectar wine because it is made by combining the juices of sweet white grapes with grape brandy. In color it is a light golden, but sometimes becomes the color of topaz. It possesses cordial characteristics and is generally used as an after-dinner drink or is served with sweet refreshments.

In making Angelica the wine makers choose white grapes that are very sweet and thoroughly ripe. Who first made this wine, and when, we do not know, but it was originated at least forty years ago. The general character of Angelica, in which it differs from any other wine, is that it has little or no fermentation. It is simply unfermented grape juice fortified with brandy in sufficient quantity to prevent fermentation. Similar combinations are used as an ingredient in numerous sweet wines of the Mediterranean region such as those of Malaga and the sweet wines of Sicily,


Muscatel is a delicately flavored sweet wine that has a distinct bouquet of the Muscat, which is a leading raisin grape in California. It is made very much as is Angelica except that the Muscat grape is used exclusively, the flavor of this grape being immediately recognized in the wine, which should have a smooth limpid quality.


Tokay is an amber-colored sweet wine which originated in the Tokay district of Hungary. In that region it is made of the Furmint grape, and is said to be the finest medicinal wine in the world. The California type of Tokay is an entirely different wine, being a blend of sweet wines. The name Tokay is really a misnomer for this blend, which makes a good after-dinner or medicinal wine.


Splendid sweet wines are made from eastern American grapes grown in New York, Ohio and North Carolina. In an official report to the Italian Government some years ago, when he was Minister of Agriculture and Horticulture, Cavalier Guido Rossati, who is now established in New York, expressed surprise at the fine delicate white and red wines made in the eastern states and paid a special tribute to the Port type made from American grapes. He wrote: "I found their Superior Old Port delightful. It has several great advantages over other Ports. It has a brighter color and it can stand aging better."

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