The result is that sweet wines languish in the cellars of collectors, they make little inroads in the fine wine auction circles and prices rise only modestly even for the best vintages from the finest producers. This is a huge contrast to a hundred years ago when the sweet wines from Germany commanded prices en par with the very best red wines from Bordeaux. While young vintages of top first growth Bordeaux have now reached over US$1,000 per bottle, sweet wines from the very best producers such as JJ Prum in the Mosel or Climens in Barsac struggle to sell their wines at one-fifth of that price, over US$200. Sweet wines are clearly not in vogue ¨C health-conscious drinkers are moving away from dessert and sweet wines; meanwhile wine lists across many major cities around the world increasingly marginalise sweet wines. Even in Germany, the epicentre of collectible, late-harvest sweet wines, the majority of German wine drinkers prefer dry wines. ¡°It goes better with food,¡± is the simple reply. In Far East Asia, there are added challenges for sweet wines ¨C we have even less of a sweet tooth than other cultures and at the end of a meal, we often move from dry wines to whiskey or cognac, not sweet wines. If we pair sweet wines with food, it has to be one with considerable age so that the perception of sweetness has softened and the flavours are layered and gentle rather than intense. Overt sweetness can easily alter the balance of food flavours and can be as aggressive as raw, overt tannins in young red wine. There is one other explanation as to why sweet wines are currently unfashionable. In the 1960s and 1970s, sweet wines became synonymous with cheap, insipid entry-level wines. Blue Nun and Black Tower are still around and blush Zinfandel from California has its rightful place in the wine industry even today. Sweet wines slowly became associated with cheap and cheerful wines and never completely shed this image. Flash forward four decades later, studies analysing wine consumer tastes still find a disconnect between those who enjoy off-dry or sweet wines to those who actually admit to liking it. I will be bucking this trend and making a solo attempt at making sweet wines more fashionable by buying them up. I know the best will easily age as long or longer than my top Bordeaux. Even if I don¡¯t enjoy them all in my lifetime, my children will thank me for my prescience and generosity.
Reprinted with permission from South China Morning Post