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We Must Wait for Must Weight

As the grapes hang on the vine into late summer and fall, the natural sugars continue to build up. The sugar can be fermented into alcohol or, in the case of dessert wines, provide the wine lover with a rich, sweet nectar to be savored on its own or with rich desserts. These “stickies” are also the perfect foil for very rich foods other than desserts such as fois gras.

The measure of sugar in the unfermented grapes is called “must weight” by winemakers. You’ve probably seen pictures of a winemaker squeezing the juice of a grape into what looks like a small telescope and then looking into it with one eye closed. This instrument is called a refractometer. Light passing through a drop of juice held between two prisms bends the light at a different angle according to its sugar content. A scale, seen through the eyepiece, gives a reading of the percentage of sugar. Every country has its own system for measuring must weight. Three scales are primarily used: Brix (New World), Oechsle (Germany), Beaumé (France). Richness and flavour are the winemaker’s reward. Of course, as the quantity of juice decreases on the vine as the grapes ripen, the richness and final retail price increase directly in proportion.

This Special Select Late Harvest is produced from the Vidal grape, a favourite for producing dessert wines in the Niagara Peninsula. Despite the concentration of taste, it remains vibrant with a counter-balancing, refreshing, acidity. Savour on its own as a liquid dessert. Or pair with Dutch apple pie, crème brulée, butter tarts, or fois gras.

2019 Henry of Pelham Special Select Late Harvest Vidal 375 ml LCBO #395228, $19.95.