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Ruby Hill Winery
February 3, 2023 | Ruby Hill Winery

A Quick Guide to Dessert Wine

One of the many beautiful things about the wine world is the astonishing diversity of fine wines. With the change of a single factor, a new experience is born. From one wine to another, changes in oak, varietal, terroir, fermentation practice, yeast and so much more make each one unique--and promises that there’s a wine out there for everyone. 

        At Ruby Hill Winery, our Solera In Perpetuum stands out as markedly different from the other wines grown here on our estate as it is our only dessert wine. Despite being crafted from the same Zinfandel, Barbera, and Petite Sirah fruit and the same estate as our other wines, it is a special treat.  How are dessert wines like this made? Also, why is it not called a “Port”? Can you pair it with anything? We explore these questions below!

        The creation of dessert wines involves influencing the natural chemical processes that create wine. When grapes are fermented, their natural sugar is converted into alcohol. For dessert wines, this process is interrupted before the sugars have all converted, and the wine is subsequently fortified with distilled spirits, usually grape brandy. The resulting wine is denser, sweeter, and higher gravity than an average wine. Similar to Champagne, which legally refers only to specific style wines grown in the Champagne region of France, Port wines are only the wines of a specific style grown in Portugal’s Douro Valley.

        Here at Ruby Hill Winery, we employ a system called a “solera” which is a time-tested and labor intensive method of aging that ensures the best of quality over time. A solera is a hand stacked set of barrels, with each layer of barrels representing a different stage in the life of the wine. Over time, wine from multiple vintages is blended from barrel to barrel: young wine begins its journey at the top layer, and every year it will slowly be blended downward. The wine that has had the most time to mature is pulled for bottling. The oldest wines in our solera date back to 2002, over 20 years.

        Pairings for a sweet red wine can be trickier than a dry one. The tried-and-true combination of wine and chocolate works phenomenally, especially dark chocolate. For cheese, don’t be afraid of big flavors like blue cheeses as the strength of the wine compliments them well. Additionally, a fine cigar pairs just as well for anyone who wants to lean into the luxury of the experience. 

Save room for dessert! For the month of February,
enjoy our Solera in Perpetuum Dessert Wine as our Wine of the Month.


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