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Don’t Hate the Grape, Hate the Game

Sweet wines aren't all bad

Your Least Favorite Wine Isn’t Flawed; it’s Just Misunderstood

By Erin Ortiz


Is the varietal you love to hate inferior or just misunderstood? Let’s see if we can unpack what’s in the wine glass and turn this grape story from bitter to sweet.  


Few grapes have taken as much criticism as Chardonnay, and the varietal has taken it with class, style, and versatility. Naysayers of the wine know it by its whimsical nickname, “cougar juice,” a nod to buttery, oaky styles like Kendall Jackson and Rombauer, associated with stressed-out soccer moms. 

Many critics who confidently espouse their hatred for Chardonnay revere the same grape in another region, Burgundy. Few sommeliers would turn down the chance to explore a glass from Burgundy’s second-largest appellation, Montrachet. “The well-sheltered vineyards sit atop Jurassic-era rocks that date back 175 million years ago (the period also known as the Mesozoic Era).”, according to wine blogger Chermaine Chee. The fifteen-to-eighteen-month oak aging period provides delicious complexity to complement your mushroom risotto or favorite seafood dish perfectly. While wines from this region can cost as much as a downpayment on a home, you can pick up the far more reasonable Albert Joly Puligny-Montrachet ‘Les Tremblots’ 2019 at Le Du Wines for $90.


“The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice” is a great expression derived from an even greater book, but an unfortunate wine myth often associated with rosé. While this wine style has been produced for centuries, it doesn’t take much to elevate or destroy a wine’s brand. In the 1970s, Bob Trinchero from Sutter Home attempted to make a dry, white version of Zinfandel when the wine stopped fermenting. “It’s known as a “stuck fermentation”—when the sugar doesn’t completely convert to alcohol—so the wine remains a little bit sweet.”, according to Dr. Vinny from Wine Spectator. 

Instead of correcting this happy accident, the winemaker bottled it. People who dislike drier styles embraced this easy-drinking juice; by 1987, it was the best-selling brand.  The popularity of White Zinfandel contributed to the myth that if a rosé is dark, it is also sweet.                                                                

Just like skinny jeans and flannel shirts, all trends eventually come to an end. The wine’s popularity was replaced by Chardonnay, Merlot and the very wine it dethroned, red Zinfandel. Unfortunately, that cast a shadow over unsuspecting rosés everywhere and provided sommeliers and journalists with the purpose of informing the public that the wine’s color comes from time spent in contact with the skin of the grape. Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards, produces a killer, dry Petite Sirah rose at Theopolis winery for $28. The Texas and San Francisco trial lawyer now wins legal cases while selling award-winning cases of wine from her Anderson Valley Winery.

Sweet Wine

Sweet wines aren’t just debatable when they are pink. The sweet or dry debate is a significant battleground for wine. While movies Sex and the City and Serendipity compelled consumers to line up around the block for sweet treats from Magnolia Bakery and Serendipity 3 they will continue to have shame in the game regarding sweet wine. However, the numbers don’t lie. Wines with some residual sugar outsell their dry counterparts despite peer and media pressure to influence our palates.

While mass-produced, low-alcohol wines like Barefoot Moscato might be off-putting to the wine connoisseur, and these wines are flying off the shelves. Even for the wine enthusiast, there is no denying that the residual sugar in prestigious wine styles like Riesling and Sauternes adds a necessary balance to many spicy and savory foods. It is hard to consider the $560 price tag of a Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes 2017 low-brow, but if you’re lucky enough to grab a sip of this citrusy, decadent Bordeaux nectar, you will probably understand its esteemed place at the wine table. 


Sweet or dry, light or dark, the enjoyment and discovery of wine is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Let 2023 be the year you look beyond the label, the color, and the price tag. You might find your next favorite tipple inside a bottle you thought you hated. Don’t hate the grape; hate the game. 

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