With the approach of Mother’s Day in May, I often think about wines my Mom would like and because my mother is pretty much like the typical American mom when it comes to drinking wine, I like to think about wines our moms would collectively like to drink. You see, my mother typically doesn’t like the wines I bring home when I visit nowadays. She usually finds them too bitter or astringent or acidic, etc. My first memory of trying a wine was when I was a child and my mother had some of her “mom” friends over for an afternoon and there was this dark purple-colored liquid in these strangely-shaped, etched glasses that fascinated me. So, after some annoying prodding from me, she finally let me take a sip…it was sweet!…and tasted like grape juice!…and I loved it! Looking back, I would surmise this wine was something like Manischewitz, or possibly a cheap port….it was the 70’s after all. So, with this as context, I wanted to draw attention to some quality wines in the market today that might appeal to our moms to show them there ARE wines out there you would like if you want to give them a try! Featured photo above: Julie Bennett with her son, Jacob Altice
First of all, there are plenty of quality wines out there with some “residual sugar” (a.k.a. “sweetness”) you can drink so you don’t have to resort to just any sugary plonk made from grapes out there. The most obvious example for white wine is perhaps a Riesling, which is a great choice. Riesling is a German grape by origin and so many will tell you the best examples come from Germany, but it can be tricky de-coding the label to determine the level of sweetness. This is important because some German Rieslings can be bone dry! (And still, quite delicious too…). Look for terms like “Kabinett” or “Spatlese” for a off-dry level of sweetness and look for “Auslese”, which will usually, but not always, be even sweeter. However, Auslese Riesling will also usually cost you a bit more as well. Another great source for Riesling is Washington State. Producers like Chateau Ste. Michelle include a little sweetness level gauge on their back labels which can prove very helpful.
And if you’re thinking you prefer red wines with a touch of sweetness, then seek out some Lambrusco from Italy…..yes, that’s right, I said it. Lambrusco is a much-maligned style of wine thanks to the sea of cheap swill under that name that flooded our market in the 80’s & 90’s. In fact, there are some very high-quality Lambruscos produced by the likes of Cleto Chiarli that are still very affordable wines but also deliver the best expressions of what the wine can truly be if produced with care. I know my mom would LOVE a Chiarli Lambrusco!
Sparkling wines are also not to be ignored in our search for mom-approved wines. While there are indeed sparklers that have some direct sweetness in them, such as Moscato d’Asti, which is a no-brainer for mom, I prefer to get her into a Prosecco from Italy. These wines are usually gently sparkling, as opposed to the more aggressive foam of a true champagne, and while the wines are not “sweet” per se, they are very fruity, with notes of white peach, melon and flowers, and so they often appeal to our sweet tooth in a dryer, more refreshing way than an outright sweet wine. I like to often say that Prosecco is “quaffable” and great for the back porch on a warm day. This is sure to be a winner for mom.
Lastly, I’d like to throw out a word for Rosé wines. In particular, you don’t need me to tell you your mom will love White Zinfandel…the original “blush” wine of the USA. This goes without saying and your mom probably drank the stuff by the bucket back in the 80’s. However, today we are seeing more and more DRY Rosé wines, which is how the wine was originally meant to be produced going back to its origins in France. And again, it’s a dry wine that can still work for mom because they are often very fruity…so much so, that they can have the perception of a little sweetness on the palate. And even if they are not outright sweet, because of the lightness of the style, they at least don’t present a lot of astringent tannin or acerbic acid. However, in trying to get mom into a Rosé, she is more likely to enjoy a new world version, from the USA for instance, rather than a French Languedoc version which in fact is still a bit more earthy and acid-driven. Look for Rosé wines specifically made with the Pinot Noir grape…this is often indicated on the labels today…rather than the Grenache grape. Pinot Noir Rosé from California or Oregon is often quite fruity and lovely and I know my mom would love it.
I hope this was helpful as you navigate through some wine selections with the weather finally getting warmer. Whether you celebrate with some wine, or with beer or cocktails, or any beverages really, have a very Happy Mother’s Day everyone! Cheers!
by Brian McClure. Director of Wine and Beverage at The Greenbrier Resort. Hashtag #101. May 2018