For some of us, the most indulgent way to end a meal is with a glass of tokaji azsu, Austrian ice wine, sauternes, or other world-class sweet wine. For the average drinker, however, sweet wines have a reputation as old fashioned, obscure, or downright unappealing. More and more sommeliers have been including sweet beverage pairings on their dessert menus in an effort to promote these top shelf selections. While mature consumers at times seem stagnant in their desire for dessert wines, sweet wines are experiencing a notable resurgence with younger imbibers. As the adventurous and sweet-toothed millennial generation is coming of drinking age, offering these wines in restaurants and liquor stores is becoming easier to justify. Excitingly, this new wave of adventurous wine drinkers will reignite a deserved appreciation of sweet wines.
CHAIRMAN'S TROPHY ULTIMATE SPIRITS CHALLENGE: SIETE LEGUAS ANEJO TEQUILA 97 POINTS $44.99
A consistent industry favorite, everything from the Siete Leguas distillery is highly regarded. Their anejo's near perfect score of 97 points is as high as any other tequila scored in 2015, and one of the highest scoring spirits overall. Their commitment to tradition while embracing the modernizing technology is what keeps their tequilas agave-forward, integrity driven and reasonably priced. A true leader in the agave industry, it is a pleasure to taste their exceptional products year after year. In addition to the Chairman's Trophy, Siete Leguas Anejo also received the USC Great Value and Tried & True Awards, making it a triple winner.
Tasting Note: A rich mossiness is the main aroma from the glass, with well-integrated notes of spice box. Light in the mouth it is savory and aromatic with spiced tobacco, charred moss and coffee. Subtle and focused.
SPIRIT TREND: SOLBESO & A NEW CATEGORY OF SPIRITS
In 2013 cofounders Tom Higbee and Thomas Aabo launched Solbeso (scored 87 points in 2015 Ultimate Spirits Challenge), the first ever spirit made from cacao fruit. The journey from idea to bottle was a long one. After spending time with small family cacao farmers in Latin American jungles, the Solbeso team innovated technology to harvest the cacao fruit and improve efficiency without disrupting the traditional distribution of labor. After overcoming the challenges of production, including the development of a hybrid copper column/pot still, Tom and Thomas are faced with an even bigger challenge: that of a new category of spirits. As the only cacao fruit liquor available, there is no consumer familiarity with their product, and many mistakenly assume since it is made from cacao it tastes chocolaty. With the aromatics of pears and citrusy lemon along with darker nutty undertones, Solbeso has qualities of clear spirits like tequila and pisco, as well as grain based brown spirits like whiskey. Bartenders, who have embraced this interesting outlier, use it in place of traditional spirits in classics, as well as a liqueur. While the first to harness this tasty and underused resource, Tom and Thomas are hopeful that for future generations, cacao fruit spirits are a household category.
ULTIMATE WINE CHALLENGE PERSONALITY: PATRICIA SAVOIE
We are delighted to have Pat Savoie, veteran wine and culinary writer, as a long-time member of our judging team. As one of the first experts to develop wine education materials decades ago, Pat values the opportunity to learn while participating in UWC: “In addition to getting to taste a whole lot of great, interesting wines, the interaction and discussion with the other judges is always fun and informative.” When not tasting with us, Pat stays busy by traveling all over the world in pursuit of great food, beverages and culture. Having just returned from three weeks in Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand, she has recently been named Food & Wine Editor for Premier Traveler magazine. On the horizon for Pat is more jet-setting to Cabo, Charleston, New Orleans and Iran.
CHAIRMAN'S TROPHY ULTIMATE WINE CHALLENGE: TENUTA CA'BOLANI PROSECCO CERVIGNANO DEL FRIULI 95 POINTS $18.99
In what seems like the golden age for prosecco, there is an endless sea of options. From a region that harkens back to the ancient Romans, the Ca'Bolani is a refreshing departure from the average prosecco. With an impressive array of fresh and floral aromatics and a crisp yet creamy texture, it is a sparkling wine for any occasion. Also a deserving winner of the UWC Great Value award, its modest price point allows this wine to be an everyday indulgence.
Tasting Note: A pale yellow-straw color in the glass, this prosecco bursts with aromas of peaches and nectarines, as well as white flowers. In the mouth, it's crisp and refreshing, but with a creamy texture thanks to a persistent mousse and a clean finish.
Ultimate WINE Challenge – Deadline for receipt of forms, products and payment is April 29, 2016. Judging begins May 16, 2016. More info.