As December comes to an end, many vintners are now pressing the grapes they put aside at harvest time to make their vin de paille – straw wine – a speciality wine that is as sweet as it is delicious, and which is meant be sipped slowly at special occasions.
To make this wine, the grapes have to be absolutely unblemished and it is Gewurztraminer and Auxerrois varieties that tend to be mostly used. The grape clusters are laid out on straw beds (Schmit-Fohl and Caves Berna wine estates, in Ahn) or directly onto wide-gapped plastic racks (Domaines Vinsmoselle, in Wellenstein). They are left to dry out for at least two months, in a well-ventilated area so as to prevent any rot from appearing. Once the grapes have dried out and most of the water has evaporated, the sugar concentration will have soared. By law, the minimum sugar level has to be 130 degrees on the Oechsle scale; however, all the juice obtained this year far exceeds this, generally reaching between 175 and 185 degrees.
These very rich wines are traditionally served as an accompaniment to foie gras; however, it is probably a better idea to enjoy them at the very end of a meal. So why not try serving them with blue-veined cheeses (Roquefort, Stilton and so on) or even as an after-dinner liqueur to finish your evening on a sweet, delicate note!