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Six Mile Creek Semi-Sweet Riesling 2007


Appelation: Finger Lakes
Varietal: Riesling
ABV: “table wine” an email to the vineyard asking for details got no response. tsk, tsk.
RS: ~5%
Price Point: $13.50
Nose: Something spicy/cinnamony on the nose like Dentyne gum with some light floral aromas.
Palate: Canned peaches, sort of like fruit cocktail. Sweetness and acidity* are {well-balanced} in this wine. It doesn’t taste like 5% (50 g/L) residual sugar, but it is still pretty sweet. Many dessert wines come with an absurdly long finish, but this one drops off almost immediately. It’s easy to forget you’ve been drinking this riesling.

Rating: corkcorkhalfcork

Six Mile Creek is pretty much in Ithaca and because it’s about 5 minutes away I end up there somewhat frequently. I like the tasting room and the view from the deck out back is really gorgeous (vines and a pond). I think that this and the vignoles I reviewed earlier are some of their best offerings. This wine’s a pretty good value at $13.50. It’s not too complex, but will definitely be a crowd-pleaser.

Perception is a tricky thing. Every individual expresses different levels of smell and taste receptors, and many different alleles for those receptors. After that, everyone’s brain seems to handle the information that those receptors provide differently. Often, perception takes place over complex chemical mixtures (e.g., food and wine). It’s not entirely known how the brain handles multiple signals (in series? in parallel? or as a mixture?). What is known is that some qualities of a sample can suppress or accentuate other qualities. In this case, let’s talk about acid-sugar balance.

Try this without sugar.  Just try it.

Try this without sugar. Just try it.

I first learned about this particular topic when I was about 9. I was mixing up some Kool-Aid (unsweetened, in the paper packet as opposed to sweetened in the large container) in our big orange pitcher. I emptied the packet (which may have been Purplesaurus Rex) into the pitcher. For those unfamiliar with Kool-Aid, the contents of the packet are pretty much citric acid and dye, and you’re supposed to add about a cup of sugar to a 2-quart pitcher. You can probably see where this is going. I took a big gulp of the liquid BEFORE adding sugar, and it was awful. Extremely tart. Added a cup of sugar, and I had purple-lemonade goodness.


The scale that could be coming soon to riesling labels near you.

Turns out there is some science to back up the concept that sugar can balance acidity in wine. (Nordeloos and Nagel, “Effect of Sugar on Acid Perception in Wine”, AJEV, 1972). Basically, increased sugar decreases perception of acidity. The International Riesling Foundation has taken this into account. The idea behind their new “taste profile” is to give an idea of the sweetness of a riesling on the label so consumers know just how sweet their riesling will be. However, this rating is not just based on sugar content. It is based on sugar/acid ratio with a small adjustment based on pH. You can read more about the IRF and its new labeling scheme at their website or on a nascent Finger Lakes riesling blog called Stressing the Vine, which did a fine job covering this. For the record, I would guess that despite its hefty sugar content, this wine is probably on the high end of “medium-sweet.”

Published in: on 9 June 2009 at 11:48 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love that you used Kool-Aid to explain the importance of sugar-acid balance. One of the funniest things my professor had us do, in the Wines and Vines class at Cornell, was try the juice of the original grapes, which was wonderfully sweet, then try the wine, which was very acidic and dry, but then go back to the juice, which became too sweet, and then back to the wine which tasted much better. Through the going back and forth, our perception of the sugar changed to the point that we appreciated the balance within the wine, and realized just how sweet the grapes had to be in order to create a balanced wine.

    • thanks for the comment! i might take wines & vines next year. who teaches it? justine? it has been at the same time as a required seminar my whole time at cornell. if you take understanding wine and beer (fs430) you learn all about suppression. it’s crazy how the same phenomena can be perceived totally differently given the circumstances under which you perceive them (mood, what you ate/smelled before, hallucination, etc.)

      • I should also mention that alcohol and tannin can be factors in wine balance as well. If you check out “le goût du vin” by émile peynaud there is a quasi-empirical triangle scale of balance.
        Whites: acid, alcohol, sugar
        Reds: acid, alcohol, tannin

        A good example if this is the alcohol-removed wine (blech!) you can get at the grocery store (i don’t recommend it). It is just ACID city.

  2. Hi Tom,

    Good post, I am glad to see more discussion of this topic. And thanks for the props.

    I am still thinking about the perception of dryness and sweetness in Rieslings. At last week’s “World Riesling Smackdown,” I was stuck by how full-flavored and perceptibly dry the Australian Rieslings were, and have been wondering why the 2007 Leasingham Magnus Riesling was the most popular of the wines that we tasted. According to the Leasingham website, the 2007 Magnus has 3.8g/l of residual sugar, which is a lot more sugar than is typical of Finger Lakes Dry Rieslings or even Semi-dry Rieslings. The wine also had 7.9g/l acidity, 3.02 pH, and 13.2% alcohol. The ratio of sugar to acidity is the most obvious reason why the wine tasted “dry” despite the high sugar level, but I am more intrigued by the high alcohol level and the role this plays in the perception of dryness. The 2008 Marquis Philips Roogle Riesling also was full-flavored and dry, and has an alcohol level of 13.0%. Something interesting is going on between the high levels of sugar and acidity, the high alcohol levels, and the perceived dryness and full flavor of these Aussie Rieslings.

  3. Hi again,

    I’d like to organize a tasting of 2007 Cabernet Francs from the Finger Lakes (and maybe a few other Reds). There are too many wines for me to purchase and review on my own, and I want to get the word out on this benchmark vintage while the wines are widely available. Any interest in participating?

    Also, I want to correct a misstatement I made in my previous Comment. The 2007 Leasingham Magnus Riesling has an RS of 3.8 g/l, which correctly translates into 0.38%. I am not great with math, which is why I ought to leave even the most basic science to you. I mistakenly translated the RS of 3.8g/l into 3.8%, which would be the equivalent of semi-sweet Rieslings from the Finger Lakes. This clarification helps to explain the wine’s dryness as well as the higher alcohol level, but still leaves open the primary question of understanding how the alcohol level contributes to the overall perception of flavor, body, weight, etc.



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