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Carl Hudson
April 29, 2021 | Carl Hudson

Brennan Vineyards Mistelle 2018

A wine newly released at Texas Wine Collective is the latest Mistelle Dessert Wine, 2018 vintage, from Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, Texas.  Different from the previous edition of Mistelle made from the Bordeaux variety Semillon, this delicious wine is comprised of white Rhône varieties.  The wine is relatively high in alcohol, 16%, and carries a balancing 7% level of residual sugar.  Armed with this information, you may have already developed a notion of what this wine tastes like and whether you would enjoy it.  Before making a final decision, please read on to get the rest of the story behind how Todd Webster, Brennan’s talented wine maker, produced this wine. 

Mistelle is a French term that describes a type of alcohol-rich beverage that can be a wine, or an ingredient used in making other beverages.  The Italian term is mistella and the Spanish or Portuguese term is mistela.  A Mistelle is produced by adding alcohol to, or fortifying, simple grape juice, partially fermented or fully fermented wine.  The added alcohol is usually in the form of 140-160 proof distilled grape spirits (think of moonshine made from grapes).  Wine grapes are typically harvested in the range of 21-26% sugar which, via a normal fermentation process, will be converted into 11-14% ethyl alcohol in a finished, dry wine.  If alcohol is added before or during fermentation, it can stop yeast consumption of sugar, and thus preserve natural sugar in the grape juice.  This is the procedure normally used to produce Port wines.  Or, if alcohol is added after fermentation, the alcohol level will be increased and sugar can be added to produce a dessert-style wine, similar to how sweet Sherry wines are produced.  The procedure of fortification is common around the world in the production of fortified wines like Port, Sherry, Marsala, Madeira, and Vermouth.

Now, a Mistelle can be made from any grape variety, and can be finished as a dessert wine or used as an additive to enhance the alcohol and sugar levels in other beverages, such as those noted above and in many types of aperitifs.  In this case, the grapes that Todd Webster used were Roussanne 67% and Grenache Blanc 33% sourced from Texas High Plains vineyards. 

Other than the relatively high alcohol level, Mistelle wines made with white grapes are similar in many ways to the famous Sauternes dessert wines of southern Bordeaux, France.  And like a Sauternes, this Mistelle shows aromas of honey and candied apricot with floral notes of jasmine and honeysuckle.  Flavors include canned peaches, lemon zest, and Rainier cherries with hints of dried banana chips.  The wine is well-balanced with a lush and silky finish.  Apple pie with vanilla ice cream, peach or pear cobbler, white chocolate cheesecake, and white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies would pair beautifully with this Brennan Vineyards Mistelle.  Or, just enjoy a glass as liquid dessert after your meal. 


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