It was three months before my wedding day, and things were getting hectic. In the middle of the daily melee that Natali and I were dealing with, I got the frantic call from my mom.
“It’s about the reception, Josh,” she breathed worriedly over the crackly long distance connection. “What are you going to have at the bar?”
“We’re just doing wine and beer, mom,” I tossed off. “Did you want Jell-o shots or something?”
“Well, I know how highfalutin’ you get with your wine selection. I just want to make sure you have some normal wine there that us people from Omaha like to drink.”
“Normal wine? What’s normal wine, mom?”
“Like White Zinfandel.”
The line went silent as I furrowed my brow and let out an inadvertent hiss. I collected myself.
“There will be no White Zinfandel at my wedding, mother.”
“Well, for Pete’s sake, I don’t know what Aunt Sheryl and me are going to drink, then.”
I hope to live long enough to see the day that the Midwestern mothers of America no longer look to that sickly sweet, pink liquid as their go-to tipple. As cloying and unbalanced as it is, however, I do understand the attraction. Sometimes all you want from a glass of wine is something sweet and simple. That doesn’t mean that one’s sense of taste and balance must be tossed out the window.
Forsooth, there are so many sweet to demi-sec options available that I could commit five installments to this one item. I won’t do that. Instead, I offer to you, as I did to my mother, the following options for simple, sweet wines that are easy on the palate, but won’t insult the intelligence of your palate.
The Pinot Blanc is a fairly innocuous grape grown worldwide. If it isn’t used for blending, it usually makes rather bland and uninteresting white wines that are quaffable, at best. That is, unless you are sipping on a Pinot Blanc from the Alsace region of France. Alsatian Pinot Blancs, while not as layered or interesting as the region’s Rieslings or Gewurztraminers, have an elegant simplicity that is rare in wines made from this grape elsewhere. They are also usually slightly sweet, which foots the bill for mom, as well.
When you’re looking for an Alsatian Pinot Blanc for mom, go for one with an alcohol level less than 11 percent. This will ensure that the wine will have a touch of sweetness; these wines are sometimes referred to as “off-dry.”
If mom wants a little kick of fizz, pour her a glass of Moscato d’Asti. This slightly sparkling dessert wine is from the Piemonte area of Northern Italy, and it is a no-fail party favorite as far as I’m concerned. Its intense sweetness is balanced by a signature orange and peach fruitiness that gives it dimension and keeps the wine from being weighed down by its high sugar content. Moscato d’Asti is also very low in alcohol (usually between 5 and 7 percent), so you can leave mom alone with the bottle and not worry about her getting up on tables and dancing for the DJ.
As for my own wedding reception, I convinced my mother that, as long as she had the bartender add a little Creme de Cassis to her dry, white wine, she’d get her sweet wine fix with a good old-fashioned Kir. Sure enough, 30 minutes into the wedding reception, my mother and aunt were leading a conga line through the dance floor, pink-hued wineglasses held high.
Momma Perilo got her drink on, and all was right with the world.
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