Gary & Todd,
Holy Moly, dudes! This conversation is so going over my head I can get woozy just trying to read and absorb it.
I love it when that happens!
cowdery wrote:Certainly raisin brandy is used to fortify wine because it is a grape product and not the product of some other fermentable...
Probably a regulatory requirement, although it would also be practical. For wineries that produce fortified wines (I'm talking ports and sherries here, of course, not Mad Dog or T-Bird) it makes sense to distill their own spirit, since they already have the raw materials in the form of substandard fruit and spent lees. And if the output isn't as pure as true neutral spirits that's okay, too, since any flavor carryover wouldn't seriously affect the profile.
...Why raisins instead of grapes? Again, you probably are right that raisins had some quality they valued that regular grapes did not...
Probably the biggest quality would be the sugar-to-weight ratio. In Germany, the occasional Botritis (sp?) infection is actually looked upon as a blessing (at least connoisseurs with deep pockets) because it results in shrivelled grapes that are basically raisins-on-the-vine. The resultant crops are, of course, decimated, but the price/bushel makes up for it since wine made with those grapes is so much sweeter AND alcoholic. Normally, sweetness is accomplished by stifling the fermentation early, but that also reduces the alcohol content. Such wine is called Spatlaesse (sp?) and sells at a high premium.