With their incredible versatility of styles, sweet wines come in a variety of colors, types, and concentrations of sweetness. Some sweet wines are very sought after as they are the perfect compliment to pair with a luscious dessert. However, it's important to acknowledge that not all wines pair harmoniously with every dish.
By applying some fundamental guidelines, one can enhance the food and wine pairing experience.
- Sweet White Wines: Perfect for blue cheeses and fruit-based desserts.
- Ice Wines: Ideal for fruity or creamy sweet dishes and cheeses.
- Sweet Sparkling Wines:These versatile expressions can complement nearly every dessert.
- Red Fortified Sweet Wines: An unbeatable match for chocolate-centric delights.
Sweet wines can also be a stand-alone dessert.
Sweet white wines offer a wide range of pairing possibilities. Consider the classic Sauternes from Bordeaux. This wine offers a rich body, pronounced sweetness, and flavors of dried apricot, honey, and even hints of orange blossom. It pairs well with desserts such as lemon tarts, crepes suzette, and crème brûlée. These wines also beautifully complement robust cheeses like Roquefort. Sauternes is often accompanied by a hefty price tag. However, wine enthusiasts can turn to the nearby region of Monbazillac in South West France, which delivers great value at a more affordable cost.
Conversely, the Hungarian Tokaj 5 Puttonyos Aszú showcases a light to medium body, and an alcohol content ranging from 11-13%. The primary grape variety, Furmint, provides a balanced high brisk acidity combined with tropical fruit and citrus notes. These wines are ideally suited for fruit-driven desserts like caramelized apples and Christmas puddings.
Traveling to North America, the chilly Niagara-On-The-Lake region in Southern Ontario, Canada, is famed for its Icewines. These unicorns are made from grapes harvested late in the year, and collected under freezing conditions at night to ensure a heightened concentration of fruity flavors. Uniquely, sometimes the grapes are picked in January of the following year, leading to one of the most sugar-rich styles. Offered in both white (mainly from Riesling or Vidal) and rosé (typically from Cabernet Franc), these wines feature a lighter body with a vibrant fruit profile, teeming with hints of green apples, lemons, and raspberries. The white versions pair wonderfully with creamy Panna cottas or fruit-forward desserts like banana pudding, while the rosé counterparts blend beautifully with strawberries and delicate chocolates.
Sweet sparkling wines are among the most versatile food-friendly wines. Moscato d’Asti Spumante, with its delicate body, harmonious sweetness, and pure grape character, pairs well with virtually any dessert. Though not common, sweet Champagnes shine with fruity delight and complement berries and fruity ice creams beautifully. Pouring Champagne over sorbet can elevate the dining experience, leaving a lasting impression on your guests.
Fortified wines, though often overlooked, rank among the best wines for dessert pairings. Port wine is especially noteworthy due to its full body, luxurious texture, and fine balance between its sweetness and grainy tannins. The best value is often found in a “Late Bottled Vintage” (LBV). Chocolate and Port make a legendary pairing. They can be served with the Port poured into a small chocolate cup, which can be eaten after the Port has been savored. Beyond chocolate, Tawny Ports excel with nutty desserts, ice creams, and dishes featuring caramelized or dried fruits.
The common characteristic of sweet wines is that they can develop and improve in quality over time. The alcohol, sweetness, acidity, and tannins all play a role in the wine's longevity, making it worthwhile to either age or one can invest in aged expressions. Sauternes, for example, gain greater complexity with age, while an LBV sees its tannins soften, evolving to showcase more pronounced dried fruit and leather notes. Nonetheless, their pairing attributes with desserts remain consistent.
The potential pairings between wines and desserts are limitless. With practice on your journey of exploration and experimentation, the most important aspect is to enjoy the ride. And if you’re not sure, a wine can also be a solo dessert.