Desserts have been around since the beginning of time. Before the advent of the commercialised sweet, dessert partakers indulged in raw honeycomb and dried fruits and nuts. During the Middle Ages, sugar was manufactured. Wealthy cooks, as well as the royal cooks, began preparing sweet treats for the ending of the meal. Also called “afters” or “sweets,” dessert is enhanced with the perfect dessert wine. In some instances, the perfect dessert wine can become the dessert itself.
Types of Dessert Wines
Choosing between wines is confusing. There are many types of wines available on the market. Those who are not yet wine connoisseurs may stick with the rule of thumb advising white wine for fish and poultry and red wine for beef. However, where does the dessert wine fall? Dessert wines are commonly sweet. They are designed to enhance the flavour of pastries, fruits or puddings. Common choices include:
- Tawny Ports
- Pinot Gris
Perhaps one of the more sought after dessert wines is the German Ice Wine, or Eiswine. Procured from grapes that are allowed to freeze on the vine, Ice Wine is the sweetest of the wines. The freezing of the grape causes the water within to freeze and separate from the sugars, instilling a larger concentration of sweetness within the body of the wine.
Three things to consider when choosing a dessert wine are:
1. The acidity of the wine. Generally, wines that are more acidic do well when paired with fruits. Fruits contain their own natural acidity and the two acids play well off one another.
2. The intensity of the wine. The more intense the wine, the sweeter the dessert should be. A strongly sweet wine can overpower a mild dessert.
3. The sweetness of the wine. A dessert wine should always be sweeter than the actual dessert. In fact, the sweeter wines can stand alone as a dessert.
Three major categories of desserts are usually considered when choosing a dessert wine to pair.
1. Puddings and vanilla, such as an egg custard. Both the wine and the dessert should contain notes of butter and should be mild on the palate. Wise choices are Rieslings and sparkling Asti Spumantis.
2. Spices and fruits, such as those found in a fruit cake. Gewirtztraminers and Sauternes, as well as champagnes pair well. Both dessert and wine should contain undertones of cinnamon, as well as pears and apples.
3. Chocolate and caramels, such as those found in bon-bons and other similar sweets. Dessert and wine should both be rich and buttery. Suggested wines are red wines such as Australian Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Grappa and Banyuls. A tawny port also goes well with a chocolate dessert.
Wine aficionados suggest pairing wine with desserts following the adage, “the darker the dessert, the darker the wine.”
Remember, the best way to complete a meal with the perfect dessert wine is to find the proper balance between the sweetness of the wine and the palate.
Bruce is a sommelier at Dedes Restaurant in Sydney, Australia, who thinks that the often overlooked dessert wine can be the perfect way to complete a fantastic meal. When he isn’t working Bruce enjoys touring Australia’s incredible wine regions. For more information about Dedes Restaurant visit: www.dedes.com.au