Research has proven that drinking wine in moderation offers some genuine health benefits. So there you have it – a good excuse to drink wine. As if we even needed one! Of course we do have to be sensible and just enjoy a glass or two with dinner or to unwind after work, to enjoy the positive effects on our health, but with lockdown restrictions ending and spring on the way we’ve plenty to celebrate. Now is a great time to start having small gatherings again and inviting friends and family round. Why not really treat your guests to some delicious dessert wines? Most supermarkets stock a range of sweet wines from Italy, Portugal and France, leaders among the 10 best wine regions in Europe. There’s a great selection of dessert wines to choose out there that are surprisingly affordable. This article considers the different types of wine and offers tips on the best desserts with which to pair them.
What are dessert wines anyway?
Dessert wines are sweet wines that are served after dinner. Although they can be drunk without edibles, dessert wines generally complement desserts or cheese platters delightfully. They’re made from very sweet grapes and undergo a fermentation process during production, when the process is stopped before the sugar is converted into alcohol. There are lots of different wines available to choose from and they fall loosely into the categories below:
Sparkling Dessert Wine. Probably the most popular and inexpensive dessert wine, it’s often served to put us in the mood for a celebration. Sparkling wines have even been proven to temporarily improve mental focus. These wines are quite acidic and their sparkling quality means they don’t taste as sweet as other wines, though they are as high in sugar. Sparkling dessert wines pair well with cheese and savory nibbles but also complement strawberries, light cheesecakes, meringue dishes and macaroons. Certain sparkling wines might even be served at breakfast or brunch.
Moscato. This is a popular Italian fizzy wine that pairs beautifully with fruit, nutty desserts and sweet biscuits
Eiswein. It quite literally means ‘ice wine’ . This wine produced in Germany, Austria and Canada is made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. The process of harvesting Eiswein is delicate which makes it a pricey wine to purchase. It is very sweet to taste and quite acidic and goes particularly well with very sweet desserts and nuts.
Madeira wine. This is a fortified wine from the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira. It undergoes an oxidation process during production which gives it a rich nutty flavor. It tastes dry, though there are sweeter versions like Malvasia which pair well with blue cheeses and dark chocolate or rich berries.
Port wine. This wine from Porto in Portugal is a fortified wine, harvested from red and white wine grapes. It is aged for two to forty years. A light port can complement milk chocolate well while the richness of an aged port makes it a good strong choice to pair with dark chocolate.
Sherry. This is another fortified wine produced in Spain and very popular in the UK. Sherry is oxidized to give it a distinctive flavor. While some people swear that Sherry is an aperitif it does work well with cheese and rich chocolate desserts like Black Forest Gateau.
Sauterne wine. This unfortified sweet wine from the Bordeaux region in France is a ‘noble rot’ wine, made from grapes affected by a particular fungus. The fungus is an attribute to the wine and adds a sweetness and light flavor. This expensive wine is often served with savory foods but it complements dried and fresh fruits, Christmas pudding and rich fruit desserts.
What sort of glasses do I use to serve dessert wine?
Dessert wines are rich in flavor and should be served in small quantities. Petite portions of 100ml are best. Use wine glasses or flutes to enable the wine to oxidize and release its full range of flavors.
Should I decant the wine before serving it?
A dessert wine should be served chilled, and decanting the wine might prevent it from maintaining its chilly temperature. Decanting vintage wines might impair their flavor.
There are various combinations that work well when pairing desserts with wine so as a general rule, choose a sweet wine to complement a sweet dessert. Acidic wines tend to pair very well with sweets and desserts. Fortified wines and red wines go well with dark chocolate as a general rule, though dark chocolate is bitter and can be difficult to harmonize with wine containing high tannins. You might have to experiment a little to find the best pairings so let the sweetness of the dessert dictate your choice, though I’m sure you’ll also get wonderful feedback from your friends and family.
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