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Dessert and Wine Pairing – Perfect Matching

Dessert wines have historically gone in and out of fashion, and until recently, they seem to have fallen under the latter category, but they are making a bit of a comeback – a trend about which I have no complaints.

The definition of “dessert wine” varies depending which country you’re talking about, but for all intents and purposes we will say that they are simply those that are sweet and suitable for dessert! Technically fortified wines (port and sherry) are different, but they often sway into the dessert category, so I would lump them together.

When talking about matching wine and dessert, you don’t necessarily have to stick to “dessert wines,” but it’s a world well worth exploring. I used to write them off, thinking I would hate them because I am not a fan of overly sweet wines. However, I came to realise that when reserved for the end of a meal with some delicious pudding, they can be one of the most wonderful things.

As a general rule, you want your wine to be sweeter than your dessert, or it will end up tasting acidic and tart. Here are a few common flavour profiles you’ll encounter on the dessert menu, along with some of my go-to wine pairings:

Chocolate Desserts

  • Chocolate desserts can be very intense, even bitter. Something very sweet and rich is a good match, like fortified wines. One of my favourite pairings is flourless chocolate cake with a strong port or sherry.

Intense chocolate desserts are enhanced with a glass of port or sherry

Fruit Desserts

  • Fruit-based desserts often incorporate a bit of spice such as cinnamon, nutmeg or even cardamom. Because of this, these desserts can handle a bit more acidity with their wine pairing – in other words, they don’t call for something sickly sweet. With you next berry compote, fruit cake or apple tart, try something semi-sweet like a late harvest Riesling or Gewurztraminer, or even a sweet Chenin Blanc.

Fruity desserts like this strawberry tart go beautifully with late harvest semi-sweet wines

Custard and Cream-Based Desserts

Custards and cream based desserts like tiramisu, profiterole and crème brulé are all quite rich and high in fat; a sweet dessert wine like a Sauternes or Barsac will cut through the intense cream and enhance notes of sweetness and vanilla in both the dessert and the wine. If you’re doing dessert comme les français and are serving a cheese board after the meal, these rich and creamy cheeses are also rich and creamy, so would be fantastic with a similar wine pairing.

Custard and cream based desserts like buttery macarons are the perfect match for a honey-sweet Sauterne

Check out our other suggestions for wine and food pairings here, or learn more about dry, off-dry and sweet Riesling here.

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Jill Haapaniemi

Jill Haapaniemi

Jill is a lover of all things food and wine. As a food blogger and recipe developer, she is passionate about sharing meals with others, never without a bottle of something to enhance the experience. She spends her free time at her partner’s family winery just outside of Melbourne, and can usually be found drinking Oregon Pinot, wines from the Rhône Valley or Victorian Shiraz.
Jill Haapaniemi

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