A Guide to Dessert Wine: Types & Pairings

Dessert wines are a delightful category of wines that offer a wide range of flavors and styles, perfectly complementing the sweet endings to our meals. From the lusciously sweet Sauternes to the rich and complex Port wines, dessert wines truly evidence the diversity and artistry of winemaking. Before you buy dessert wine online, let’s explore the various types of dessert wines and provide some expert tips on how to pair them with your favorite desserts. 

  • Late Harvest Wines: Late harvest wines are made from grapes that are left on the vine longer than usual, allowing them to concentrate their sugars and flavors. These wines are often sweet, with flavors of honey, dried fruits, and caramel. Late harvest Rieslings from Germany, for example, are known for their vibrant acidity and notes of apricot and peach. Pair these wines with fruity desserts like apple pie or peach cobbler for a match made in heaven. 
  • Ice Wines: Ice wines are made from grapes that have been left to freeze on the vine, concentrating their sugars and flavors. The grapes are harvested and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a sweet and intensely flavored wine. Ice wines are often enjoyed on their own as a dessert, but they also pair beautifully with creamy desserts like crème brûlée or cheesecake. Canada and Germany produce excellent ice wines. 
  • Fortified Wines: Fortified wines are wines that have had a distilled spirit, such as brandy, added to them during the fermentation process. This addition of alcohol stops the fermentation and leaves residual sugars in the wine, resulting in a sweet and often high-alcohol beverage. Port wines from Portugal are a popular example of fortified wines, known for their rich, sweet flavors of dark fruits and chocolate. Bottle Barn has an excellent range of Ports in the catalog of wine online. These wines pair well with chocolate-based desserts or strong cheeses like Stilton. 
  • Noble Rot Wines aka Botrytized Wines: Botrytized wines, also known as noble rot wines, are made from grapes that have been affected by the Botrytis cinerea fungus. This fungus causes the grapes to shrivel and concentrate their sugars, resulting in a sweet and complex wine. Sauternes from Bordeaux, France, is a classic example of a botrytized wine, known for its rich flavors of honey, apricot, and orange zest. Pair these wines with rich, creamy desserts like foie gras or blue cheese for a decadent treat. 

Another example of a botrytized wine is Tokaji Aszú from Hungary. Tokaji Aszú is made from grapes affected by noble rot, similar to Sauternes. These wines are known for their rich sweetness, balanced by vibrant acidity, and flavors of apricot, honey, and orange peel. Tokaji Aszú has a long history and is often considered one of the world's most historic and prestigious dessert wines. These wines pair well with desserts that have a hint of bitterness, like dark chocolate or caramel. 

  • Sparkling Dessert Wines: Sparkling dessert wines, like Moscato d'Asti from Italy, are light and bubbly wines with a touch of sweetness. So don’t forget sparking wine when you order wine online! These wines are perfect for pairing with light, fruity desserts like sorbet or fruit tarts. The effervescence of the wine helps to cleanse the palate between bites, making it a refreshing end to a meal. 

Pairing Tips

When pairing dessert wines with desserts, it's essential to consider the balance of sweetness between the wine and the dessert. If the dessert is sweeter than the wine, the wine may taste bitter or astringent. Conversely, if the wine is sweeter than the dessert, the dessert may taste bland or overly sweet. Aim for a harmonious balance of sweetness, acidity, and flavors between the wine and the dessert for the perfect pairing. 

At the end of the day, is it time for dessert wine? Yes! Dessert wines offer a wide range of flavors and styles, making them a versatile choice for pairing with a variety of desserts. Whether you prefer the rich and complex flavors of a late harvest Riesling or the sweet and bubbly notes of a Moscato d'Asti, there is a dessert wine out there to suit every taste. So next time you're indulging in a sweet treat and order wine online, why not elevate the experience with a perfectly paired dessert wine?

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