Wine with Dessert

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Do you need a sweet wine for an end to your lovely meal?

You’ve saved space in your belly for dessert after a lovely meal complete with wine, starters and entrees. You want to continue with your wine drinking, but what would go well with the tempting chocolate tart, or perhaps the tarte tatin or creme brulee or cheese platter? Do all desserts have to be paired with sweet wines?

Wine experts will tell you that the wine has to be as sweet as the dessert, and to have enough acidity to balance things out. These are three factors to consider:

Acidity – an acidic wine is said to pair well with sour, acid fruit desserts such as citrus fruit or tangy sauces

Intensity – go for an intense wine if the flavours of a dessert are intense

Sweetness – a dessert wine should be as sweet or even sweeter than the dessert

Late harvest wines

These wines are usually sweet and are made from grapes left on the vine past normal picking times to build sugar levels.

White taste notes – nectar stone fruit, candied citrus, and apple flavours. If the grapes had botrytis or noble rot expect honey characteristics.

Red taste notes – late harvest zinfandel: robust dried cherries, raspberries, chocolate.

Sweet sparkling wine

Great with: cheesecake with berries, fruit tarts, apple pie; late harvest zinfandel is lovely with chocolate.

Suggested pairings

Custard and vanilla

Desired flavours in the wine and dessert: mild, light, buttery

Suggested wine pairings: white wines such as late harvest Riesling, sparkling wines like demi-sec champagne.

Fruit and Spice

Desired flavours in the wine and dessert: apples, pears, cinnamon

Suggested wine pairings: white wines like sauternes, late harvest gewurtztraminer and pink champagne.

Caramels and Chocolates

Desired flavours in the wine and dessert: dark, buttery, caramelised, rich.

Suggested wine pairings: red wine like late harvest pinot noir, banyuls, grenache, australian shiraz and grappa. Port is the classic pairing for chocolate pairing

Famous sweet wines of high quality

Sauternes

This sweet white wine with its famous golden lustre has a sensuous way of making you feel heaven on earth.

The Semillon grape contributes to the lusciousness of Sauternes, a sweet white Bordeaux of France named after the commune or village where it is produced. What makes Sauternes a great wine is the high level of sweetness balanced by an intensity of flavour and lots of acidity.

To make a good sweet wine the grapes must contain a lot of sugar so that even after fermentation a lot of fruity richness remains. A great helper in achieving this state is a mould called botrytis cineria or ‘noble rot’. Although ugly like any other mould noble rot is a blessing in disguise. It attacks the grapes and, without causing spoilage, shrinks them to concentrate their sugar content. It also imbues the wines with impressive ageing capacity. There are Sauternes in the peak of condition dating 1811.

It shines with after meal delights such as Roquefort, Tiramisu and strawberries or raspberries with sugar and cream. Like any other white wine Sauternes is served chilled.

Chateau d’ Yquem – the crème de la crème of Sauternes comes from Château d’ Yquem, an estate of only 250 acres. Château d’Yquem is a Premier Cru Supérieur (French, ‘Great First Growth’ or ‘Great First Vintage’) wine from the Sauternes region in the southern part of the Bordeaux vineyards known as Graves.

In the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, Château d’Yquem was the only Sauternes given this rating, indicating its superiority and higher prices over all other wines of its type. Wines from Château d’Yquem are characterised by their complexity, concentration and sweetness. A relatively high acidity helps to counteract the sweetness. Another characteristic for which Château d’Yquem wines are known are their longevity.

Chateau d’ Yquem produces 500 bottles per acre of intense, luscious wine kept four years in a barrel. Most vintages improve for 15 years. Some live up to 100 years in great splendour. Outstanding vintages of Château d’ Yquem include 1967, 70, 71, 75, 76, 79, 80, 81, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 94, 95. You may have to make a decision between buying that car and a bottle.

Ice Wine

Canada is particularly well known for its ice wines, made with the help of the area’s freezing temperatures. Ice wine is a sweet dessert wine made by leaving the grapes on the vine and picking them after temperatures have reached about 17 degrees Fahrenheit. The frozen grapes are then crushed and the little juice that is extracted is fermented. Because ice wine is difficult to make and little yield comes from the frozen grapes, ice wines tend to be expensive.

Icewine is usually made with vidal or riesling grapes that are frozen nature’s way and are harvested from the vine. Icewine is not Icewine if the grapes are artificially frozen in freezers.

While still frozen and as hard as marbles, the grapes are pressed to yield a luscious, sweet dessert wine with a deep golden hue. Both the harvesting and pressing processes must be carried out in temperatures that do not exceed -8ºC so that thawing does not occur. Several weeks of fermentation are followed by months of ageing in oak barrels.

The origins of Icewine hail back to Germany in 1794. A sudden frost compelled the disappointed Franconian peasants to produce wine from their frozen grapes. When the grapes were pressed, most of their water content was discarded in the form of ice crystals. The result was an exquisite wine of concentrated flavours with an inviting sweetness.

Icewine is typically served at the end of the meal with or in place of dessert. Though a matter of preference, the experts suggest chilling it for an hour or two before serving. The wine does not need to breathe and can be poured straight after the bottle is opened into liqueur glasses.

Vins doux naturels

These are lightly fortified wines typically made from white muscat grapes or red grenache grapes in the south of France. The production of vins doux naturels was perfected by Arnaud de Villeneuve at the University of Montpellier in the 13th century and they are now quite common in the Languedoc-Roussillon of southwest France.

As the name suggests, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Muscat de Rivesaltes, and Muscat de Frontignan are all made from the white Muscat grape, whilst Banyuls and Maury are made from red Grenache. Regardless of the grape, fermentation is stopped by the addition of up to 10 percentage of a 190 proof (95 percentage) grape spirit. The Grenache vins doux naturels can be made in an oxidised or unoxidised style whereas the Muscat wines are protected from oxidation to retain their freshness. Brands to try: Le Gravillas, Banyuls Pietri Geraud.