ALL ABOUT DESSERT WINES
Dessert wines are made in nearly all wine-producing countries and come in various styles.
They can be still or sparkling, fortified (wines to which brandy or another distilled beverage
has been added) or not. They are always sweet, but some are less sweet than others. Here
are some of the most popular ones.
Fortified Dessert Wines
Nonfortified Dessert Wines
With a Banyuls, a fortified wine from the
South of France, he likes warm Valrhona
chocolate brioche pudding with raspberry
compote and Tahitian vanilla ice cream.
His Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling wine,
pairs well with key lime panna cotta with
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.
Briar Rose Winery in Temecula, Calif., makes
both port and cream sherry. The sherry, says
co-owner Dorian Linkogle, pairs well with
bananas Foster. “Dessert wines are becoming
increasingly popular,” she says.
Rosenblum Cellars, a Diageo brand, makes
a black Muscat. It pairs well with rum raisin
ice cream or anything with raisins in it,
according to Collins.
And, says Farrow, “Our port is one of our
most popular wines. People who aren’t really
into wine like it because it’s a little sweeter.”
Creating a separate list for dessert wines or
adding them to your dessert menu are good
ways to take advantage of this popularity.
At Copeland, dessert wines are on the
after-dinner drinks menu. The dessert menu
suggests that customers order a four-glass
flight of port with their dessert selection.
The best way to win sales, however, is to
educate your staff about these wines and
train them not only to suggest dessert
wines, either with a dessert or in place of
one, but to explain the wines to customers.
Dessert wines may not bring blockbuster
sales, but they can add to the bottom line.
Suzanne Hall has been writing about chefs,
restaurants, food and wine from her home in
Soddy Daisy, Tenn., for more than 25 years.
Port Perhaps the best-known dessert wine,
port is a fortified wine and comes in several
varieties, including tawny, ruby and vintage,
the most expensive. True port is produced
in Portugal. Port-style wines are made in
Australia, the U.S. and other countries. In
the U.S., winemakers often use Zinfandel
to make a port-style wine. Port, especially
vintage port, pairs well with dark-chocolate
desserts. Tawny port pairs well with desserts
made with nuts and bittersweet chocolate.
Sherry Also a fortified wine, sherry is
made in several styles ranging from very
dry to quite sweet. True sherry is produced
in Spain, but sherry-like wines also are
produced elsewhere, including in the U.S.
Cream sherry is one of the styles served at
dessert. Sweet sherry pairs well with most
things made with dried fruits or nuts.
Madeira Made on Madeira, an island off
the coast of Portugal, Madeira is a fortified
wine that, like sherry, comes in dry and
sweet styles. Sweet Madeira pairs well with
chocolate, dried fruit or nutty desserts.
Marsala From Sicily, Marsala is fortified
wine made in three levels of sweetness. It is
similar to port. The drier versions usually are
served as an apéritif, while the sweet style
is a dessert wine. Sweet Marsala pairs well
with zabaglione and chocolate desserts.
Vin doux naturels These dessert
wines from France are made from both
red and white grapes. The most well-known made from red grapes is Banyuls,
generally made from Grenache. Muscat
de Beaumes de Venise is made from the
white Muscat grape. Banyuls pairs well
with ice creams, sorbets and bittersweet
chocolate. Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
pairs well with tiramisù.
Sauternes From the Bordeaux region of
France, Sauternes generally is produced
from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc or
Muscadelle grapes infected with noble rot,
Botrytis cinerea fungus. Sauternes pairs
well with soufflés and orange desserts.
Tokaji This classic wine from Hungary
has been produced for centuries. Made
from grapes infected with noble rot, it’s
extremely sweet, yet well-balanced. Tokaji
pairs well with bread pudding and fruit or
Beerenauslese This German wine is
made from late-harvested overripe grapes.
Produced in small quantities, it ranks in
the second tier of Germany’s scale for
sweetness. Beerenauslese pairs well with
creme brulee and apple desserts.
Trockenbeerenauslese The sweetest of
German sweet wines, but nevertheless well-balanced, it is made from grapes allowed to
dry on the vine. Trockenbeerenauslese pairs
well with lemon pie, chocolate-covered ice
cream pops and apple desserts.
Eiswein From Germany, Canada or the
U.S., Eiswein is made from grapes that
have been allowed to freeze on the vine,
then pressed before they thaw. Because
timing is everything, Eiswein is expensive.
Eiswein pairs well with desserts made
from tree fruits, especially apples,
peaches and nectarines.
Doux champagne Sparkling-wine
makers categorize their wines by level
of sweetness. Champagne doux is the
sixth, or highest, level. It makes a good
dessert wine. Champagne doux pairs
well with crêpes suzette, meringue
pies, ice creams and sorbets. 47