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Regardless of whether you’re baking a batch of brownie mix or an elegant chocolate souffle, a glass of wine can take your dessert to a whole new level, tempting everyone to linger a little longer and really connect around the table. Unfortunately, pairing wine with dessert can be a little daunting with unfamiliar grapes and hefty price tags.
Wine pairings are really a matter of personal taste, and nothing to get too nervous about. When it comes to dessert, there’s a simple rule of thumb to remember that will keep both wine and dessert tasting their best:
BALANCE SWEETNESS AND ACIDITY.
In other words, make sure your wine is sweeter than your dessert.
Super sweet desserts like banana cream pie, are going to be tough to pair well with a dessert wine, and would probably go better with coffee flavored with Frangelico or another liqueur.
Frozen desserts tend to dull the palate and are also not a great combination with dessert wine.
Armed with that basic rule of thumb, you’re free to begin to experiment! It’s best to not get too bogged down with rules and to just discover what tastes best to you. Wines are a matter of personal taste and rules are meant to be broken.
- Ice Wine – A German dessert wine technique (now very popular in Canada) made with grapes that have frozen on the vine, thus concentrating the sugars. Refreshingly sweet with high acidity. Usually very expensive.
- Sauternes - A French dessert wine technique made with grapes that have been affected by a “noble rot”, unique to its region in France, which greatly intensifies the sugar. Also very expensive and not to be confused with the less expensive sauterne variety sold in the States. Sauternes is very sweet with strong honey and fruit overtones that linger on the palate.
- Gewurztraminer – This light and zesty dessert wine has pronounced lychee overtones. It’s a great combination with desserts with assertive spice notes like ginger.
- Moscato d’Asti – This young and fruity sparkling dessert wine is a fun way to end or begin a meal. Pair it with a zabaglione or a raspberry souffle.
- Prosecco is a nice substitute for Champagne – Both a very dry, sparkling wines, nice pairings for an intense dark chocolate fondant.
If you’re feeling adventurous, don’t limit yourself to white wines. Port, a Portuguese fortified red wine is a delicious way to draw a pleasant dinner a little longer, and a common dessert wine suggestion. Pair a glass of tawny port with a chocolate mousse cake. Another fun way to end dinner would be to serve a variety of high quality dark chocolates with different red wines such as Zinfandel or Shiraz. Powerful red wines can stand up to the assertive flavors of dark chocolate, and nibbling chocolate while finishing a great bottle of red wine is a great way to end a meal with some wonderful tastes.