A rich, sweet wine is a great way to elevate an ordinary dessert to a work of culinary art.
Unfortunately, as well-versed in eating desserts as we Americans are, we generally don’t have as much experience in picking dessert wines as our European counterparts.
That’s beginning to change, though, as more people look toward specialty wines to complement their end-of-meal sweets.
Here are some basics to know.
MATCH THE FLAVOR
The first rule of thumb is that the dessert wine should be slightly sweeter than the dessert itself. Otherwise, the sweetness of the dessert could emphasize any bitter tones in the wine when they’re combined on the tongue.
The second rule is the wine’s intensity should match the dessert itself.
For example, a light, delicate, fruity pastry could easily be overpowered by an intense red wine. You would want to pick a very delicate, fruity white wine to match the lightness of the dessert.
Likewise, the strong flavor of a dark chocolate cake would require an equally strong-flavored wine to balance it out. It would be too easy for the wine’s taste to get lost in the chocolate otherwise.
If you’re new to dessert wines, the best way to decide what to serve when entertaining is to experiment ahead of time.
You can pick two or three of your favorite, sweet specialty wines to start with. You may be able to find them at a nearby grocery store, but you’ll generally find a better selection of dessert wines from boutiques.
Whether served in a glass to be paired with a sweet treat, or used in the dessert preparation itself, you can try out different recipes and combinations to find fun, exotic combinations.
And remember, the most elegant desserts aren’t necessarily the most elaborate ones. Simple ideas like biscotti cookies served with a sweet, delicate wine, or drizzling some of your favorite vintage on top of ice cream and raspberries, can be an easy way to end a memorable meal.