How to pair wine with dessert?

How to pair wine with dessert? 

© Shutterstock

How to pair wine with dessert?

How to pair wine with dessert? 

© Shutterstock

Analyse the main components of the dessert: nuts, caramel, cream or fruit? How sweet is the dessert itself? This determines your choice of sweet wine. As a general rule, the wine should be sweeter than the dessert. Finding flavours in the sweet wine that echo those of the dessert is the first step for a great pairing. 

For chocolate-based deserts, see How to pair wine with chocolate? 

Nuts, toffee, caramel? 

Wines made from dried grapes are ideal: straw wine, Vin de Paille or Recioto are great examples. Long-aged sweet wines like Vinsanto from Tuscany or mature wines with a degree of botrytis and oak ageing also work and offer compelling tertiary flavours like nuts, toffee, honey, caramel and sweet spice. Tawny Port or sweeter Sherry styles can also offer rich, spicy, nutty notes. 

Fruit based desserts? 

Peaches and other juicy stone fruit like apricot or Mirabelle plum are flavours commonly found in mature, sweet Riesling. Sweeter late-harvest styles from around the world also echo those rich, ripe stone-fruit flavours. Sweet, citrus-based desserts can also work well with mature, sweet Riesling. Desserts based on baked apple, pear and quince also respond well to late harvest styles. Berry-based desserts that are not too sweet and still have the tartness of the berries work well with sparkling rosé wines, especially of they are not too dry and have some age. Delicate sweetness in desserts works exquisitely well with demi-sec sparkling wines. Dried fruit, on the other hand, calls for mature fortified wines like Tawny Port. Fresh fruit for dessert works surprisingly well with younger, fresher Ruby Ports. 

Cream-based and rich, buttery desserts? 

Rich cheesecake, classic bread and butter pudding or rich, cream-based, sweet desserts are ideal with botrytised sweet wines like Tokaji Aszu from Hungary, Sauternes, Barsac, Côteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume from France, or Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese from Germany and Austria. They often strike the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. 

Our six golden rules for wine and food pairing can also help you on a more general level.