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Do you buy and drink sweet wines? I mean real sweet, lovely and seductive dessert wine? No? In my world, we are too bad in general at consuming sweet, luscious wines. The lot of us. And we are missing out. In my experience this is due to insecurities about how to pair these enchanting wines to get the best out of the combination. So instead, we skip it all together. Let’s look into that, step up and get more active in the exciting and amazing world of sweet wines!
A Little About Me
Half of my work time can be sorted into many hours of this, the profession of writing. I so enjoy the notion of me here by my computer writing, and you on the other end reading. I write about food, wine, travel and about my experiences hosting and participating in various journalist’s tastings. And then for the rest of my work time, equally fun and rewarding, I educate sommelier students, wine clubs, companies, friends, family and ordinary people about wine. Basically I can talk about wine and food until the cows come home… ask me a question or show me interest about wine and I will most likely give it a go. Haha. Loving the job. I lecture on many different levels, and host several hundred tastings per year on a whole lot of different themes. But regardless of level my aim is always to spread loads of joy and inspiration and even more importantly to keep it simple. When I lead tastings that includes dessert wines I’m so very happy to get a chance to agitate some for them. I’m absolutely on a quest here.
Sweet wine and dessert pairing
I always focus on giving the participants some simple but useful keys to unlock the mystery of matching food and wine. That goes even more for different types of sweet wines. I try to unveil the simple ground rules and take away the drama. In general, for example, one of my points is to always keep the sweetness in the dessert about on the same level as the sweetness in the wine. For balance. Also, mirroring the flavor profile of the wine with the dessert is another trick. But let’s focus on my own favorite rule of thumb. I talk about is as often as I can and really want to spread this simple tip. What is it?
Sweet wine and dessert pairing By Color
It’s all about color! But how? Well. It’s not hard at all. Look at the shelf for sweet wines. And try not to get intimidated. To many, this is completely unknown territory. But dive in. It is SO worth it. Aspire to do the following: Categorize the bottles into three kinds, color wise. The three different groups would be YELLOW, AMBER and RED. Granted, all yellow sweet wines are not the same. Not by far. Not amber ones or red sweet wine either. But it is a great, great start. Don’t overthink this.
You see, even if the many wines of similar color differ quite a bit in origin, grape, style, alcohol level and body among other things, they also have much in common in the aroma and flavor spectrum department. Hence pairs well with about the same stuff. So don’t worry, honestly. Just try.
The range in color stretches from straw yellow to golden yellow. This is the lightest of the three colors, and it also goes well with the desserts that are light in color.
Examples would be vanilla ice cream, cheesecake, white nougat, white chocolate panna cotta, key lime pie or any fruit that are light in color like peach, apricot, pineapple, passionfruit or mango. Light! Also light, mild and elegant cheese works fantastically. Do you see what I’m doing here? Just think light, yellowish color. This is a real simple guideline everyone can remember.
The range in stunning colors in this segment stretches from light copper to dark reddish brown. This kind of lush sweet wines all have caramel, toffee and butterscotch flavor notes in common. Hints of nuts, sesame and dried figs, sultanas or candied orange zest are other often present impressions. Imagine pairing these wines with ingredients like dried dates, apricots, raisins, nuts, honey roasted almonds, condensed milk or any dessert or cake with a caramelized sugar character to them.
Example would be creme brûlée with caramelized burnt sugar on top, any roasted almond pastry, condensed milk, butterscotch ice cream, salty caramel, tarte tatin, nougat, milk chocolate with hazelnuts or a soft fudge. Also aged, nutty, cheese is great with these wines. Comté, Gruyere, Appenzeller, Kaltbach…yes please.
The wines? Tawny Port, Moscatel de Setúbal, Madeira, Tokaji or Vin Santo, these iridescent wines will sing in the company of any of the above desserts or cheeses.
The red sweet wines can be quite different from one another depending on country of origin and their particular production method. But nevertheless they matches pretty much the same kind of desserts, and cheese. Sure, I’m simplifying. Isn’t it great? Anyway they reds are packed with dark or red berries in character together with spice like clove, cinnamon or cardamom and sometimes toasted oak that adds exiting characteristics like dark chocolate, mocka or cedar wood.
In pairing these wines think all things including dark chocolate. Chocolate fondant, chocolate mud cake, Belgian chocolate ice cream. Or just dark chocolate of good quality, straight from the bar. When it comes to cheese, the optimal combo is long aged, salty and flavorful cheese like Parmesan and Pecorino or blue cheese of any type or style. Heavenly!
The wines? Any kind of red Port wine like LBV, Vintage Port or Ruby Port and also French sweet reds like Rivesaltes or Maury and last but not least, the Italian historical wonder Recioto.
Other Food Pairing Guides
Of course, most people don’t only drink sweet wines. If you liked our Sweet wine and dessert pairing guide, check out some of our other pairing guides:
- Champagne and Food Pairings
- Best Wine and Chocolate Pairings
- The Best Wine Pairings for Your First year as a Parent
- Great Wine and Food Pairings from a Tea Towel
All this said, sweet wines are extremely forgiving. It is honestly very hard to go totally wrong. But with these easy first aid steps, you will be infinitely better off than just winging it. You will succeed! Check out our Chocolate Cheeseboard for more ideas.