Serving Wine With Dessert? Keep it Sweet and Simple
This article originally appeared, in part, in the October, 2020 issue of Bellingham Alive Magazine
Think about the foods that might fall into the dessert category – cakes, pies, mousses, truffles, custards, tarts, to name a few – and you begin to realize there’s potentially a lot of territory to be covered when looking for a wine to serve with these culinary treats.
But by applying one basic rule of thumb, you can conquer the wine-and-dessert-pairing conundrum with ease: simply make sure the wine you serve is sweeter than the dessert.
The reasoning behind this is just as simple; when the food is too sweet, it overpowers the sweetness content of the wine and accentuates its other characteristics, namely acidity and alcohol. This often leaves the wine flavorless, bitter, and no match for a dessert pairing.
Consider serving late harvest wines, ice wines, Ports, and Port-style wines with your dessert and the problem is solved. With their high residual sugar content and somewhat bold yet elegant flavor profile, they make excellent wine choices that can stand up to desserts on practically any sweetness level.
Northwest wineries offer plenty of dessert wine options, and sweeter fruit wines, many sourced from locally grown berries, are a great place to start.
Whatcom County’s Samson Estates Winery makes these wines on two different sweetness levels. Their “Delilah” fruit wines (raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry) are lower in sugar but still make great pairing partners with less-sweet desserts such as cheesecake or a buttery pound cake.
Samson also produces higher sugar/higher alcohol dessert wines that include cassis black currant, blueberry, Framboise raspberry, and “Oro,” a rich, delicious fortified wine made from roasted hazelnuts.
Lopez Island Winery offers a pair of dessert wines as well; their raspberry wine is both tart and sweet, and brimming with fresh fruit aromatics and flavors. And their Fireside Port, a combination of malbec and sangiovese topped off with San Juan Distillery brandy, makes for a jammy, slightly smoky libation that provides the perfect accompaniment to anything chocolate.
If you prefer your dessert wines made in an ice wine style, try the Pacific Rim & Company 2018 Vin DeGlaciére. Crafted from 100-percent riesling, it’s packed with pear, golden raisin, and stone fruit flavors that explode into an ultra-long, honey-like finish.
Finally, be sure to consider a pair of unique dessert wines from Bellingham’s Vartanyan Estate Winery. The two wines, a 2015 Dessert Wine and a 2013 Dessert Wine, consist of fortified riesling aged in oak barrels for three and five years, respectively.
The results are stunning. Each wine carries a lovely, sherry-like quality and the grape’s natural acidity, along with the perfect level of sweetness, balance out the 20-percent alcohol content. The flavor profile includes dried apricot, fig, and toasted walnut, with a lengthy, lingering finish.
An added bonus to these wines: because of their high alcohol and sugar contents, they keep well after opening. That means you can serve them now, cork them, and store them for pairing with a variety of sweet desserts over the course of several weeks.