Like any good wine, the great dessert wines will complement your meal perfectly. But they don’t always have the greatest reputation. For many people, a dessert wine is that bottle of sticky, overly sweet wine that someone left behind at the last party.
That’s a real shame, because the they are good enough that any serious wine lover should give them a try. Before we pick out some of our favourites, here’s what you need to know about dessert wines.
What are dessert wines, and what makes them different?
Unsurprisingly, most dessert wines are sweet. But what makes them so sweet? It’s all due to the fermentation process. Typically, fermentation takes the sugar in the grapes and turns it into alcohol. With dessert wines, this process is interrupted, so that the wine retains more of its sugars than other wines. In some cases, a fungus known as the ‘noble rot’ even helps to intensify the natural sugars!
There are at least five main kinds of dessert wine. These range from fortified wines and sweet red wines to richly sweet dessert wines, lightly sweet dessert wines and sparkling dessert wines. Here are some of Ideal Wine Company’s favourites.
The best dessert wines to try with food this summer
- Billecart-Salmon Demi-Sec Champagne
We love sparkling wines and often cover them in our blogs. And for us, this sweet champagne from Maison Billecart-Salmon near to Epernay is a great example of sparkling dessert wine. It works well with sweet, fruity pastries, and has a light floral nose.
- Dr Loosen’s Riesling Beerenauslese, 2015
Lightly sweet dessert wines are often deliciously fruity. Our advice is to keep things simple. Just a few summer fruits and a dollop of vanilla ice cream go perfectly with these wines. Our pick is one that gets its sweetness from the ‘noble rot’. Dr Loosen’s 2015 Riesling Beerenauslese is a sweet, fruity experience with a hint of honey.
- Tokaji Aszú
Tokaji wines are Hungarian and are hugely popular in that country. This particular variety is made from the Furmint grape. It is a richly sweet wine which is well worth trying with autumnal flavours like apple tart. It’s also great with cheese.
- Dornfelder Sweet Red, 2015
Dornfelder grapes produce deep red, almost purple sweet wines. These rich wines come from the Rheinhessen region of Germany. The 2015 Dornfelder Sweet Red is a great example, with autumn fruit flavours and a syrupy texture. Perfect with a dessert, but also worth trying as an aperitif with a few slices of prosciutto.
- Cantine Pellegrino Marsala Superiore Garibaldi Dolce
Fortified wines usually have a spirit, such as brandy, added to them. The wine is then aged in oak casks. They are often heavy and richly sweet – think of classics such as port, sherry and madeira. Here at Ideal Wine Company we think fortified wines are the perfect end to a meal. Our pick is the infinitely sippable Cantine Pellegrino Marsala Superiore Garibaldi Dolce from Italy. Enjoy it with any chocolate dessert.