How do you celebrate “Sweetest Day?” Candy, flowers, and wine, of course. Or maybe just dessert—with a paired sweet wine.
A dessert wine can be the dessert all on its own or paired with just the right dessert from chocolate dipped strawberries or cheese and fruit, a simple fruit tart, or a creamy classic Crème Brûlée, to more complex concoctions like tiramisu. The only general rule is dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert. And the key to a good dessert wine is acidity. It gives sugar sweet wine brightness and life. Otherwise the sweet wine would be cloying or, in winespeak, “flabby.”
Dessert wines range from light and spritzy with very low alcohol to slightly syrupy in texture with honeyed sweetness to fortified wines like port with higher alcohol and cooked fruit flavors. The dessert family includes fortified wines, late harvest wines, ice wines, Moscato d’Asti and other sweet sparklers.
With a Crème Brûlée, a chilled glass of the famous French Sauternes or a Michigan Ice wine is in order. Both wines, made from handpicked, late-harvested, even raisined grapes are delicate and sweet, with a bracing edge of acidity that pairs with the delicate flavors and light sweetness of the custard and burnt sugar.
TRY Maison Nicolas Sauternes made in the classic method of the region with Semillon grapes that have been partially desiccated by botrytis mold. This luscious wine gets richer in flavor and deeper in color with age. Or, TRY Fenn Valley Vidal Ice Wine, made from Vidal grapes left on the vine until naturally shriveled and frozen, then handpicked, fermented and aged. This local gem is a lovely, affordable example of a true ice wine.
With something nutty, chocolaty and caramelly, you want something that meets the bigger flavors and heavier textures, like a rich fortified wine (wine to which natural grape alcohol has been added).
TRY Warre’s Otima 10 Yr. Port, a Tawny Port, is made from a blend of the native Portuguese grapes. Port is versatile. Drink it on its own by the fire in the late evening. Serve it after dinner with English Stilton Cheese and slices of fresh ripe, pear. Or pair it with a sweet treat, an American favorite: a Turtle-a chocolate topped caramel on a bed of southern pecans.
With a simple fruit tart, or Crostada, or with chocolate covered strawberries, serve a Moscato d’Asti, a light-bodied, effervescent, low alcohol, magical wine from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy
TRY Mea Doclea Moscato d’Asti a soft , sweet wine with flavors of honey and apricot with 5% ABV. Chill before serving.
What about chocolate? Just plain chocolate? Try this making these for your sweetest:
Simple Chocolate Truffles
Traditional French Chocolate Truffles are melt-in-your-mouth odd shaped balls of chocolate, butter, and cream, rolled in cocoa powder to look like the famous aromatic fungi that grow in areas of France and Italy, are hunted by pigs or dogs, and come out of the ground looking like dirt balls. Obviously, the better the quality of the chocolate, the better the truffle.
- 2/3 cup whipping cream
- 12 oz. GOOD semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chopped into very small pieces
- 3 TBS Softened unsalted butter
- 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
- 1/3 C good dark cocoa, sifted to remove any clumps
- Over medium heat, bring cream almost to a boil.
- Remove cream from heat immediately and add finely chopped chocolate and vanilla extract, and stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is melted,
- Add softened butter in bits, stirring until blended and mixture is smooth
- Chill chocolate mixture in fridge until firm enough to roll into balls. Chill 2 plates in the fridge at the same time.
- Quickly roll heaping teaspoons (or scoop with a melon baller) full of chocolate mixture into balls and place on chilled plate.
- Put cocoa powder into a shallow dish. QUICKLY roll each chilled ball in cocoa powder, place in candy papers on second chilled plate. Return to fridge to chill down again.
- Store, refrigerated, in one layer in a covered flat plastic container.
NOTE: Work fast and keep hands cool during rolling process by running under cold water occasionally and drying.
Pair Chocolate Truffles with: Brachetto d’Acqui, much like a Moscato d’Asti, but from red wine grapes, light, slightly spritzy, low alcohol, and, again utterly magical, but made with red Brachetto grapes. If you don’t have time or the inclination to whip up these little chocolate mouth bombs, I can tell you from experience that a handful of Hershey’s Kisses with a bottle of Brachetto would make me happy!
TRY Borgo Maragliano La Caliera Brachetto d’Acqui This is definitely a sleeper, a hidden treasure. It should be chilled before serving in champagne flutes. I recommend being prepared with two bottles!
During her distinguished career, Roz has served a term as the Retail Representative on the MDA's Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council and Continues to serve on their Promotion & Education and Competition Committees. In addition, she has served as a judge in various national and international wine competitions.
Working with D&W's wine stewards and SpartanNash's vendor partners, Roz tirelessly explores the vast world of wine, discovering the finest wines for every budget and every taste. And she loves to discuss food and wine with customers and colleagues. As a lifelong foodie, there is nothing else she'd rather be doing.