There are an astonishing array of pudding wines available, but remember that with desserts, the wine should be at least as sweet, or sweeter than the food you are serving it with, otherwise you run the risk of the wine tasting tart. Also remember to serve the wine well chilled, except in the case of Red Dessert Wines, Port and Madeira – lightly chilled will do nicely here.
And really do think about serving your desserts Continental style after the cheese course, if you are having one, so that your palate does not become confused by travelling from savoury to sweet and back again.
These go beautifully with golden sweet Sauternes and Monbazillac, the sweet wines of the Loire like Coteaux du Layon, sweet Jurançon, botrytised stickies from Australia and New Zealand, sweet Muscats, German Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese or Eiswein. Canada make some wonderful Ice Wine too. The choice of these honeyed unctuous wines is almost endless!
What you want here are fragrant wines with good acidity to match the natural acids in the fruit, but don’t mask the fruits freshness. Try Late Picked Rieslings, or the Loire’s Vouvray
For people who don’t care for sweet wine, a light fruity Rosé could fit the bill. Try also a Demi-Sec Champagne or Italy’s Asti Spumante, which as well as being light and refreshing, is actually a dessert wine, low in alcohol and much under-rated. Quite fabulous with strawberries!
Anything with apples goes brilliantly with dessert wines made from Chenin Blanc, as this grape variety has an intrinsic appley flavour.
For lemon deserts, any of the Sauternes style wines or sweet Rieslings are a good match because the sharper the lemon, the sweeter the wine can be. Don’t worry about dessert wines tasting too sweet – if the wine has good acidity, it will never be cloying.
A really lovely thing to do with vanilla ice-cream, is to pour some Pedro Ximénez Sherry over it – utterly divine!
Chocolate can be tricky to pair with wine because it has a mouth coating quality that can have the effect of flattening the wine, and it therefore needs a powerful match to overcome this. Also anything very dry will taste tart against chocolate’s creamy richness.
Fortified Vin Doux Naturel wines, both white and red, are a good choice here. Try wines from southern France like Banyuls and Maury.
The Black and Orange Muscats from Australia and the USA.
Hungary’s Tokaji is fabulous with chocolate, especially chocolate orange desserts, as it has a complementary bitter-sweet orange peel flavour.
Tawny Port is good too, as its nutty, toffee flavours compliment chocolate nicely, and the same can be said for rich Malmsey Madeiras.
Mince pies, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake – this is what Christmas is all about. Pure indulgence, and one of the very best dessert wines to pair with them is Australian Muscat from Rutherglen. They also cry out for sweet fortified wines, like Tawny Ports, rich Oloroso Sherries and Madeiras, because their nutty, dried fruit flavours echo their ingredients. In fact, these wines taste rather like liquidised Christmas so a Pedro Ximénez fits the bill nicely too!
If you prefer something that is not fortified, marmaladey Tokaji and honeyed Sauternes are also a great match.