Guide to Dessert Wines

Even though wine’s popularity is soaring everywhere, there are still a few people who don’t care for grape juice in its more sophisticated form. Most of these individuals would say that it’s the bitter taste that comes from the acidic/sugar balance that sets their pallets recoiling. I’ll bet most of those critics have never tried dessert wine. Dessert wine typically holds the flavors of normally produced wines, but adds a good amount of sweetness to balance out the natural grape flavors.

Dessert wines are often produced by freezing the grapes on the vine, or just after they’ve been picked. The frozen grapes maintain high sugar levels, which, in normal wines, are typically lessened as the fermentation process runs its course. The grapes are processed still frozen to ensure that the sugar does not evaporate. Although almost any grape can be used in the production of Dessert Wines, there are a few varieties that really make fine wine. Pinot Gris grapes are often used in the production of Ice Wine, along with Muscat and Gewurztraminer. Late Harvest wines can be made from Riesling grapes, among others, by leaving the grapes on the vine a little longer than normal. Sugar can also be added to dry wines to make dessert wine, but the results are usually not up to par with properly produced wines.

The sweet wines are generally served in smaller glasses than their dry counterparts. This is because the flavor of a good dessert wine can be overwhelming if not sipped in small amounts. The dessert wines also typically come in 375 ml (half-size) bottles, and may be more expensive than dinner wines depending on the producer.

Recently, I have given a few bottles away, and without exception, everyone has made it a point to tell me how much they loved the wine. It’s amazing how many people who wouldn’t otherwise touch wine in its normal form will go and tell others about the great-tasting dessert wine they’ve just tried.

Dessert wines go well with all kinds of food, but are probably best paired with desserts or fruit. Strong flavors of peach, pear, apple and oak may be found in the best dessert wines. It’s imperative to attempt to match a dessert wine correctly to balance out the flavor of the food being served. The high sugar level in dessert wine can easily cancel out the sweetness of any dessert, so some experimentation may be necessary to determine a proper food and wine pairing. One great idea for serving a sweet wine is to offer it at the beginning of the meal, with an appetizer. Then, after the main course has been served, pair it with whatever is being served after the meal to round out the dining experience.

If you’ve never tried dessert wine, look for it the next time you’re in your local supermarket. If they don’t carry it there, try a wine shop or a liquor store. Dessert wines can also be purchased from online wine stores, which may or may not be available for shipping to your state or country.