I have enjoyed a good glass of table wine many times with my meals. Wine tasting parties have always been a favorite pastime, especially when combined with cheese. No, I am not from Wisconsin so I do not rate a “cheese head hat”. Recently, after a pleasant dinner party with good friends, I was introduced to a new class of vintages that I had never tried before. The dessert wine I was served turned out to be the fitting end to a fabulous evening.
Grapes used for these type of wines are not harvested in the same fashion and timing as your typical table wine grapes. The goal is to increase the sugar content of the grape by mainly harvesting them later in the season. Often a noble rot forms on the grapes before harvest. In another dessert type named ice wine, grape harvest is delayed until the first freeze. Some times these wines are developed by pausing the fermentation process.
There are several types of grapes primarily used in the making of dessert wines. Semillon grapes are commonly used in Sauternes that often smell like the wildflowers where it is grown. Muscat grapes may remind you of orange and honey. Fendant and Chasselas are typically found primarily in Switzerland. Spicy Gewurztraminer wines are good tasting and seem to age well. Fortified wines like sherry, port and Madeira are made differently than your typical dessert wine, but are also a great choice and considered in many circles to be “honorary dessert wines”. Be aware that some wineries are making great dessert wines by “late-harvesting” table wine grapes used for Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier.
When serving, a general rule is the wine should be sweeter than the food it is served with. Good matches include fresh sweet fruits, bakery goods and …