Posted on Dec. 5, 2016
Most dessert wines are consumed during the end-of-year holiday season. When groups gather and celebrate, those after-dinner sips mark the occasion with a stunning finale. There is a wide variety of dessert wines hailing from all over the globe. Even if a high-end Château d’Yquem Sauterne is not your style, here are some of our seasonal suggestions:
Sparkling Wines & Champagne
Yes, there are some swell sweet versions of the bubbly. On French wine labels, look for words like demi-sec, doux, or moelleux, all of which signify a higher degree of sweetness. From Italy, look for Asti-Spumante or dolce. These are wonderful paired with many cheeses and pastries. La Luca Sparkling Rosé, reasonably priced at around $15.99, is a very nice choice.
These are classic after-dinner wines, typically made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends. They use super-sweet, somewhat dehydrated grapes, picked very late in the harvest season and in most cases affected by what’s termed the “Noble Rot” — a beneficial fungus. These wines are smooth, elegant, complex, and with long-lasting flavors. They are usually excellent with dishes like peach tarts, cheese, and foie gras. Try an excellent 2009 Castelnau du Suduiraut at $72.99.
Long German language names are often also long on character and complexity. Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and the more recently popular ice wines, are typically made with Riesling grapes. The longer the name, the more select they are with the grape selections, which translates to increasing levels of sweetness. These wines can age for decades, and are low in alcohol, but high in intensity. Try with ripe cheeses, nuts, or just enjoy them on their own. Look for 2008 Max Ferd, Richter Veldenzer Auslese at about $56.99.
These post-prandial powerhouses include different styles and varieties of Sherry and Madeira. They use oxidized grapes and add grape-based brandy to produce a higher, 17-20 percent alcohol content. The wines are loaded with lovely aromatics of toasted nuts, and are fabulous with dried fruits, ripe cheese, and nuts. A nice Sherry is Lustau East India Solera Sherry at $26.99. Or, try a Broadbent “Rainwater” Medium-Dry Madeira at $41.99.
There are numerous styles of Port, so uses vary accordingly. The most popular Ruby Ports are Vintage and Late Bottle Harvest (aka: LBV). These sweet, dark red/black varieties are age-worthy. The classic combination is Stilton cheese and roasted nuts. Tawny Ports are sweeter and lighter in color and weight. They improve significantly as they get older. Try to find some 30- or 40-year Tawny, and enjoy with figs, roasted nuts, and cheese. Ferreira Vintage 2007 Vinho do Porto is quite nice at $78.99. GARY PARKER