Dessert wines

Christmas is a sweet season, why not try a sweet wine to end a great holiday meal?
Dessert wines are sweeter, richer, and usually higher in alcohol than table wines. Often served with dessert, they also can be enjoyed with cheese or on their own.
.Port, Sherry, Madeira, Sauterne, late-harvest Rieslings and Zinfandels, ice wines, raisin/straw wines, and sweeter sparkling wines qualify as dessert wines.

Pairing is important with dessert wines. Rule of thumb: the dessert wine you pour should be sweeter than the dessert you serve, one reason no dessert wine goes well with ice cream.

Port, Sherry, and Madeira pair well with cheese. Stilton is a classic Port pairing. Go sharp, most dessert wines overpower light cheeses.

Champaign, sparkling wines, and Spumante pair well with fruits.

Late-harvest Riesling (not the same as Riesling) pairs well with tangy pies, gingerbread, and citrus.

Late-harvest Zinfandel (not the same as Zinfandel) pairs with dark chocolates, chocolate-dipped red fruits, spice cake, blue cheese.

Ice wines (made from grapes that freeze on the vine), raisin wines (made from dried grapes) and Sauternes (made from grapes infected with “noble rot”) are so rich they are best enjoyed solo.

White dessert wines should be served chilled, but easily can be served too cold. Serve red dessert wines at room temperature or slightly chilled. Serve in small glasses—with wine this sweet, a little goes a long way.

With high alcohol content, dessert wines survive longer after opening, allowing you to make the day after Christmas sweetly merry, too.


• Beni di Batasiolo Moscato d’Asti. Beautifully sweet, intense nose, low alcohol for a dessert wine. $18 (750 ml)

• Chateau Gravas Sauternes. Exotic fruit, silky long finish; noble rot did its thing. $20 (375 ml)

• Dashe Late Harvest Zinfandel. Black, intense essence of Zin; loads of fruit. $28 (375 ml)