As a rule, however, dessert wine should always be paired with food that is equally or more sweet than the wine itself. Dessert wines should also be served in smaller glasses than table wine because of both the intensity of the flavors and the alcohol content. Often, dessert wine is best served at or below room temperature.
“Like gems hidden in a jewelry box”
Fortified wines are wines that contain alcohol (usually brandy) added during the fermentation process. Because the aim of dessert wine is to be both sweet and relatively high in alcohol, makers of dessert wines are faced with a dilemma. Sugar is converted into alcohol during fermentation. Therefore, the sweeter the wine, the lower the alcohol content and vice versa.
Port is a type of fortified wine traditionally produced using grapes from the Douro region in Portugal.
Sherry originated from the Spanish town of Jerez and only wines made with the white grapes found in this region of Spain can be classed as true sherry. Unlike port, which is naturally sweet due to its specific fermentation process, natural sherry is actually quite dry. Dessert sherry, the type of sherry usually used as a dessert wine, is made by adding a sweeter wine, such as Moscatel wine, to the natural sherry. Serving Sherry – Dessert sherry is traditionally served slightly chilled in a special, tulip-shaped glass called a copita. However, if you don’t happen to have copitas lying around your house, any small glass will do really suited with desserts featuring nuts.
Ice Wine (or Eiswein, as it’s known in Germany and Austria) traditionally comes from wine-producing regions that experience predictable cold spells. (p.s. There are plenty of ice wines in Canada too! http://www.winesofcanada.com/icewine3.html). The name, “ice wine,” derives from the method used to naturally increase the sweetness in the wine: the grapes are left on the vine for some time after the normal harvesting season. When the cold spell arrives, the grapes freeze. This freeze reduces the amount of moisture in the grapes and increases the concentration of the sugars, making the resulting wine naturally sweet.
There are 5 different types of dessert wine:
- Sparkling Dessert Wine
- Lightly Sweet Dessert Wine
- Richly Sweet Dessert Wine
- Sweet Red Wine
- Fortified Wine
Sweet wine descriptions in the languages you might read on a bottle:
- Demi-Sec* (‘off-dry’ in French)
- Amabile (‘slightly sweet’ in Italian)
- Semi Secco* (‘off-dry’ in Italian)
- Doux (‘sweet’ in French)
- Dolce / Dulce (‘sweet’ in Italian / Spanish)
- Moelleux (‘sweet’ for some French wines)
Learn more about dessert wines from:
- The Wine Bible, 2nd Edition; Serving Dessert Wines (p. 129): https://www.karenmacneil.com/product/the-wine-bible/
- Wine Folly – Types of Dessert Wine: https://winefolly.com/review/types-dessert-wine/
- 8 Dessert Wines for You & Your Sweetheart: https://vinepair.com/buy-this-booze/8-dessert-wines-for-you-and-your-sweetheart/
- Ultimate Guide: Dessert Wines Infographic: https://vinepair.com/articles/ultimate-guide-dessert-wines-infographic/
- Beginners Guide to Dessert Wine: https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/beginners-guide-dessert-wine/
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