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For a nation with a legendary sweet tooth, it is surprising that more of us don't drink sweet dessert wines either with, or after pudding.
This of could be because of all those semi-sweet and not very good Liebfraumilchs of the 70's. But the best sweet wines are some of the rarest and best in the world, not just with sweetness, but acidity and balance too – so a lot of people are missing out.
There are two top tips for selecting a sweet wine to accompany dessert. The first is to always try to make sure the wine is slightly sweeter than the dessert. If the dessert is sweeter than the wine, it will only make the wine seem thin and too tart.
With lighter, fruity desserts that aren't too sweet consider a Late Harvest wine - made from grapes picked a bit later. For the sweetest desserts consider a wine made from grapes affected by Botrytis ("the noble rot") or an icewine.
The second piece of advice is to match like-with-like – put white dessert wines with lighter coloured desserts, and match dark dessert wines (like sweet port, sherry, madeira or Australian muscats) with rich chocolate or dark and nutty desserts.
Tom Cannavan tried out three dessert wines, with different sweet treats, to see how they complemented each other. Here are his conclusions.
1. Alois Kracher Beerenauslese Cuvee 2006, priced at £13 from WoodWinters – tested with an apple tart tatin:
This rich, sweet wine was not too heavy, and as well as having the sweetness to win over the caramel of the sauce, had the acidity to freshen the palate too.
2. Campbell's, Rutherglen Muscat, Australia, priced at £9.49 from Waitrose – tested with a sticky toffee pudding:
This was a great choice as this dark, sweet, fortified wine had all the date, fig and nutty flavours that perfectly echoed the flavours of the pudding.
3. M&S, Moscato Freisa NV, Italy, priced at £7.99 from Marks & Spencer – tested with dark chocolate mousse:
It might seem surprising to match a very light (only 6.5% alcohol) and frothy, sparkling dessert wine with dark chocolate, but it was a match made in heaven.
The sweet strawberry fruit of the wine melding with the chocolate, and the freshness and acidity in the wine, which stopped the dish from becoming cloying, made this a perfect combination.