Dessert wine – You might be feeling perplexed now, because, what does wine have anything to do with a post-meal sweet treat?
Well, there is nothing puzzling about it! Dessert wine is simply wine that is sweet enough to go down well with a sweet dessert. It is important to know that when pairing food and drink, your meal must never be sweeter than your wine. At the very least, an accompanying wine should be at least as sweet as your meal. If you were to drink a non-sweet, “dry” wine, it is going to taste unspeakably sour with that red velvet cake.
How Can Wine Be Made Sweet Enough To Go With Dessert?
There are three ways to make dessert wine. The most popular method is to use very ripe or even over-ripe grapes. Grapes harvested very late in the season will acquire a high sugar content and wines made from them will also exhibit a high degree of sweetness (referred to as residual sweetness), even after fermentation.
Vintners take one step further for higher quality dessert wines of this style – grapes are left on the vine until they begin to rot, in the hopes that they will produce what is known as ‘noble rot’. With this, grape skin becomes porous and water evaporates from them, which causes all other ingredients, the aroma, the acid, but also the sweetness, to become concentrated. Well-known examples of the distinguished sweet wines produced from ‘noble rot’ grapes are the precious ‘Beerenauslese’ or ‘Trockenbeerenauslese’ wines.
Ice Wine: Another Very Special Dessert Wine
Another way to increase the concentration of grape constituents and sugar is employed in the very rare ice wines. For that, grapes are left on the vine until late in the year to be exposed to an early frost. If temperatures plummet to below minus 7°C, the frozen grapes are harvested and immediately pressed. Under these conditions, the water in the grapes is frozen and is retained as ice during the pressing. The small amount of juice obtained from these frozen grapes is full of extremely concentrated sugar, acidity, and aroma.
Finally, the last type of dessert wines are the so-called liqueur wines, which include port wine and the Muscat wines of southern France. Here, fermentation of the grapes is interrupted by the addition of alcohol during production, giving birth to a sweet wine with rich alcohol content.
Fun Fact: Dessert wines aren’t just perfect for sweet dessert, they are also great with spicy cheese. The fruity sweetness of the wine helps cut the salty flavours of the cheese. Try this with one the classics, like Roquefort or Stilton cheese.
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