August 11, 2015
Sips & Sweets: Pairing Dessert, Wine and More
Sophisticated, decadent and indulgent — wine and cheese are the perfect epicurean pair. The rich, saltiness of delectable ripe or aged cheeses accompanied by the qualities of different varietals of grapes creates the ultimate sensory experience for dinner guests. Sips and sweets also go hand-in-hand at any soiree. Diverge from the usual savory suspects and pique your palate with a dose of dessert to go along with your favorite bottles of wine at your next dinner party or at-home wine tasting.
If you have a particular dessert in mind, it is easy to select the appropriate bottle of wine that is equally sweet for the palate. The three key factors to consider when selecting a bottle of wine to pair with desserts are acidity, intensity and sweetness.
Fruit-forward desserts often pair well with acidic wines to help counterbalance the natural acidity. White wines tend to be more acidic and naturally have hints and undertones of stone fruit, candied citrus and honey. Gewurztraminer (a sweet, German dessert wine) or pink champagne are excellent pairings for desserts that are heavy in fruit and spice. The sweetness of a gewurztraminer or the crisp, lively effervescence of a champagne or other sparkling wine will highlight the layers of flavors in the fruit-centric desserts. Try an apple pie, a summertime peach tart or a carrot cake. This summer fruit galette is easy to modify and can use any fruit you may have on hand. A pinch of ground spices can be added to enhance the baked flavors of the white wine.
The tropical acidity of the chocolate dip delights real chocolate-covered kiwi pops is the perfect burst of summer sweetness for an outdoor soiree. Pair the playful pops with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc that has citrus and light herbal notes with a velvety, supple texture to help balance the acidity of the fruit. Or, the chocolate dip delights pina colada white chocolate dipped strawberries offer a tropical twist on a favorite.
Try Giada De Laurentiis’ summer fruit with wine and mint that calls for a dry, crisp white wine such as a pinot grigio or an unoaked chardonnay. Don’t forget a glass on the side!
Chocolate, Mocha, Ganache — Oh My!
As a general rule of thumb, the darker the dessert, the darker the wine. Also, the flavors of the wine should be as intense as the dessert itself. Pair rich, decadent chocolate cakes and confections with deeply-hued red wines such as a late-harvest pinot noir or a classic Port, the quintessential dessert wine. Port-style wines are sweet dessert wines made from zinfandel, syrah or portuguese grape varietals then fortified with brandy. The result is a lush red wine that coats your palate with sweet undertones and flavors of chocolate, mocha and dark cherries. The chocolate dip delights real chocolate covered cherries will be enhanced by the viscosity and richness of the port, which has its own dark cherry undertones.
As an alternative to sweet, jammy dessert wines, lower sugar reds such as a softer, late-harvest zinfandel will help enhance the flavors of mocha and cacao in the chocolate dessert itself. The rich 72% extra dark truffle or the Aztec spice truffle in the Godiva dark decadence truffle flights will shine when paired with a soft, peppery glass of zin.
Pop, Fizz, Cheesecake
Sparkling wines or champagnes come in a varying range of sweetness and acidity. The buttery, yeast notes often found in sparkling wine pair well with rich, caramelized or flaky, buttery desserts. Whether you prefer firm, well-structured bubbles or simply soft effervescence, sparkling wines can be very versatile when it comes to dessert pairings.
The creamy richness of cheesecake topped with fresh, summer-ripened berries and a crumbly, Graham cracker crust adds sweetness on the palate to balance the dryness of the sparkling wine. The bubbles will also offer a pleasant reprieve from the rich and velvety texture of the cheesecake. Delight your guests with strawberry cheesecake and a glass of prosecco or Asti spumante. The buttery, shortbread cookie crust will be the perfect accompaniment to the extra dry Italian sparkling wine.
When breakfast mingles with dessert, very sweet things happen. Cinnamon roll streusel cheesecake takes the cake (both literally and figuratively) when it comes to dessert over-achievers. Cinnamon swirl coffee cake serves as the base for a thick layer of vanilla cheesecake topped with buttery streusel. A dry or brut sparkling wine will help balance the sweetness of this breakfast-meets-dessert debutante.