Although Americans love their desserts, dessert wines receive decidedly less fanfare. These wines, usually served in small proportions, come in many varieties, including port, sauternes and ice wine.
Just like red and white wines, dessert wines can be paired with different types of food. And because they are often sweet, they can even replace dessert altogether after a good meal.
These full-bodied wines are made from grapes left on the vine and pressed when frozen. Cold weather regions like Germany and Canada are known to produce the best ice wines, which strike a balance between strong sweetness and acidity.
Pairs best with: Fruit-based desserts, such as an apple tart or peach pie
Celebrated wines like sauternes and Tokaji owe their deliciousness to an unexpected culprit: mold. Botrytis cinera attacks and shrivels grapes, concentrating their flavor prior to juicing. The resulting wine is rich, sweet and velvety — the perfect end to a perfect meal.
Pairs best with: Fruit and nut-based desserts that can stand up to the wine’s intensity
Produced in Tuscany, these wines usually have an amber color and taste slightly like caramel. Vin Santo undergoes an extensive aging process — usually anywhere from three to 10 years, depending on the producer. Although most Vin Santo is sweet, drier varieties can also be found.
Pairs best with: Crunchy desserts, such as biscotti or almond cookies
Not for the faint of heart, these are the bad boys of dessert wines. Winemakers add spirits (often brandy) to fortify the wine either during or after fermentation, resulting in a sweet, heavy wine with alcohol content hovering around 20%. Fortified wines include port, sherry and Madeira.
Pairs best with: Dark chocolate or caramel-based desserts that offset the sweetness of fortified wine