January 7, 2016 | By RJS Craft Winemaking
Some friends came to my house for dinner recently. You know the scene: A few middle-aged girl pals reminiscing over lasagna, and several glasses of Pinot Noir. After polishing off the second bottle of my Pinot, the four of us agreed that as much as we could sip Pinot Noir all night, it was time to sample the flourless chocolate cake my girlfriend picked up on her way over. Oftentimes drinking wine ceases once the dessert arrives, as we switch to coffee or tea. That night we were not quite ready to put our wine glasses away. Luckily I had the perfect wine pairing for the cake, Cru Specialty Premium Dessert Wine, and the laughter continued well into the night.
Dessert wine, while gaining in popularity, still remains less fashionable in North America than in Europe. Europeans commonly linger longer at the table after a meal, taking time to chat and nibble on cheese or sweets. Europeans are also more likely to serve dessert over a glass or two of sweet wine, without a hot beverage in sight.
Perhaps on this continent we resist dessert wine because we do not fully understand it. I have heard countless wine connoisseurs comment that while they delight in a glass or two of good dry red or white wine almost every day, dessert wines are just too sweet.
There are certainly some examples of extremely sweet dessert wines, some Tokaji Aszu from Hungary immediately come to mind, but dessert wines are not always cloying. The Cru Specialty Premium Dessert Wine I served to my friends is the perfect example. Crafted in the style of a ruby Port, it is deep red in colour with bold aromas and flavours of black cherries and blackberries. The subtle sweetness is well-balanced with a bright, pleasing acidity, with only the intense fruit flavours lingering on the palate.
Another uncertainty that often arises in the context of dessert wines is how to pair them with food. If you have a sweet tooth like me, don’t give up your favourite cakes, pies and puddings just yet; most desserts pair nicely with sweet wines. A general rule is the wine should be sweeter than the food with which it is served. A dark, rich chocolate cake, like the one my friends and I enjoyed, is an easy match for many styles of dessert wines. Fresh fruit, fruit tarts and custard desserts like crème brûlée are also easy to pair. But, my all-time favourite sweet wine pairing is a mature cheddar or any style of blue cheese.
Can dessert wine simply be enjoyed on its own, you may ask? Don’t worry, even after the cake is just a pile of crumbs on a plate, keep sipping your wine. Dessert wines are typically bottled in 375 ml bottles. The lesser quantity reflects the way these sweet wines should be enjoyed – sipped slowly and savoured. But, when that first bottle is finished, there is no good reason not to open another.