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Pairing the perfect wine with dessert

Photo of wine pouring into glass

Deciding on the perfect pairing of wine to serve with a dessert can be daunting with so many varieties and brands to select from.

By Carin R. Kirkegaard; graphic courtesy of Shari’s Berries

Sweets are a standard when planning a romantic experience, whether it’s a slice of decadent cheesecake to cap off a delicious candlelit meal, chocolate dipped strawberries served fireside, or even a box of premium chocolates shared with a sweetheart. Washing all that sweetness down with a dessert wine can provide the perfect accompaniment.

Dessert wines are made from both red or white grapes. They can be sparkling or still, sweet or dry. Generally, dessert wines are made with grapes that have a high sugar content – usually those grapes picked from a late harvest that have hung longer on the vine. Depending on the winemaker’s technique, if the grapes do not have enough naturally occurring sugar, then sugar or honey can be added during fermentation to obtain the desired sweetness.

Deciding on the perfect pairing of wine to serve with a dessert can be daunting with so many varieties and brands to select from. Jose Espinoza and his wife Mimi, owners of Trestles Coastal Cuisine located in The Village at Castle Pines Shops, approach each wine pairing with three tenets.

wine chart
First, said Jose, it is important to consider one’s own palate. You either like it or you don’t; pick what you like. Next, decide if you’re looking to complement or contrast what you are serving. With desserts, is the goal to build on the already present sweetness of the food – sweet on sweet, or are you looking to contrast the sweet dessert with a drier wine to cleanse the palate? Finally, it is important to choose a wine that you will enjoy for more than one sip. After the food is consumed will the wine still stand up on its own?

When planning a menu, what comes first – the food or the wine? The Espinozas first create a food menu, then they invite a winery to bring hundreds of different wines to taste. The staff gathers, and using Jose’s three tenets, makes their choices.

Sometimes a pairing is more serendipitous. Mimi recounts a story of how a server was eating dessert after finishing a shift at the restaurant. She had ordered the Pave, a trifle-like dish made with cream cheese, whipped cream and sponge cake and she happened to be finishing a glass of Meiomi Pinot Noir. The dry, light-bodied red wine with layers of spicy, smoky flavors was the perfect contrast to the sweetness of the dessert, Mimi recalled from the server.

Whatever the plans for a romantic interlude, if food is involved, adding a select wine can be a perfect addition.



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