Pairing wine with dessert
It’s important to match the sweetness of your dessert to that of your wine. If you serve a sweet wine with sweet food, you’ll end up with an oversaturated sweetness that washes out the flavors and makes it difficult to taste anything.
Pairing dry wines with sweet foods is the best way to have both components shine in the right way. A key thing to remember when pairing wines with desserts is that dryer dessert wines can be paired well with foods that are more savory than sweet. Champagne, for example, pairs beautifully with creamy cheese or fruit-based dishes like soufflées or poached fruits. The effervescence also helps cut through fat and balance out richness, making champagne or sparkling wines excellent partners for savory items like pork belly or duck confit as well as heavy cheeses such as brie.
Sweet desserts to pair with wine
- Chocolate: chocolate pairs well with sweet, sparkling wines like Asti Spumante or Moscato d’Asti.
- Fruit desserts: pair with champagne, a medium-sweet white wine like Riesling or Gewürztraminer, a late-harvest Riesling, or a dessert wine like port or Sauternes.
- Caramel and toffee desserts: pair with tawny port.
- Cheesecake and fruit cake: pair with an off-dry sparkling wine such as Prosecco.
- Ice cream and rich cakes, or dessert made from citrus fruits (lemon meringue pie): pair with crémant (a French sparkling wine), Lambrusco (an Italian sparkling red), or Vin Santo (an Italian dessert wine).
Sweet snacks and wine pairings
- Chocolate: Late harvest Riesling, or port
- Tarts and puddings: Late harvest Riesling
- Desserts with fruit: Zinfandel or Muscat
- Cheese and crackers: Port
Red wines to pair with sweet snacks
Red wines are delicious when paired with sweet snacks. The natural acidity in red wines helps to counterbalance the sweetness of the snack and makes for a more balanced flavor profile.
Dark chocolate works well with red wine because the cocoa and tannins in dark chocolate pair nicely with the tannins from red wine. Red wine also enhances the bitter flavors of dark chocolate, which is why Cabernet Sauvignon is a popular choice for pairing with dark chocolate desserts.
Cheesecake is another dessert that pairs well with red wine. The creaminess of cheesecake complements the smoothness of many reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. Pairing a fruity cheesecake, like raspberry or blueberry, with a young Zinfandel will bring out those fruity notes even more.
Bold fruit desserts also make good candidates for pairing with smooth-textured or fortified red wines because they can often be quite sweet themselves. A fruity port like ruby port or tawny port pairs well with fruit desserts and fruit tarts because it brings out the berry flavors, while an aged amontillado sherry complements creamy fruits like peaches and apricots that have been baked into pies or crisps.
White wines to pair with sweet snacks
White wine, white chocolate, and ripe fruit might be all you need for a sweet snack pairing. Try Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV.
White wines with desserts like vanilla ice cream or cheesecake: go for Riesling Spätlese Trocken from Germany, and focus on the sweeter wines within the Riesling spectrum. German Trockenbeerenauslese might even be sweeter than necessary for this pairing, but if that’s what you love… For lighter desserts like French pastries and sponge cakes, try champagne that is dry but not bone dry.
You can enjoy white or red wine with chocolate, fruity desserts or other sweet foods.
You can enjoy white or red wine with chocolate, fruity desserts or other sweet foods. Red wine adds a contrast to rich dark chocolate and milk chocolate. For example, a Cabernet Sauvignon conveys an elegant taste with milk chocolate, but it’s also possible to pair a dry red with dark chocolate.
Sweet fortified wines such as late harvest dessert wines make memorable companions for very rich and creamy desserts such as mousse, tiramisu or crème brûlée.