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Guest Post- Desserts And Wines Part One

I have been following several blogs about wine, I am sure your remember the wonderful wine pairing from Stefano of Clicka and Corks and Flora’s Table. Another wine blog that is full of information is Vino In Love, Julian Rossello is a wine expert and is like an encyclopaedia of wines and wine history. I love his quizzes although I don’t even attempt to answer the questions, but I do look forward to reading the answers when they are published. Julian and I were talking about dessert wines or pairing desserts with wines, it’s a complex subject and one that I find very interesting. Do you have wine with your dessert? Well. if you are like me, you don’t have a clue what wines you would serve with dessert. Champagne is what I am usually have if an alcoholic beverage is offered.  Julian is here to demystify the science of pairing wine with dessert or serving a dessert wine. I hope you find this as interesting as I do and stay tuned for Part Two, I have asked him to pair wines with several desserts. I can’t wait to see what he has for us. Click on the link to visit Julians great wine blog and follow him on google+.  I know you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Desserts and wine: The right choices

2006 Trabucchi d'Illasi - Recioto - Recioto di SoaveEvery since their existence, dessert have been used to celebrate birthdays, weddings and other special occasions. In many countries, desserts get also served after dinner. If you are the host of a such a dinner then you have to ask yourself: “What wine should I pair with the dessert?” Should you pick a wine at all or is it better to go with something else? It is said that desserts are the most difficult to pair with wine. This guide will help you to make the right choices.  But remember, these are general rules and there are always exceptions. The guide will focus mostly on recommendations for traditional Italian desserts.

Let’s start with a common mistake that should better be avoided. Never pair dry wines with any type of dessert. Sadly it is a habit to match desserts with dry sparkling wines (extra brut). Why should this be avoided? Dry wines tend to destroy the wine’s flavors and we do not want that to happen. An exception are passtito-style sparkling wine that are especially common in Apulia.

There are three factors to consider when looking for the right wine.

  1. Intensity – Intense wines call for rich desserts or for no dessert at all.
  2. Sweetness – The wine should always be sweeter than the dessert.
  3. Acidity – Acid wines tend to pair well with fruity desserts, which have a natural acidity.

Sweet bread loafs and foccaia dolce

Italy is famous for its sweet bread loafs. The Italian cuisine has three important types of sweet bread loafs. The first one isPandoro, which is a traditional yeast bread loaf from Verona. Pandoro is most popular around Christmas. Colomba PasqualeA similar sweet bread isPanettone, which originated in Milan. Last but not least, there is Colomba Pasquale. This Easter cake is the counter-part to Panettone and Pandoro. It is also my favorite type of sweet bread loaf.

Focaccia is a flat Italian bread. Usually it is seasoned salt, herbs and olive oil but also sweet versions exists which are known as focaccia dolce.

Let’s focus on wine. Both, focaccia and sweet bread loafs, are characterized by their sweetness and succulence. Furthermore they are not intense and rather dry. If served together with candid fruits, dried fruits or almonds then the dessert is also characterized by its spiciness. Therefore, these desserts call for fruity, sparkling white wines like Moscato d’Asti DOCG. Moscato d’Asti is a sparkling wine from Piedmont. The wine is produced with 100% Moscato Bianco grapes and is known for its fruity sweetness and low alcohol level.
Alternatively, Pantelleria Moscato Spumante DOC could be served with these desserts. Pantelleria Moscato Spumante is a sweet sparkling wine from the tiny island Pantelleria. Here we have 100% Zibibbo grapes (same grapes that are used for Passito di Pantelleria). The wine is characterized by a fine, long-lasting perlage. The bouquet has aromas of fresh fruit. On the palate, the wine is sweet and the finish is long. Pantelleria Moscato Spumante has a higher ABV than Moscato d’Asti.

But beware, if the Colomba is stuffed with chocolate, vanilla cream or zabaione then these wine pairings will not work very well. To be safe, you should settle for sparkling water instead.

Tiramisù, mousse, semifreddi & bavarian cream

Semifreddo al pistacchio

Semifreddo refers to a variety of semi-frozen desserts like parfaits or certain fruit-tarts. The picture to your left shows a pistachio-semifreddo.

Tiramisù in the traditional way is a dessert that consists of layers of ladyfingers dipped in coffee (and sometimes with Marsala wine) with powdered chocolate and mascarpone cheese cream. Throughout history the recipe has been adapted many times into puddings and cakes. For our wine pairing, it is important the the tiramisù is prepared without alcohol.

Bayerische CremeBavarian cream is a rich custard set. This classic dessert originated in Bavaria, Germany. Main ingredients are pastry cream and gelatin. The dessert is often served with fruits. On the right, you see bavarian cream with sliced fruit and a red-berry fruit sauce.

Mousse is of French origin. There are many varieties of mousse. But all consists of whipped egg whites. Some are flavored with chocolate and others with fruits. For this wine pairing, we are only interested in fruity ones. For example a peach and mint mousse.

So what wine pairs well with these desserts? Here we are looking for sweet wines (not overly sweet) with a rather high ABV. Elegant, noble wines with intense aromas. The wines should be produced from white grapes only. Recioto di Soave and Recioto di Gambellara will work very well. The Recioto di Soave from Trabucchi d’Illasi is highly recommended. Below you find an excerpt of my tasting notes for it.

On the nose there was a heavy aroma of wild flowers – especially chamomile and elderflower, lots of white chocolate and a few aromatic herbs. An incredibly elegant bouquet, which made me even more excited to take a first sip. A very noble wine with notes of honey and caramelized white fruit (apricot, peach, etc.). ‘Recioto di Soave’ was well-structured and of good balance. The finish was long. Once again, elegant describes the palate best. 


MillefoglieMille-feuille is a pastry of French origin. It is extremely popular in Italy where it is known as “Millefoglie”.  It is made up of three layers of pâte feuilletée, alternating with two layers of crème pâtissière.

Mille-feuille and similar desserts pair well with Recioto della Valpolicella. Again, I can very much recommend a wine from Trabucchi d’Illasi. Their Recioto della Valpolicella is world-changing. It has been chosen as the best Italian red wine by reputable wine critic Luca Maroni. I do not know any other wineries that produces that many high-quality wines like Trabucchi does. With a mille-feuille, we could also go for a Moscato d’Asti DOCG. These sweet sparkling wines tend to pair well it. A few other wines that are produced from Muscat grapes work as well.

Chocolate-based desserts

Chocolate-based desserts like chocolate cakes and chocolate mousse do not pair well with wine at all and they are therefore the hardest desserts to pair with wine. Only wines with a very high ABV tend to pair decently with them. Examples – Port wine,Sherry and Madeira. But in all honesty, do not pair chocolate desserts with wine. Trust me. Aged digestives like Armagnac andGran Marnier are a better choice.

Biscotti and other cookies

Vin Santo con cantuccini: sweet wine & dessert matchBiscotti, also known as cantuccini, are Tuscan cookies that originated in the town of Prato. Biscotti are dry almond-cookies. They are among the most traditional Tuscan desserts. These cookies are among my absolute favorites. They pair extremely well with Vin Santo. The name literally translates to “Holy Wine”. Vin Santo is traditionally produced in the Chianti Classico area. The wine is known for its amazing amber color and intense flavor.

Passito di Pantelleria, like the Ben Rye from Donnafugata, works also with biscotti but if you want the true traditional Tuscan experience then you have to go for Vin Santo. Let me know if you enjoy this dessert & sweet wine pairing as much as I do.

Cannoli are a Sicilian pastry dessert. They are tube-like cookies that are filled with sweet, creamy ricotta. They pair well with Moscato di Pantelleria.

Amaretti are more difficult to pair with wine because they are prepared with an almond liquor known as Amaretto. If I had to recommend a wine then I’d go with an Alta Langa spumante rosato DOCG. The pink sparkling Alta Langa wines usually have a fine, long-lasting perlage. On the nose, vanilla, yeast and fresh baked bread. The palate is well-structured and the wines tend to have a lingering finish.

The “no-food” solution

There are certain high-quality wines that make up a fantastic “dessert” by themselves. Examples are German Eiswein and Recioto della ValpolicellaIf you ate too much for dinner but still want something sweet afterwards then these two sweet wines will do the trick.

Eiswein is a very sweet wine that can age for decades. Young Eiswein tends to be rather acid so go for aged one. The Riesling grapes for Eiswein are usually harvest at the beginning of December at temperatures below -6°C (21° F)

Recioto della Valpolicellais considered to be one of the best wines in Italy if not of the World. I already mentioned earlier that it pairs well with certain desserts but more important is that Recioto della Valpolicella is so delicious that it is best enjoyed by itself.

Parmesan cheese

Parmigiano Reggiano: sweet wine & dessert matchOften after dinner many people prefer a variety of cheese and not something sweet. If you are one of them then Parmesan cheese is the way to go. Serve with balsamic vinegar creme drizzeled on top.

Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) has its origin in the Emilia-Romagna, Italy. It is a hard granular cow-milk cheese, which ages very well. According to European and Italian law, only cheese from the provinces Bologna, Modena, Parma and Reggio-Emilia is allowed to call itself Parmigiano Reggiano. Should you find the cheese to be too expensive then go with a Grana Padano.

The cheese pairs very with all kinds of Passito and Recioto. Moscato and many other sweet wines can be served with Parmigiano Reggiano as well. Parmigiano Reggiano is the perfect cheese to pair with your favorite sweet wine. Not recommended with sparkling wines.

Update March 7th

Because many people have said that they enjoy red wine with dark chocolate, I want to inform you that this post is only about pairing desserts with (sweet) wine. And chocolate desserts like mousse a chocolate or chocolate cake certainly don’t pair well with red wine. Dark chocolate on the other hand can be served with a glass of red wine but beware that many people will still not like it.

Parting words

I will leave you with these dessert & wine pairings.  This guide is by no means complete because there are so many desserts but I hope that it helped you understand the process of pairing desserts with wine.What is your favorite sweet wine and with what do you usually serve it? Should you have any questions then simply leave a comment or send me a tweet.

Photo credits:

  1. Colomba Pasquale by Wikipedia with a CC 3.0 license
  2. Semifreddo al Pistacchio by Christian with a CC 2.0 license
  3. Mille-feule by Academiabarilla with a CC 3.0 license.
  4. Parmigiano Reggiano by Sputnikcccp with a CC 3.0 license.


31 Comments Post a comment
  1. What an inccredibly informative post my friend, thank you for hosting! I wish I could say I have experience in this field 😛


    March 7, 2013
    • Thank you I also find it fascinating and want to learn more about how to properly pair wines whether its with the savory or sweet.

      March 7, 2013
  2. Oh wow what a post! So exciting that you will do a dessert + wine pairing together with Vino in Love! 🙂 I never red anything about this on his blog so now I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

    March 7, 2013
    • Thank you, I am terribly ignorant when it comes to wine pairing and I have a sweet tooth and always love dessert but have no idea what is the right wine or spirit to pair with different desserts. I am looking forward to Julian’s recommendations.

      March 7, 2013
  3. Omg Suzanne…this post has my mouth literally watering like no other. I love wine! I saw the words “Italian desserts” and couldn’t wait to get to the Tiramisu part!! That is my all time favorite dessert….ever. How interesting, it says not to use alcohol in the dessert if paring it with wine. This whole post is an incredible source of information. I love it. I will eep the Vin Santo wine in mind fr whenever I serve biscotti to guests! That wine brings back memories…I did a painting of a Vin Santo wine bottle that I received as a gift and gave the painting to my mother to hang in her kitchen. I can’t for the life of me, recall the taste though!

    March 7, 2013
    • The reason why I suggest not to use alcohol in the tiramisù if pairing it with wine is because they won’t harmonize. But it’s just a suggestions and of course you are free to prepare the tiramisù with alcohol and pair it with wine. I just wouldn’t recommend doing it.

      March 7, 2013
      • I think it’s a great suggestion. It makes perfect sense! I certainly wouldn’t want anything competing with the amazing tiramisu. I’ve actually never had tiramisu with anything other than coffee….so no problem there…I just thought it was a great interesting point that one wouldn’t normally think of 🙂

        March 7, 2013
    • Thanks Brandi, it makes sense not adding alcohol to the tiramisu so it doesn’t compete with the wine you offer with the dessert. I’m afraid the extent of my experience with dessert wine pairing is vin santo and biscotti, I love still life paintings and if you took a photo of your painting I would love to see it,

      March 7, 2013
  4. I don’t consume alcohol, but I sure do like the desserts, cheese… you have listed! 😀

    March 7, 2013
  5. Suzanne,
    You are way too kind 🙂 It’s so much fun working together with you and I love pairing your delicious desserts with wine.
    I try to get the wine pairings done as soon as possible.

    March 7, 2013
    • Thank you so much Julian, for me this is a learning experience and I want to learn from experts like you and Stefano regarding wines. I have been blissfully ignorant for many years and am learning so much from you. Thank you for agreeing to collaborate with me.

      March 7, 2013
  6. I am not experienced in wines and this was a very informative and interesting post! thanks for sharing!

    March 7, 2013
    • Thanks Katerina, I also have very little experience which is why I chose to do this. We should never stop learning and what I love about the food culture is that there is always something new to learn and experience.

      March 7, 2013
  7. Very interesting and informative post. Thank you! Unfortunately I’m a deadloss when it comes to dessert wines – for some reason they always give me a headache. So I’m afraid I stick to champagne 🙂

    March 7, 2013
    • Maybe it’s the sugar content, is it just sweet wines or the combination of something sweet with wine? I love champagne and sparkling wine and love it with dessert usually a dessert involving fruit in some form. I want to broaden my horizons and thanks to Julian thats exactly what I am doing. Thank you so much.

      March 7, 2013
  8. azita #

    Clapping hands! What a decadent and delicious post. Reading this I feel tortured – in a pleasant way! 😉

    March 7, 2013
  9. This is so informative, thank you so much for sharing! I don’t have a clue about wine pairings, but this seems like a good place to start. And if all else fails, I’ll just keep some Champagne on ice 🙂

    March 7, 2013
    • When in doubt you can’t really go wrong with champagne for sure. Thank you, this is something I really want to learn and I have some very good teachers.

      March 7, 2013
  10. Very helpful post as I’m a huge fan of wines with dessert!

    March 7, 2013
    • Yes I am so lucky to have found the wine experts. I also love a good wine with dessert but the correct pairing has eluded me.

      March 7, 2013
  11. I took a wine class this past fall and learned quite a bit! I love wine. But still hazy on how to pair dessert with wine, thanks for this post!

    March 7, 2013
    • I really want to take a wine course, it’s so interesting and there really is a science to it all. Thank you so much.

      March 7, 2013
  12. I know I should not say that, give my relationship with a wine blogger, but what the heck! Suzanne, I’m exactly like you! I always pair my dessert, any dessert, with champagne. I think that it is a combination to die for. Hopefully, Stefano won’t read my comment. 🙂

    March 7, 2013
    • Lol, shhhh…. we won’t say a thing. I thought it was the norm and I do love champagne or prosecco.

      March 7, 2013
  13. I love all the information here! And yes, I’m in the champagne camp too. But this is a really great read!

    March 7, 2013
    • Thanks Susan, I think its so interesting and something I want to know more about. I am sadly unsophisticated and inept when it comes to wine pairing.

      March 7, 2013
  14. It’s so exciting that you and Julian do a dessert & wine pairing! I can’t wait for that post! :- ) Can you tell us what desserts you will pair with wine or does that remain a secret?

    March 7, 2013
    • I am going to be posting the recipes today. I started working on it last night. It should be up later today. I am so excited to have Julian lend me his expertise.

      March 8, 2013

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