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Pairing Desserts and Wine- Part 3 How And Why!

This is the final installment of the dessert and wine pairing series, If I had tried to put all of this in one post it would be as long as a novel, so I decided to break this up into a series of 3 posts. The first was an explanation of desserts wines and the science involved in pairing taken from Julians blog, Vino in love. Post #2 is the actual desserts and the wine recommendations,  and the third will tell you why the wines were chosen for each dish.

Below is an explanation as to why these particular wines were chosen for each dessert. Cheers!

When desserts meet wine

Only recently, I wrote about pairing wine with desserts. I have teamed up with Suzanne from apuginthekitchen to present to you awesome dessert and wine pairings. If you want to know more about the desserts that Suzanne and I picked to pair with wine then read this post on apuginthekitchen.

In the final part of this mutual collaboration, I want to talk about why I decided to pair these wines with Suzanne’s desserts.

Stuffed pears en papillote

Suzanne’s Stuffed pears en papillote pair very well with a Passito di Pantelleria. For example we could pair this dessert with the Ben Rye from Donnafugata. Why? The answers is quite simple. The pears are steamed in brown sugar and stuffed with walnuts. Sweet desserts like this one call for a wine that has a good amount of sweetness itself. It should not be overly sweet though. Furthermore, the Ben Rye has a bouquet that includes candid oranges, which pair with pears en papillote very well.

Trabucchi d’Illasi’s Recioto di Soave is a great match for a fig and goat cheese tart. The flavor of the figs and the aromas of the Recioto di Soave (elderflower, chamomile, white chocolate, aromatic herbs, etc.) pair well together. This Recioto is also not that sweet. We also need a wine with an ABV between around 10% and 13.5%. A Passito di Pantelleria would be too intense and also too strong. That would cause the wine to dominate the dessert, which we want to avoid. The Recioto di Soave however, is a very elegant wine. It has an ABV of 12.5% which is perfect for this dish.

Ceretto Asti SpumanteThe buttermilk panna cotta called immediately for a Moscato d’Asti Spumante. Moscato d’Asti Spumante are sweet, fruity and usually have a very low ABV (often around 7%). These wines have a little bit of acidity as welll. And with pannacotta we want exactly that. The Moscato d’Asti Spumante from Cerotto has a good quality-price ratio and is the perfect match for Suzanne’s buttermilk panna cotta.

Pasticciotti filled with vanilla cream are a traditional dessert from Apulia, Italy. These delicious pastries also call for a sparkling wine and why not pair Apulian food with Apulian wine? Sometimes it is best to go with food and wine from the same region. Therefore, I decided to pair Suzanne’s Pasticciotti (you have to try them! They are so tasty!) with a Moscato di Trani Spumante. Pasticciotti are dry and pretty sweet. One of my favorite Moscato di Trani Spumante is produced by Azienda Agricola Franco di Filippo. Both of their Moscato di Trani Spumante will work excellent with Pasticciotti. These “Champagne-like” sparkling wines (“Champagne-like” because they are manufactured after the Classic-Method process) have a long-lasting perlage, an intense nose and a great palate. They tend to have less acidity then Moscato d’Asti Spumante. However, Moscato d’Asti Spumante are usually produced after with Martinotti-Method and not with the Classic-Method.

Recioto della Valpolicella - Trabucchi d'Illasi

Trabucchi d’Illasi does not only make a stunning Recioto di Soave but also an even better Recioto della Valpolicella. Recioto della Valpolicella is produced similar to Amarone. Grapes get sun-dried for around 40 days on straw-mats where they lose around 80% of their weight. This gives Trabucchi’s Recioto della Valpolicella a rich nose and an intense palate. The nose is incredible with a lots of different aromas. The finish is persistently long. I have baked Suzanne’s semolina olive oil myself and served it with Trabucchi’s Recioto della Valpolicella. A good match which I highly recommend.

Last but not least I paired the spicy chocolate panna cotta with aCognac. I am of the opinion that chocolate desserts like chocolate panna cotta or chocolate cake do not pair well with wine. A Portuguese Port wine would have worked as well but with these type of desserts your best bet are spirits like Brandy and Cognac – in fact Cognac is a type of Brandy from France. If matching chocolate desserts with alcohol then you have to go with strong spirits. Of course, we could also serve this delicious dessert with an espresso which would be the “Italian way”.

Photo Credits: Stuffed pears en papillote by Suzanne. All rights reserved
Ceretto Asti Spumante by Ceretto 
Recioto della Valpolicella – Trabucchi d’Illasi 
by Julian Rossello. All rights reserved.

This brings our dessert and wine pairing series to an end. I hope you have enjoyed it. Let me know what you think about these pairings. With what do you pair your favorite dessert usually with?


Pairing Wines With Dessert Part 2

When Julian from Vino In Love  and I first started talking about dessert wines and pairing wines with desserts I was so excited and thrilled that he agreed to collaborate with me on this. I sent him a list of desserts that I posted here on my blog and asked him to pair wines or spirits with the desserts. Here is the list and I can’t wait to try each of these. I am learning a lot from the wine experts that I am now following and I look forward to each of their posts. All of the desserts below are featured on my blog, to get the recipes just click on desserts on the category cloud. I didn’t include the recipes on this post because this is about the wine that you would eat with the dessert. You can pair the wine below the photo with a similar dessert without using the exact recipe. To locate these wines you can use this handy dandy tool or do like I do, contact your local wine merchant and see if they have them, if not, hopefully your favorite wine shoppe is as wonderful as mine and they can locate these wines for you. Below is the photo of the dessert and Julian’s excellent recommendations. Thank you so much Julian for helping me with this it was so much fun and a real learning experience for me and I hope for all those that follow my blog. Thank you!

Baked Pears

Baked Pears

Stuffed pears en papillote + Donna Fugata – Passito di Pantelleria (intense white sweet wine from Sicily) More info on Donna Fugata:

Mosto Cotto Fig And Goat Cheese Tart

Mosto Cotto Fig And Goat Cheese Tart

Fig and goat cheese tart + Trabucchi d’Illasi – Recioto della Valpolicella (red sweet wine from Veneto. Produced like Amarone but tastes even better.) More information:

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Buttermilk panna cotta with mosto cotto Champagne grape syrup  + Ceretto – Moscato d’Asti (light, sweet sparkling wine from Piedmont. More information on Ceretto:

Pasto Ciotti

Pasti Ciotti

Pasticciotti filled with vanilla cream + Moscato di Trani or with a Passito di Trani (Sweet (sparkling) wine from Apulia; the same region where Pasticciotti are from). Here is a link for information on the wine:

Semolina Olive Oil Cake

Semolina Olive Oil Cake

Semolina olive oil cake +  Trabucchi d’Illasi – Recioto di Soave (white sweet wine from the Veneto) Here is more information on this wine from Julians site:

Fire On Ice Light and Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta

Fire On Ice Light and Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta

Spicy chocolate panna cotta + Cognac (Brandy from France) NOTE from Suzanne: I am so glad that Julian paired this with cognac, I have been doing something right. I like to serve cognac with this type of dessert, I have Pierre Ferrand Cognac (It’s wonderful with this).

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.