wine and dessert pairing rules and tips
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After a good meal, there is seemingly nothing sweeter than a good dessert. But pairing a sweet treat with a complementary bottle of wine is the epitome of saving the best for last. The combination has the ability to take dessert up a notch, bringing an air of sophistication as well as a fun tasting experience to the table.

The Sweetest Thing (Should be Your Wine)

There are lots of ways to go right while picking out a wine to finish off a meal, but there are also some ways to go wrong. To guard against that, there is one rule of thumb that should always be followed when scanning your local wine shop for the perfect sipper: The wine being chosen should always be sweeter than the actual dessert, according to Dan Rivas, general manager at Bank & Bourbon, located in the Loews Philadelphia Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Rivas went on to explain that if you’re looking to get a bit more specific, there are a few other ways to home in on wines to pair with a decadent cake or fruit-filled tart that will make all of the right flavor notes shine a bit brighter.

Match Like Flavors

“It can be helpful to try and match your wine and dessert based upon their similar flavors,” Rivas says. “One example would be a sparkling Moscato D’asti which has notes of fresh peach and pear and slight residual sugar which would match up beautifully with any dessert that incorporates fresh fruit and lavender.”

Cascinetta Vietti Moscato D'Asti on Saucey (price and availability varies)

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Calynne Daley, owner of Cakes By Calynne in Peconic, New York, not only pairs wine with cupcakes at an annual event on Long Island’s East End, but she also looks to wine as one of her main baking ingredients (her rosé cupcakes have been in high demand the last several years). This, she says, has taught her the balance between wine and sweets, and which flavors are the most complementary.

“I would pair a lemon dessert with a dry, crisp savingnon blanc, or a classic chocolate cupcake with a bold cabernet. For my rosé cupcakes, I add a little raspberry extract to complement the light raspberry flavors of the dry rosé,” she says. “I love a good nut flavored [dessert] paired with a riesling and a good chardonnay with a tropical flavor, such as coconut, is always a safe bet.”

Pairing Wine with Chocolate

A Dynamic DuoPerfect Pairings: Chocolate and WineChocolate treats, however, can be a bit tricky. Rivas says that starting your search with a fortified wine, such as Port or Madeira, is a catchall recommendation. However, you can get more specific depending on the type of chocolate that is in the dessert.

“With milk chocolate which is typically half chocolate and half milk, a ruby Port would be an excellent choice because it is going make for a more fruit and spice driven pairing. With dark chocolate, a tawny Port or Pedro Ximenez sherry pair wonderfully because they will add nutty and raisin flavors to the dessert. When pairing with white chocolate, some recommendations that tend to pair well are ice wines which will accentuate the dessert with notes of pineapple, and Brachetto D’acqui which will deliver notes of crème and raspberry,” he explains.

Sparkling Wines Always Shine

But, when all else fails and you’re at a loss, Daley says to go for the sparkling.

“I feel there is nothing better than a good sparkling wine paired with a good cupcake. Something about the bubbles I feel just enhances the flavors,” she says.

Easy Champagne Cupcakes recipe

Chowhound’s Champagne Cupcakes

Try Something New: Wine and Doughnuts

While traditional treats, like cookies and cakes, are always a go-to for special events, there is another trend that foodies have been choosing to follow when it comes to bringing something special and decadent for dessert—gourmet doughnuts. These, says James Lyon, owner of NoFo Doughnut Co. in Mattituck, New York, require a little more attention to detail when it comes to pairing them with wine.

“It’s important to nail down the specifics. Aromas, mouth feel, flavors, and many other things are all considered when choosing a pairing. It’s a little more difficult to wrap your head around the idea of pairing the traditional doughnut to something as elegant and sophisticated as wine, but we are trying to change that by elevating the finished product to something that can be accepted by the senses and the food and wine world,” he says.

While there are lots of doughnuts out there to be paired—like a black raspberry jelly doughnut alongside a fresh, bright rosé or a bold Port or Madeira with a chocolate cake doughnut—there is one classic pairing that would make for the perfect ending.

“I would pair a glazed doughnut with a good chenin blanc or a gewürztraminer. The sweetness or dryness of the style would lend itself well to the pure, uninterrupted sweetness of the glazed doughnut. Those wine styles can be both dry and sweet which I believe would make for a balanced treat with our classic glazed doughnut,” he says.

Related Reading: The Best Wine Clubs and Subscriptions | Stress-Free No-Bake Desserts

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