Sweet Wines for Sweeter Memories

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Story by Dave Eckert

I’ve long enjoyed a glass of sweet wine with a dessert at the end of a meal, though the decision of which dessert wine to match with which dessert is often a difficult one. Here, I’ll attempt to navigate the perfect pairing portal with dessert wine recommendations and a suggested sweet treat with which to pair them. All do the trick when it comes to closing the meal with a sweet memory.

Ceretto I Vignaioli di Santo Stefano Moscato d’Asti DOCG  (SRP $20)

The Ceretto and Scavino families, both prominent names in the production or Barolo and Barbaresco, founded this Piedmont winery in 1976 in a small town in the Langhe facing the Asti zone, famous for its moscato grape. Their Moscato d’Asti honors the delicious tradition of the region. A perfect balance of sweetness, acidity, and minerality, the wine dances across the palate with the grace of Misty Copeland and the liveliness of Charlie Parker. Enjoy this beautiful wine with fruit-based desserts, especially an apple pie or a tart tatin!

Acquesi Asti DOCG  (SRP $16.99)

Another treasure from the Moscato grape in Piedmont, Acquesi Asti has been described as irresistible, and I can see why. Sweeter than its Moscato d’Asti relatives, this 100% Moscato sparkling wine is made in the tank method, similar to prosecco. The wine opens with notes of honey, peach, and a touch of citrus. It’s the citrus, in my opinion, that helps keep the wine in balance despite its inescapable sweetness. I recommend pairing the Acquesi Asti with pastries and any sweet dessert with cream. 

Far Niente Dolce 2016  (SRP $100)

I’ve yet to meet anyone who was not immediately smitten with Dolce after sampling it for the first time. I have to admit that I am in that crowd, tasting and falling in love with it while doing an episode of my Public Broadcasting television series, Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed more than a few bottles of his Napa Valley, Sauternes-style sweetie. And, in fact, I still have a few bottles stashed in my cellar I should be getting around to.

There’s no question Dolce is a sweet wine, but what makes it truly special, in my opinion, is the balance of sweetness, spice, and earth. The 2016 vintage produced a stellar Dolce, loaded with aromas of apricot, pear, honeysuckle, all-spice, and vanilla. There’s also a viscosity to Dolce along with flavors of desserts along the lines of crème brulee or bread pudding, which is exactly what I would pair it with.

W I N E S  S H O W N  I N  S T O R Y  O R D E R

Cantine Florio Marsala Superiore Sweet 2019  (SRP $16.99)

Another Italian gem, this one from the sunny shores of Sicily, Marsala comes in many styles, ages, price ranges, and levels of sweetness. This version from arguably the finest Marsala producer, which introduced the now famous fortified wine in the 1800’s, is one of the most delicious, balanced, and elegant Marsala’s I’ve had the opportunity to taste. With notes of raisin, vanilla, almonds, and dried fruit, the Cantine Florio Marsala Superiore elevates both savory and sweet dishes. On the dessert side of things, I’d recommend pairing this gorgeous bottling with cakes and cookies, especially those containing nuts. You can thank me later.

Alvaro Domecq Pala Cortado Reserva 1730  (SRP $45)

Made from the Palomino grapes in the Jerez region of Spain, this sherry is special for its history, limited production, and mostly, its flavors and aromas. Aged for 30 years, and with a production of just 1,000 bottles, the Pala Cortado Reserva emits aromas of dried fruits and deep woody notes from its extended aging. The palate extends these notes while adding notes of dried fruits. This intense wine requires an intense dessert. I’m thinking of a classic fruitcake, though the more I contemplate the options, my wife’s sticky toffee pudding keeps rising to the top of the potential pairing’s list.

Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 2000  (SRP $99.99) 

I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend at least one bottling of what many consider the single best wine with which to pair dessert-Port. Featuring an intense red color, the wine sports aromas of ripe dark fruits along with hints of black pepper. Although the wine is undeniably sweet, the notes of earth and pepper make it both more complex and more open to different food pairing choices. My personal choice would be chocolate, preferably dark chocolate, perhaps in the form of a mousse or a chocolate silk pie.

So, there you have it-six dessert wine recommendations along with some suggested sweet partners. Here’s hoping you have a sweet and memorable Valentine’s Day and beyond. Cheers!

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