Wine is rapidly becoming the drink of choice among Americans. Not only is the number of people drinking wine increasing, the number of wines on the market is also on the rise. Experts estimate that, by 2015, Americans may even drink more wine than the French! No doubt you are familiar with the usual reds and whites, but did you know that there is also a category of wines that are sweet enough to replace your favorite dessert? Dessert wines are luscious after-dinner drinks that will linger on your palate more deliciously than any mousse, cake or pie. You’ve got to try one! Read on to learn more about these lovely sweet wines.
Dessert wines bring a novel and luscious end to a meal
Debra and Keith Gordon, authors of Wine on Tuesdays, are passionate about wine and want to foster your passion too. They believe wine is fun, fresh and meant to be enjoyed at all times – that includes at dessert.
Sure it’s easier to order the cheesecake, chocolate mousse or apple pie, but chances are you’ve already had them a time or two. What’s novel about that? Why not savoringly sip a sweet, full-flavored dessert wine, instead?
What is dessert wine?
In a word, ambrosia. The Gordons say that there is actually no clear definition of a dessert wine, but that these sweeter, full-flavored wines provide an ambrosial completion to the meal they follow. This is unlike the more acidic, lighter wines enjoyed during a meal. Acidic wines open the palate, sweet wines close it.
Typically, dessert wines are sold in half-bottles. The smaller quantity reflects the way these sweet wines are to be drank. You sip – not gulp – small amounts of a dessert wine after a meal. And packaging the wine in a smaller bottle means there is less wine to spoil before it is all drunk.
You can purchase your own bottles of dessert wines as well as order a glass at some of the more upscale restaurants. Following are the different types of dessert wines that you can try after your next evening meal.
Late Harvest Wines
According to the Gordons, late harvest wines come from grapes that are left on the vine longer than those picked for regular wines. The grapes are able to achieve higher levels of sugar, which means they also have higher levels of alcohol.
Dessert wines pair impeccably with fruit tarts or crÃ¨me brulee, but they are just as satisfying sipped on their own.
The Gordons suggest German Auslese, Beernauslese (only produced three out of every 10 years), and Trockenbeerenauslese (which has more sugar and alcohol). Look for dessert wines made by Wegeler-Deinhard, Pauly-Bergweiler, Dr H Thanish, Selback-Oster, and Schloss Saarstein.
Late harvest wines are also available from Washington, Oregon and Virginia.
Considered a very late harvest wine, ice wines are made from grapes that actually freeze on the vine. They are picked in the early morning hours (usually between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.) and then crushed.
According to the Gordons, ice wines are even sweeter than younger late harvest wines and they are ideal for aging. Ice wines are also more expensive than younger late harvest wines.
The most common grapes used in ice wines are Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon. These wines exude notes of honey, apricot, butterscotch, and spice, countered with a crisp acidity.
You will be surprised to find out that one of the finest wines in the world is made from a fungus that rots grapes. The Gordons explain that late in the growing season, Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc grapes left on the vine develop a fungus called botrytis cinerea, also known as “noble rot.”
The clusters of grapes shrivel like raisins and become highly concentrated in sugar. Once harvested, the grapes are turned into some of the most prized, long-lived wines in the world. What makes Sauternes so special is their clean flavor, complexity and balance. Their sweetness lingers on the palate long after you’ve finished your glass.
The Gordons recommend Tokaij of Hungary, German Trockenbeerenauslese, and, hands down, French Sauternes. Specifically, Chateau D’Yquem, Guirand, Rieussec, D’Arche and Lamothe. These are quite pricey, but worth the experience.
Drink your dessert
Once you start sampling dessert wines, with or without a perfectly paired dessert, you may just find that you’d rather drink dessert than eat it.
Debra and Keith Gordon want you to comfortably reach for a glass of dessert wine and enjoy it. Their book Wine on Tuesdays gives you a history of wine, explains the different varietals and food pairings, and provides shopping and ordering tips. Wine on Tuesdays is not a complicated stuffy book. It gives you an understandable approach to exploring the many types of wine as well as the confidence to buy, order and drink America’s new favorite drink.
For more information on how to be a serious wine drinker without taking wine seriously, visit the Gordons’ Wine on Tuesdays blog. And be sure to check out the SheKnows.com Food and Cooking Channel for articles on wine, beer, and cocktails and foods to pair with them.