Wine pairing for the connoisseur is important for any meal. Since dessert and dessert wines are the last course, they leave biggest impression. White wine for poultry and seafood, red wine for red meat, is the norm. The type of dessert wine served should be decided by the dessert being served.
Types of Dessert Wines
Some people drink wine before or with meals; these are called table wines. There are also wines that are drunk after meals. They are aptly called dessert wines. Dessert wines are either served with desserts, such as pastries and fruits or enjoyed alone. It’s the cherry on top of any meal.
Many different dessert wines are out there but which ones are the best? There are wines that are late harvested like Spatlese, which are made of overripe grapes. The overripe grapes give it a sweeter taste, making it very appropriate for dessert. There are also wines like the Recioto and Vin Santo from Italy which is made from dried grapes. Some dessert wines are made from the mold Botrytis Cinerea. Examples of these wines are Sauternes from Bordeaux, Tokaji Aszú from Hungary, Tokaj from Slovakia and Beerenauslese from Germany.
What the heck is Botrytis Cinerea, you may ask? It’s a plant pathogen and its usual host is wine grapes. The fungus grows on the grapes, and while it is doing so, it is removing water from the grapes. Why is that essential? It leaves a higher percentage of sugars, minerals and fruit acids, creating a sweeter wine, fit for dessert.
How To Make Dessert Wines
Dessert wines taste is sweet, obviously. (Hey, they do need to make up for the chocolate cake that it’s substituting). Their sweetness ranges from slight, with less than 50 grams of sugar per liter of wine to incredibly sweet, containing over 400 grams of sugar per liter of wine.
People and companies making dessert wines aim to produce wines that contain high amounts of sugar and alcohol, with sugar being produced from alcohol. Winemakers have special procedures to increase the sweetness content in dessert wines. Some of these ways involve growing sweet grapes naturally. The sugar in these grapes will be enough for both the sweetness and the level of alcohol.
Another way to make a wine sweeter is to add sugar itself. This could be done by chaptalization. This method involves adding sugar or honey before fermentation. Another method is to add sugar or honey to the wine after fermentation. This is called sussreserve and involves the usage of sulphites.
Sweetening dessert wines can also be done by adding alcohol to the natural sugar in grape juice. This method is called fortification or mutage. Usually, brandy is the alcohol that is used.
Removing water from the grape juice can make the sugar more concentrated. In places with warmer weather, this is done by air drying the grapes, the main component of raisin wine. In cold climates, concentrating the sugar is done by freezing some of the water in grape juice. Finally, in damp temperate climates, the grapes are purposely inflicted with the fungus Botrytis Cinerea to desiccate the grapes with noble rot.
When serving dessert wines with food, it’s important to note that the wine must be sweeter than the food it is served with. White dessert wines are best served chilled. Red dessert wines are served at room temperature. So next time you’re eating a piece of cake with a glass of wine, you can appreciate the time and effort that was put into your delicious and sweet wine.