Most people know that white wines go well with chicken or fish, and red wines tend to pair better with red meats and pork. I don't know too many people that can pair wines with desserts. With Valentine's day coming up, this could be a fun way to try something different with your Valentine. Desserts are an interesting thing to pair wines with. You have to consider the sugar content and the alcohol content of the wine compared to the sweetness and richness of the dessert. I have some guidelines with examples to help.
1. Pair dessert with wines that are sweeter than the dessert. If you sample a sweet dessert and then sip a wine that is less sweet, the wine will suddenly taste flat or sour.
Example: Try some lightly sweetened fresh fruit with a Moscato d'Asti.
2. Match the weight of the wine to the richness of the dessert.
Example: Pair lighter-bodied wines having little or no oak with fresh fruit desserts. Late harvest whites with a little more body, perhaps aged in oak, pair well with caramel and buttery flavors. Full-bodied whites or ice wines are great with rich dairy desserts like creme brulee.
3. Carbonation makes wine versatile and refreshing. Sweet sparkiling wines are subtle enough to avoid overwhelming lighter desserts, while providing a nice palate-cleanser for richer desserts.
Example: A sparkling muscat is great with a delicate poached peach, and a sparkling Vouvray can keep a dense cheesecake from becoming overwhelming.
4. Fortified wines, with typically higher alcohol levels, stand up to rich desserts with flavors of nuts, caramel and chocolate.
Example: Sherry almost always pairs well with nuts. The tannin in port and port-style wines is a great match to chocolate.
5. Look to compliment, marry, or gently contrast the dessert's flavors with the wine.
Example: A lively wine with citrus notes, perhaps a late harvest riesling, will enliven a dessert that calls for citrus flavors. The caramel flavors of Madeira make it a nice pairing to a tarte Tatin.
6. Don't make your wine and dessert fight for attention. If the wine is complex, show it off with a simpler dessert. To highlight a dessert with many elements or flavors, choose a more straightforward wine.
Example: Save your finest wines for sipping with the simplest of sweets.
Anthony Scolero is the sous chef at Westfield Center’s Blair Center, Country Club and cafeteria. He is in charge of scheduling, managing costs, developing menus, training kitchen employees, ordering, monitoring inventory and creating recipes. Anthony has 11 years in the hospitality industry and has developed his expertise in food preparations and cooking, kitchen operations and food safety.