Pairing Wine With Desserts

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Pairing wine with dessert can be tricky. There are many wines that will simply clash with the sweetness of most desserts and make for an unpleasant experience. There are many dessert wines that are very sweet, but you do not necessarily have to stick with dessert wines for a quality pairing. One rule of thumb to remember is to choose a wine that is sweeter than the dessert, but as you will see below, there are times when a dry wine offers a lovely balance to the sweetness of the dessert. 

Best Red Wine to Pair with Desserts

Red is usually not a go-to with dessert, but there are some pairings that work. You will likely want to stick with the lighter, fruit-forward reds.

  • Montepulciano: medium-bodied with high acidity and notes of plum and cherry.
  • Pinot Noir: food-friendly, light, sweet red, high on aromatics.
  • Lambrusco: a slight bubbliness with strong berry notes.
  • Port: typically, rich and sweet with notes of berry, caramel and chocolate.

Best White Wine to Pair with Desserts

White wines deliver the sweetness needed to pair with most desserts.

  • Cava: Sparkling wine of Spain with quince, yellow apple and almond notes.
  • Sauternes: sweet dessert wine with notes of tropical fruit and butterscotch.
  • Champagne: Bubbly, floral and fruity with notes of citrus, peach or cherry.
  • Rosé: bold berry flavor with bright acidity.  
  • Riesling: Light, sweet, crisp and highly acidic. Known for being food-friendly.

Pairing Wine With Various Desserts

Wine With Cheesecake

Riesling and Chardonnay both complement the creamy, dense characteristics of a classic cheesecake, however you will want to take care when it comes to flavored cheesecake and base your wine selection off of the primary flavor.

Wine With Tiramisu

A sweeter dessert wine, such as Moscato or Cava is sure to elevate your Tiramisu. 

Wine With Chocolate

Chocolate desserts, whether it be chocolate cake, brownies, or torts, for example, are one of the few that go well with red wine. A red that is loaded with berry flavor and light on tannins really complements the richness of the chocolate. Try a Pinot Noir, Lambrusco or Port to elevate your chocolate dessert. 

An exception to this is white chocolate. It may seem counter-intuitive, but pair white chocolate with a Sauvignon Blanc or Verdejo. 

Wine With Apple Pie, Apple Crisp, or Baked Apples

Gewürztraminer and Cava both bring notes of apple and spice that perfectly complement the flavors in baked apple desserts.

Wine With Lemon Meringue Pie, Key Lime Pie, Lemon Bars

Ice Wine or Champagne have the sweetness to balance the tart flavors in these citrus-based desserts. A Chardonnay will also pair marvelously with the buttery crust.

Wine With Berry Crisp, Berry Pies, Strawberry Shortcake

Cava or Rosé make a lovely match to berry-focused desserts.

Wine With Peach Cobbler or Pie

A Riesling will be your best choice with Peach Cobbler or Peach Pie, but you could also go with a Pinot Blanc or Champagne.

Wine With Crème Brûlée & Custard

The best wine here is going to be Sauternes. It is perfect with any custard dessert. 

Wine With Spiced Desserts

Think Pumpkin Pie or Carrot Cake. These desserts will do well with a Tawny Port or Sherry.

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