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In Good Taste

Introduction to Dessert Wines

Introduction to Dessert Wines

Wines That Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Maybe it goes without saying, but we think that a good meal just isn’t complete without the perfect glass of wine to compliment the complex flavors of your favorite dish. What can we say – we’re always down for a little wine to enhance every moment! Whether you’re enjoying that delicious vino as an appetizer or with your entree, we believe that our favorite beverage is the perfect addition to any part of a meal – including dessert. In fact, the right wine could even become the dessert itself!

Ladies, gents, and wine lovers of all ages (above 21 years, of course), it’s time to talk about the sweet, decadent world of dessert wines. We’ll get into how these sweet wines are made, the different types of dessert wines from around the globe, and talk about some of our favorite dessert wine pairings. 

Ready to satisfy that sweet tooth? Excellent, so are we! Let’s take a closer look at dessert wines, together. 

Dessert Wines

As the name suggests, dessert wines are typically enjoyed after a meal as dessert. In the UK, they are sometimes referred to as pudding wines. Many countries have their own unique versions of dessert wines, including Port from Portugal, Sherry from Spain, and Ice Wine from Canada, just to name a few. We’ll get into the specifics of these wines later, but first, we need to discuss just what makes dessert wines so decadent and sweet. 

In addition to being much sweeter than your average table wine, dessert wines also have higher alcohol content. This decadence and higher ABV (alcohol by volume) are achieved through a variety of different techniques:

Graphic with Pink Background, and 4 images cropped into circles that show processes used for Dessert Wines: Late Harvest, Fortification, Noble Rot, and Straw Mat.Dessert Wines also have higher alcohol content. This decadence and higher ABV area achieved through a variety of different techniques.

Late Harvest

Grapes that are harvested later in the growing season are more ripe, meaning that they have a higher sugar content and will ultimately result in a sweeter wine. 

Fortification

Fortified wines are made when a spirit, such as grape brandy, is added to a wine base. This gives the wines a higher ABV and a longer shelf life. Fortified wines are sometimes referred to as distinct from dessert wines, depending on the type of wine and place of origin.

Noble Rot

Okay, the name is pretty gross, but bear with us. Noble rot is a type of spore called “Botrytis cinerea” that eats fruits and vegetables. Noble rot on grapes adds enticing aromas of ginger, saffron, and honey, adding to the sweetness of a future wine. 

Straw Mat

Also called raisin wine, in the straw mat method, grapes are laid out on – you guessed it – a straw mat to raisinate before winemaking. This concentrates the sweetness in the grape before the wine is made. 

Now that we know how to make dessert wine, you’re probably wondering … which ones should you try? First, it might be helpful to get acquainted with the different types of dessert wines that you may encounter the next time you’re out wine shopping. Let’s take a look at some of the varietals that you’re likely to see!

Types of Dessert Wines

It seems that many of the wine-famous regions across the world have created their own version of a wine worthy of the dessert title, and each one is created in its own unique way that lends to distinct aromas and flavors. Let’s take a trip around the wine globe to discover a few of the most well-known dessert wines out there!

Madeira Wines - expect nutty, sweet notes of walnut oil, hazelnut, peach and caramel.

Madeira

Madeira hails from the Madeira islands off the coast of Portugal, and is made in a unique process that involves oxidizing the wine using heat and aging. Most Madeira (approximately 85% to be exact) produced is made from the red grape Negra Mole. Quality Madeira is a rare find and is prized among serious wine collectors, so it can often be rather costly. When drinking Madeira, expect nutty, sweet notes of walnut oil, hazelnut, peach, and caramel, and has an ABV between 17-22%.

Marsala Wine - fortified and best served slightly cool

Marsala

Italy’s contribution to the dessert wine scene comes in the form of Marsala, a fortified wine that is best served slightly cool and has an ABV between 15-20%. It comes in a variety of colors, from a buttery golden to a dark ruby shade. It is also a popular wine to cook with in Italian restaurants, especially the well-known dish, chicken marsala. 

Port Wines - typically have notes of raspberry, blackberry and bitter chocolate

Port

Port wine originates from Northern Portugal along the ancient Douro River. It is made using a variety of grapes that are native to Portugal, including Souzsa, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz. During fermentation for Port, the wine is strained and blended (or fortified) with a clear grape spirit, resulting in a higher ABV (around 20%) and enhanced shelf life. Ports typically have notes of raspberry, blackberry, and bitter chocolate. 

Sherry Wines - made from Palimino, Pedro Ximenez, and Moscatel grapes

Sherry

Hailing from the Jerez region of Spain, Sherry is a fortified wine that is made from Palimino, Pedro Ximēnez, and Moscatel grapes. During the winemaking process, the wine is intentionally overexposed to oxygen, resulting in a unique array of nutty, briney aromas.

 

Vermouth

A common ingredient in some of your favorite cocktails, Vermouth is a fortified wine that can either be sweet and red or dry and white. While a dry, white Vermouth is typically found in a Manhattan or a Negroni, we’re going to focus on its sweeter counterpart. The dessert Vermouth, or Italian Vermouth, is red, mildly bitter, slightly sweet, and full-bodied. You can expect Vermouth to have an ABV between 15-18%.

Ice Wine

Typically found in Austria, Germany, and Canada, Ice Wine is a rare type of dessert wine that is only made in years when a vineyard freezes over completely. The grapes must be harvested and pressed while frozen, and have refreshing notes of honey, citrus, and stone fruit. Because of the specific conditions needed to produce ice wine, it can typically be pretty pricey per bottle. The ABV of ice wine is lower than other dessert wines, usually coming in between 8-13%. 

Vin de Liqueur

Vin de Liqueur is a type of fortified dessert wine originally made in France. It is made when brandy is added to the unfermented grape must and has an average ABV of 16-22%. While the term originated in France, vin de liqueur is the term used by the European Union to refer to all fortified wines. 

Dessert Wine Pairings

While the rich flavors of dessert wine can be easily enjoyed on their own, you can’t go wrong pairing these sweet wines with salty cheeses or a savory charcuterie board. They also compliment the dark, luscious flavors of a layered chocolate cake or creme brulee. 

We think that all of these dessert wines sound pretty sweet, don’t you? Consider changing up that after-dinner Cabernet with wine that is truly worthy of dessert status! With so many dessert wines out there to try, you’re sure to discover one that’s as unique and sweet as you are.

Rosé of Sangiovese

Andiamo

Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.

$19.99

Montepulciano

Andiamo

Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

$20.99

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

$19.99

Pinot Noir

Unprecedented

We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

$25.99

Coteaux Bourguignons

Passport

The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.

$25.99

Verdicchio

Andiamo

A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.

$23.99

Côtes du Rhône White

Passport

This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.

$23.99

Bordeaux Rouge

Passport

When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.

$21.99

Ventoux Rosé

Passport

You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.

$21.99

Grenache

La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.

$27.99

Barbera

Andiamo

We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.

$21.99

Vermentino

Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.

$23.99

Viognier

Unprecedented

For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.

$24.99

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