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Save Some Room for Dessert Wines

Dessert Wines

Jan. 9, 2020

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, consumers are already making their plans for a special meal, whether cooking at home or dining out as part of their celebration. A romantic dinner ranks among the most popular ways for partners to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Diners are naturally inclined to make a meal more special with dessert, so this is a perfect time to enhance your knowledge of the dessert wine category to maximize the potential inherent in these sweet varietals. Dessert wines make a great alternative for diners not looking for a heavy dessert option, yet they can pair well with any dessert choices your customers make.


Today’s consumers can choose from a variety of new world port-style wines that utilize the Port name, however, authentic port originates from the Douru Valley of Northeast Portugal, established in 1756 as one of the world’s oldest demarcated wine regions.

Port is a sweet red wine made with dozens of traditional Portuguese grapes including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz. The grapes are collected and fermented together in open tanks where the grapes must be stomped gently to retain the sweetness. After this process, the resulting winemaking processes create the different categories of port.

Ruby Port

An introductory style of port that gets less or no exposure to wood, retaining its deep ruby/purple color and has a freshly minted flavor much less sweet than tawny port.

Tawny Port

A sweeter port aged much longer in large wooden casks and smaller wooden barrels. The longer a tawny port ages, the more nutty and figgy it becomes.


These wines account for two percent of the total port production, and vintage years are declared only three times per decade. They are bottled young and are meant to be aged about 20-50 years before drinking, and usually require decanting.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)

Vintage dated port is designed to be enjoyed earlier in their youth. Aged four to six years in large wood vessels, these ports show more oxidative character and do not require additional aging or decanting.

Port-Style Wines, a.k.a. Vin Doux Naturel

While official port hails from Portugal, producers all over the world create port-style wines such as pinot poir port or zinfandel port.

How to Pair Port

A port wine can serve as a treat on its own for customers who are looking to skip a heavy dessert course. It also pairs well with traditional cream tarts or crème brûlée. Port can also complement exotic chocolates, or vanilla or coffee ice cream.


A fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near Andalusia, Spain, Sherry goes through two different types of aging: biological and oxidative.

Biological Aging

Fortified to 15-15.5° alcohol, the wine keeps the flor, which protects the wine from oxidation while consuming the acids.

Some biologically aged sherries include:

A light and dry sherry with tart and nutty flavors.

A specific variety of Fino Sherry from a specialized region, even lighter than Fino.

A medium-dry sherry that is darker than Fino. characterized by nutty aromas, tobacco, aromatic herbs and polished notes of oak.

Oxidative Aging

Fortified to 17-18° alcohol, the wine loses the flor, and is exposed to oxidation.

Some oxidatively aged sherries include:

A darker sherry that is aged longer than others. Olorosos can be sweet or dry in style.

Pedro Ximénez
A very sweet, ebony colored sherry. Velvety and syrupy, with brown sugar and notes of fig.

A sweet style of Sherry made by blending Oloroso with Pedro Ximénez Sherry.

How to Pair Sherry

Sherries can complement rich desserts that won’t be overpowered by the sweetness. Dark chocolates, tiramisu and any variety of fruit pair well with sherry.


There’s a wide variety of dessert wines, some of which your customers may not have previously thought of as dessert wines. Here are some other options to offer curious consumers.

Late Harvest Wines

Made from grapes left on the vine after peak ripeness, which results in a higher sugar concentration, yielding a sweet wine.

Examples of Late Harvest Wine include:

Sweet, with a tingling acidity that pairs well with lemon cream pie or lemon pound cake.

Vidal Blanc
Rich and concentrated, suggest pairing Vidal with macaroons or a nutty cheese.

A classic dessert wine hailing from Bordeaux, this luxurious blend of Sauvignon blanc and Sémillion grapes pairs nicely with crème based desserts like vanilla pot de crème or crème brûlée.

Sparkling Dessert Wines

Champagne is very versatile, but the Demi-Sec and Doux varietals are quite sweet and very pairable with desserts. Sparkling moscato, such as Moscato d’Asti and Asti Spumante are classic examples as well.


Still moscato is another sweet grape. Lighter than most dessert wines, the aromatics are sweet and fruity, while having less sugar than their sweetness would suggest. A great option for health-conscious customers who are counting carbs.

There are almost as many options for dessert wines as there are dessert courses. Talk to your Sales Consultant today to craft your dessert wine strategy.