10 Perfect Wine & Dessert Pairings

Dessert wines are sweet, fortified wines, typically enjoyed after a meal as a sweet treat. These wines are made from grapes that have been left to ripen for longer, resulting in higher sugar content. Additionally, some dessert wines are fortified with brandy, increasing their alcohol content and adding depth to their flavor profile.

These wines come in various styles, ranging from light and sweet Moscatos to rich and full-bodied Ports. Whether you prefer a sweet and fruity wine or a bold and spicy one, there is a dessert wine to suit every taste. And when paired with the right dessert, they can create a truly unforgettable culinary experience.

In this article, we’ll explore 10 of the perfect wine and dessert pairings, from classic combinations like Chardonnay and apple pie to more unconventional pairings like Syrah and red velvet cupcakes. Whether you’re a wine lover or have a sweet tooth, these pairings will satisfy you.

Moscato and Fruit Tart

Moscato is a sweet and light wine that complements the sweetness of fruit tarts, making it a perfect pairing. The wine’s natural fruitiness also enhances the flavor of the fruit in the tart, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.

I recommend you try one of these great examples:

Paolo Saracco Moscato d’Asti DOCG

This excellent wine from Paolo Saracco offers excellent value. Well worth a try.
Critic tasting note: (2021 vintage) “This lovely, sweet sparkler opens with heady aromas of yellow stone fruit, spring blossoms and wild aromatic herbs. The savory palate delivers ripe apricot, creamy yellow peach, rosemary and sage. Crisp acidity not only keeps it focused and tangy, but seamlessly balances the sweetness so it’s never cloying but always bright and racy. A refined, foaming mousse provides lots of finesse. Kerin O’Keefe” – 95/100Wine Enthusiast

Caudrina Romano Dogliotti ‘La Caudrina’

Critic tasting note: (2016 vintage) “The nose is fruity , gourmand, fine and quite elegant . It reveals notes of candied green lemon , candied mandarin and small notes of white fruits/ apple associated with a discreet hint of flowers as well as an imperceptible hint of white ppeper . The palate is fruity , well-balanced , supple and offers fat, a nice volume, a slight acidity as well as a beautiful mineral frame. In the mouth this wine expresses notes of candied white peach , cr ystallized mandarin and small notes of candied lemon associated with a subtle hint of flowers , pineapple as well as an imperceptible hint of orange blossom (in the background). Good length .” – 90 – 91/100VertdeVin

La Spinetta Bricco Quaglia

Critic tasting note: (2008 vintage) “This Moscato d’Asti offers beautiful aromatic intensity to match its luminous golden color. The wine is fresh and zippy in the mouth but then that natural sweetness takes over and caresses the palate. This is an excellent example of Piedmont’s favorite sparkling dessert wine.” – 88/100Wine Enthusiast

Port Wine and Dark Chocolate Truffles

Port wine has a rich and sweet flavor that is perfectly complemented by dark chocolate truffles’ smooth and decadent taste. The wine’s high sugar content also helps to balance the bitterness of the dark chocolate, making it an indulgent and luxurious treat.

Try one of these excellent Port examples with your truffles:

Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port

Expert tasting note: (1985 vintage) “The wine is starting to lose its deep red color & become quite brickish. The aromas are at a mid-point between plumy & pruney red fruits & dried fig & date. There is an overlaying of spirit & chocolatey notes. There is good sweetness, but its richness & freshness help to balance this. The wine has fresh plummy fruit & a rounder, more developed, figginess. The alcohol is warming & rounds out the finish. There is a lovely long complex finish.” – 06/20 DCAMW

Fonseca Vintage Port

Critic tasting note: (2017 vintage) “(2020) A youthful solidity to this, pure, vinous plum and cherry black fruits, gorgeous silkiness and the sheer concentration of the components – fruit, tannin and acid – are going to give this terrific longevity surely. Price quoted is per bottle, but most retailers are offering in-bond, and by the six-bottle case at time of review.” – 95/100Tom Cannavan

W & J Graham’s Single Harvest Tawny Port

Critic tasting note: (1994 vintage) “Bottled in 2018 after nearly 25 years in wood, this wine is sumptuous with its rich toffee and spice flavors. They contrast with the hints of fresh acidity from the wood aging, giving a dry core to the mature sweet fruits. The wine is completely ready to drink. Roger Voss” – 95/100Wine Enthusiast

Riesling and Cheesecake

Riesling is a sweet wine with a bright acidity that perfectly balances the richness of the cheesecake. The wine’s sweetness also helps to highlight the natural sweetness of the cheesecake, creating a perfect match of flavors.

Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Riesling Kabinett 2017

This Kabinett is a fresh, crisp wine with lingering sweetness balanced by tart lemon-lime acidity. Delicate wisps of smoke and earth lend touches of complexity throughout, adding dimensions to its fruity character.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese

Spätlese Riesling is richer and more intense in flavor than Kabinett. It has a lively minerality that perfectly balances the bright white peach and lemon fruit you’ll find here. Worth seeking out.

Ransom Sunnyside Vineyard Riesling (Willamette Valley of Oregon)

From the vineyard themselves, “This single vineyard, old vine bottling from the South Salem Hills is a classic, terroir-revealing Riesling. Opening with fresh fruit aromas of key lime and pineapple, the palate offers vivid acidity and flavors of Meyer lemon zest and candied ginger wrapped around a mineral vein. The wine finishes fresh and bright, with a beguiling note of honeysuckle blossom. A delight to drink now, but also exceedingly age-worthy.” 

Chardonnay and Apple Pie

Chardonnay’s rich buttery flavors pair perfectly with apple pie’s sweet and cinnamon-spiced flavors. The wine’s natural sweetness also complements the pie’s sweetness, making it a perfect dessert wine.

I recommend that you look out for one of the following:

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay

This vineyard is located in California, and it’s a great place to start your search for a good Chardonnay with crab legs. This wine is made from grapes grown in the Sonoma Valley, where the climate is ideal for growing them. Fermented and aged in French and American oak barrels for richness, toastiness, and complexity.

J. Lohr Chardonnay

This California winery has been making award-winning wines for over 30 years, and this Chardonnay is no exception. They use grapes from their own vineyards in Monterey County, so you can be sure the quality is always high. This wine has a rich golden color with notes of citrus and vanilla on the nose.

Ladera Vineyards Chardonnay

This Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands, a cool climate area. It’s aged in French oak barrels for about 15 months before bottling and has notes of vanilla and toasted hazelnuts on the nose.

Hagafen Cellars “Reserve” Napa Valley Chardonnay

Made from grapes grown in Napa Valley. It has a rich golden color with notes of citrus, vanilla, and toasted hazelnuts on the nose. It’s aged for about 18 months in French oak barrels before bottling.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Brownies

Cabernet Sauvignon’s bold and rich flavors perfectly match brownies’ rich, chocolatey flavor. The wine’s high tannins also help balance the brownies’ sweetness, creating a harmonious balance of flavors. Give one of these excellent Cabernet a try with your Brownies:

Substance ‘Cs’ Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

From the winery itself, “Classic Cabernet Sauvignon. Currant, blackberry, cigar box with touches of chocolate, cedar, and pencil lead. Full flavored & just so damn good. I should raise the price!”

Château Lynch-BagesPauillac (Grand Cru Classé) 2016

It exhibits a deep red color with dark fruit, cassis, blackcurrants, and a distinctive hint of mint. The palate is full in body with ripe tannins and cassis throughout. The finish is long.

Flat Top Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. It is distinctly dark fruit on the palate with cocoa and vanilla notes. It has gentle spices like nutmeg and cassis. The finish is smooth, long, and velvety.

Merlot and Pecan Pie

Merlot’s soft and fruity flavors complement pecan pie’s sweet and nutty flavors. The wine’s natural sweetness also helps balance the pie’s richness, making it a perfect dessert wine.

These examples are all perfect with Pecan Pie:

Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Merlot 2019

This mountainside Napa red, from the historic estate Mayacamas, has 5% cabernet franc in the blend that seems to lift the herbal notes on the nose. Bright blueberry fruit is balanced by savory mushroom and pencil-lead flavors that are brilliantly held by the acidity and fine firm tannins that allow this to age.

Arietta 2019 Merlot “Hudson” Carneros Napa

The 2019 Merlot Hudson Vineyard is full of dark fruit, chocolate, and other savory notes that add complexity to the wine. The wine has a fruity bouquet, with aromas of fresh blueberries and raspberries mixed with vanilla and oak.

Château Lyonnat Emotion, Lussac Saint-Emilion, 2016

The wine’s deep and intense ruby color is accented by a powerful nose with aromas of black fruits, blackcurrant, and darker berries. Notes of toasty oak lend complexity to an already complex bouquet. 

The wine’s aroma and flavor are bold yet elegant. The woodsy scent of truffles lingers on the palate after each sip is swallowed.

Sparkling Wine and Macarons

Sparkling wine’s effervescence and lightness make it a perfect match for macarons’ delicate and sweet flavors. The wine’s natural sweetness also enhances the sweetness of the macarons, creating a perfect balance of flavors.

Try a Champagne, Processo, or Cava with your Macarons. If it’s a special occasion, it must be Champagne. Otherwise, Prosecco and Cava are great substitutes. Here are some of the best examples of each:

Best Champagne

Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut

The absolute pinnacle of Champagne, but you will need deep pockets.

Vineyard notes: “Krug’s Clos du Mesnil plot, with its south-eastern orientation, was initially intended to ensure a regular supply of Chardonnay wines to enrich the blend of Krug Grande Cuvée but the savoir-faire of the House of Krug revealed more. Year after year, as the wines from the grapes of this tiny plot were followed and tasted, their character was consistently and uniquely beautiful. Perhaps due to the microclimate the walls created, to the protection of being right in the village, or to the men who built those walls back in 1698 knowing something we do not, the fact remained: The wines of Krug’s Clos du Mesnil stood out, time and again.”

2012 Bollinger La Grande Annee Brut

Award tasting note: “This goes from zero to 60 right out of the gate, with an intense spine of acidity driving tightly meshed flavors of crushed black currant, ground coffee, candied grapefruit peel and toasted almond. The profile expands on the palate, carried by the fine, raw silk–like mousse. Richly aromatic and expressive from start to lasting, spiced finish. Disgorged July 2019. Drink now through 2037. 850 cases imported. —AN” – Wine Spectator Top 100 #10Wine Spectator Top 100

Ruinart Brut Rose

This is my personal favorite. Delicate, fruity, and delightfully light on the palate.  An excellent yet affordable luxury.

Award tasting note: “Youthful, quite fruity style with easy appeal and drinkability.” – BronzeInternational Wine Challenge

Best Cava

Recaredo Turo d’en Mota Cava 

This Cava is produced in the Penedes region of Catalonia, Spain. The wine was awarded a gold medal at the 2011 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, which has been called “the most important competition for sparkling wines in the world.”

Miani Zitelle Cava Sauvignon Blanc Colli Orientali del Friuli

This sparkling wine is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy. It’s aged for at least 15 months before release and has a fresh, crisp taste with tropical fruits and citrus flavors.

Llopart Original 1887 Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava 

This Cava was created in 1887 by the Llopart family, who have been making wine for seven generations. It’s made from 100% Macabeo grapes and is aged for at least 12 months before release. The result is a dry, crisp sparkling wine with fruity apple, pear, and banana notes.

Best Prosecco

Bottega ‘Gold’ Prosecco Brut

Critic tasting note: “Packaged in what looks like a solid gold bottle, this easy sparkler offers fresh acidity and clean fruit aromas. The gold packaging gives this particular bottle a sassy, luxurious competitive edge.” – 85/100Wine Enthusiast

Bisol Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG

Award tasting note: (2021 vintage) “Melon and pear drop foaming creation with a sweet edge and citrus balance.” – SilverInternational Wine Challenge

Masottina Prosecco di Treviso Brut

Prosecco isn’t generally expensive anyway, but this one provides even more value. An absolute bargain given the quality of the wine on offer.

Award tasting note: “Clean, fresh, floral notes with lovely lime and citrus flavors on the palate. – Panel Chair: Clive Barlow MW , Co-Chair: Oz Clarke” – BronzeInternational Wine Challenge

Zinfandel and Carrot Cake

Zinfandel’s bold and spicy flavors are the perfect match for carrot cake’s sweet and cinnamon-spiced flavors. The wine’s natural sweetness also helps balance the cake’s richness, making it a perfect dessert wine.

I recommend that you check out one of these Zinfandels:

Journeyman Wines, San Lorenzo ‘The Pearl’ Old Vine Red (Alexander Valley)

A floral bouquet with notes of tobacco and anise. This is a bold, full-bodied red. It has rich flavors of chocolate, with dark fruits and pepper. Velvet smooth mouthfeel and a tannic finish. Let it breathe before serving.

Hartford Family Winery Hartford Dina’s Vineyard Zinfandel

Hartford Russian River Valley Zinfandel presents aromas of ripe plum, blackberry, and black cherry. White pepper and allspice add complexity to this wine’s fruity bouquet. A burst of blueberry, raspberry, nutmeg, and chocolate flavors leads to a long-lasting finish.

Carlisle Papera Ranch Zinfandel 2020

Another excellent Zinfandel from Russian River, California. 

Ruby-red in color. On the nose, it is bright cherry with aromas of blackberry and raspberry, with notes of vanilla and tobacco. It is medium-full-bodied and very smooth on the palate. 

Sauvignon Blanc and Lemon Bars

Sauvignon Blanc’s bright and crisp flavors match lemon bars’ tart and sweet flavors. The wine’s acidity also helps balance the bars’ sweetness, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.

What a combination. Try these Sauvignon Blanc with Lemon bars:

Bread & Butter North Coast Sauvignon Blanc

This Sauvignon Blanc has bright aromas of lemon zest, hints of tropical fruit, lively flavors with citrus notes, and a rich texture and clean finish.

2021 Decoy California Sauvignon Blanc

Aromas of pineapple, lemon, and green apple lead the way for this crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Underneath those fresh scents is a layer of lime zest that adds another exciting dimension to your taste, which lingers in your mouth long after each sip.

Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc 2017

This Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of ripe kiwi, lemon, and lime accented by hints of green apples. The palate is full and creamy with a rich mouthfeel balanced by crisp acidity.

Syrah (Shiraz) and Red Velvet Cupcakes

Syrah’s bold and spicy flavors match red velvet cupcakes’ rich and chocolatey flavor. The wine’s high tannins also help balance the cupcakes’ sweetness, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.

These are some of the best Syrah (Shiraz) you should try:

Calcareous Reserve Syrah 2020, Paso Robles

From the winery. “Aged in 40% deeply toasted French barrels for 18 months, our Estate Syrah is made to showcase the depth and power of the varietal from our soil. Full of juicy blackberry, dark cocoa, and tar mingling with rich fully ripe tannin, this massive wine is built for marbled rib eye and slow-smoked pork shoulder. It should age exquisitely for 12+ years.”    

Lewis Cellars Alec’s Blend 2018

A great wine to pair with. Flavors of black and red fruits with black pepper. Notes of vanilla and chocolate with good acidity. Blended 57% Syrah, 28% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest Cabernet Franc.

Seppeltsfield 2018 Shiraz (Barossa Valley)

You can’t have a list of great Shiraz without a Barossa Valley, and this is a cracker. It is a bold red with a fruity bouquet of dark cherry and blackberry with hints of oak, vanilla, and coffee. Acidity is good with medium tannins.  Highly recommended.

Recommended Recipe

OK, who doesn’t love a wine and chocolate pairing? For this recommended recipe I have gone with the Port and Dark Chocolate Truffles pairing.

Abigail Spooner’s superb recipe for the Ultimate chocolate truffles is simple but rewarding. Offer these to your guests with a glass of Port.

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