Most people will agree that wine and dessert go well together, holding hands as they skip into the sunset of your mouth. Just the very image of a glass of wine next to a plate of tiramisu is enough to make most people salivate, drooling like a person about to fall in love at first bite. It seems simple enough: a glass of wine, a plate of sweets, a taste bud or fifty, but wining and dining in this manner needs more than a Twinkie and a bottle of sugary liquid; it requires proper pairing of food and wine for the ultimate experience. It also requires a knowledge of what the term “dessert wine” truly entails.
Dessert wines, by definition, are pretty simple: they are wines often served with a dessert. They contain a rainbow of flavors including peach, herb, oak, and berry. When consumed with an after dinner dish – or added to a cream – their tang and potency creates a wonderful combination. Even for desserts or creams laden in lightness, the vividness of a dessert wine can make a world of difference. A general rule of thumb is that dessert wines should be sweeter than the desserts they are served with.
Standing alone sometimes, dessert wines do not always play the role of the sidekick. Dessert wines are also wines of independence – enlightening others, preaching equality and singing “I’m a wino, hear me pour in bottles too big to ignore” for whomever will listen. In short, they are served without food as often as they are served with it.
Dessert wines include wines that are easily spelled, such as sherry, ice wine, and port, to wines that you need to practically be a linguist to pronounce, such as Tokaji Aszu, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and Vin Doux naturel. These wines, by nature, are often highly sweet - offering kind words through the grapevine and opening the cellar door for others. This makes them hard to handle for those who don't have a sweet tooth. For this reason, they are sold in small bottles, as well as larger ones.
In the United States, the legal definition of dessert wines is different than in other places; here, dessert wine is defined as a wine that contains 14 percent alcohol or more. Simply, the U.S. believes that dessert wines are fortified wines. This not only leads to confusion among some consumers, but it also unfairly provides the insinuation that certain wines are worthy of carrying the dessert title when they are not. To put it in perspective, both Mad Dog and Boone's are considered dessert wines in the U.S., which only makes sense if the apple cobbler on the plate in front of you were replaced by a slice of cow pie.