A question we get asked a lot at Wine at Home, is to explain the logic of drinking a sweet wine (dessert wine) with a sweet pudding. Surely, they say, that is just too much sweetness in one go?
Why not white wine with puddings?
Picture this. You are in a restaurant, and you order a deliciously sweet fruit tart - perhaps a tarte Tatin or a slice of pear and almond tart. You still have a bottle of Sauvignon on the table and take a swig to wash down the first bite.
Suddenly, the fresh, crisp white that was so perfect with your fish tastes sour and acidic. The sweetness of the pudding in contrast has killed the aromas of the wine leaving only a sour liquid in its place. The pudding may seem unbearably sweet, as if the chef has miscalculated the sugar.
It's not that either of these things are bad - just that they do not work well together.
Why do we not drink red wine with puddings?
If you still have a glass of red left on the table, it may be a little more forgiving with a pudding, but neither will appear at their best when faced with the conflict of relatively dry red wine and a sweet dessert.
Again, the wine will taste dryer, less rich and fruity than it had done when paired with a steak, for example. The pudding itself will struggle to hold its own too - a fruit pudding may seem suddenly sharp or acidic, or it could go the other way and taste clawing or sickly in comparison to the red wine.
Wine and food are all about balance and to have the best possible experience of both, it’s important to allow them to play together, rather than fight for attention on your palate.
Which sweet wine works best with puddings?
Within the basic idea of dessert wines with dessert – there are some matches that work particularly well – although it’s always worth trying out a few combinations of your own.
Apples, Pears, Nuts and Caramel
Our bestselling Coteaux du Layon AOC St Aubin 2019 made by Patrice Achard at Domaine des Barres is an absolute joy with apples, pears, nuts and caramel – where the flavours of the wine will lift and pair perfectly. A crumble or tart made with these things will prove the perfect pedestal for this sweet wine which has a surprisingly fresh, dry finish – allowing the pudding to catch up.
Strawberries, raspberries, lemons & limes
If you’re serving a pudding with more acidic fruits such as berries or citrus fruits, the Muscat de Frontignon will do justice to strawberries and raspberries as well as lemon and lime flavours. This wine is lightly fortified giving it just enough body to match the acidity of the fruit without overpowering it.
Vanilla, cream, bananas and chocolate
For many, the queen of dessert wines has to be the Riesling Eiswein from Mosel in Germany. Phenomenally difficult to make, the result is sweet, but floral with high acidity alongside the sugar.
Delicate enough to enjoy with creamy puddings, particularly those containing vanilla such as Crème Brulée or Crème Caramel – but also a great match for banana-based desserts, cheesecake and the most difficult pudding flavour to pair – chocolate.
Sweet wine and Chocolate?
This is where I have to make an exception to the dessert wine recommendation – because as in everything – rules are made to be broken.
Chocolate is hard to pair with wine as the flavours often clash rather than combine – so if you don’t have a bottle of Eiswein handy, don’t despair. A really good, fruity, structured red wine such as Malbec Reservado elevates the chocolate to a whole new level – particularly dark chocolate with a high cocoa count.
And finally, for high days and holidays, treat yourself to a bottle of properly made small batch Grappa – the best we know is fortified in Port barrels, made in small quantities, and while expensive, is worth every last sip. Its rich, dark, dry caramel and nutty flavours with a boozy kick bring chocolate eating to a whole other level.
Still not convinced about sweet dessert wines?
If you love a glass of sweet wine but don’t fancy a pudding, order a slab or rich, ripe blue cheese and enjoy the concerto in your mouth.
What’s in your glass? View our range of sweet dessert wines.