Wine and Holiday Dessert Pairings

It seems like Halloween was just yesterday and now Christmas is alarmingly close. Whether you’ve been caught up in culinary academy or the day-to-day grind, you may not have even thought of what you’ll be serving for Christmas dinner, let alone dessert. Do you have a bottle of wine you’re planning to share? To make it easy, here’s a list of classic holiday desserts and the wines they pair with best. People will think you were so organized that you coordinated your dish, and they don’t even have to know you looked this up at the last minute.

What should I pair with an ice wine?
If you’re bringing an ice wine to Christmas dinner – you baller, you – bring along a dessert that features fruit, like peaches or apples. Most ice wines are very sweet, so a fruity dessert, like an apple pie or a fruit tart, will complement the sweetness of the wine.

What should I pair with a port?
Since ports are so rich with dark berry flavors, they pair nicely with rich desserts, like dark forest cakes, pecan pies or anything made with dark chocolate.

What should I pair with a Vin Santo?
Vin Santos are savory with nutty notes, so they really bring out the spice in desserts made with cinnamon or pumpkin. Since pumpkin pie isn’t especially sweet, it should be served with a mild wine.

What should I pair with a late harvest wine?
Many late harvest wines are ranked by sweetness, so there’s a lot of wiggle room when it comes to pairing. When choosing a less sweet wine, try a tart dessert, like a lemon meringue pie. If you’re opting for a sweeter wine, select a richer dessert like a cheesecake.

What should I pair with Prosecco?
Prosecco is very light and bubbly, so it should be served alongside a light dessert. Angel food cake, strawberry shortcake or fresh fruit with whipped cream on it all go well with a glass of Prosecco.

Rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • Similar colors tend to pair well, like a port and a chocolate cherry cake or a late harvest Riesling and a cheesecake.
  • Try to match levels of sweetness. A wine should always be just as sweet or a little bit sweeter than the dessert it’s paired with.
  • Don’t bother serving a wine with a frozen dessert. The dessert will numb the taste buds and the wine won’t be fully tasted.
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