culture Wine Selection

9 Dessert and Wine Combinations that May Surprise You


It’s probably safe to say that when most of us think about pairing food and wine, we do it in terms of the main course—even if we have a sweet tooth. The good news is that you’re not limited to savory pairings, and the following 9 surprising dessert and wine combinations are all the proof you need.

Let’s start by looking at a few hints and tips that can help you create fabulous dessert and wine combinations of your own.

Dessert wines: Pairing Wine And Chocolate

It’s no secret that chocolate and red wine can be a match made in heaven, but only when they’re served in the right combination. The reason for this is chocolate’s own bitterness, high tannin content, and antioxidants.

Chocolate’s one of the few exceptions to the general rule about not combining dessert and wine according to sweetness level. Combine fortified deep red wines with dark chocolate, and white wines with milk and white chocolate.

Dessert wines: Wine For Sweet And Syrupy Desserts

Pairing cakes, puddings, and desserts with caramel, honey, toffee, syrup, and all those other gorgeous gooey treats with wine needs a cautious approach. If you get it wrong, the result is likely to be sickly sweet. Get it right, and you’ll add a sublime enhancement to the dish.

Crisp sparkling wines offer an amazing contrast to sweet, sticky, syrupy dishes, while rich, full-bodied fortified wines go well with desserts that are incredibly sweet. The trick when choosing those fortified wines is to avoid the upper end of the sweetness scale.   

Dessert wines: Combining Wine And Nutty Desserts

Most nuts used in desserts have creamy textures and a slight note of bitterness in their flavors, which can be more or less pronounced, depending on the type of nut. If the nuts in your dessert have low-key, subtle flavors, choose an elegant white wine that’s aged with oak for nuttiness. 

If the nuts have pronounced flavors, choose a bright and bold wine. Sweeter wines pair well with nutty, sugary desserts. Sweet sherries with dried fruit and toast notes enhance most nut flavors. 

Dessert wines: Pairing Fruit and Wine

Humans have eaten fruit in various forms for dessert for millennia, and, more than that, we’ve been doing it with wine, which itself is made from fruit. If you want to pair wine with a fruity dessert, choose something that enhances rather than overpowers the dish’s flavor.

Pair fruit with white wines rather than reds. Those whites should be subtly sweet so they complement the fruit’s natural sweetness. Choose an aromatic white wine if you’re serving fruit with fragrant flavors.

Dairy Dessert And Wine Pairings

Pay particular attention to matching the flavors of your dairy dessert with the flavors of the wine. If the dish is smooth and creamy, choose a sweet wine with honey notes. If it’s heavy on dairy and creamy, choose an oak-aged white with buttery notes.

9 Delectable Dessert And Wine Pairings

These 9 delectable pairings of dessert and wine will shake the pillars of your world (in a good way)!

1. Chocolate Cake and Tawny Port wine pairing—Milk chocolate might be milder than dark varieties, but it still adds a dominant flavor to chocolate cake, so pair your cake with a lighter fortified wine with caramel, coffee, or toffee flavors. Tawny port’s the perfect choice.

2. Dark Chocolate Mousse and Vintage Port wine pairing—Rich, bitter dark chocolate flavors need matching with a bold, aged, fortified wine such as vintage port.

3. White Chocolate and Late Harvest Riesling wine pairing—A bowl of good quality Swiss white chocolate broken into shards or blocks is a super-simple dessert that pairs well with a sweet dessert wine made from overripe vine-ripened grapes. You won’t find a better choice than late harvest Riesling.

4. Salted Caramel Tarts and Champagne wine pairing—Salted caramel tarts (or in any other form) and champagne or sparkling wine with naturally high acidity are a perfect match for a few reasons. The smoothness of the caramel and the fizz of the wine complement one another, the salt balances the wine’s acidity, and the flavors of the dessert and the bubbly enhance one another.

5. Lemon Tart and Riesling Beerenauslese wine pairing—Lemon flavors tend to bulldoze delicate wines, so you need something that’s sweet and acidic enough to stand up to them and create something magical. You’ll find that in the combination of a classic lemon tart and Riesling Beerenauslese.

6. Crème Brûlée and Sauternes wine pairing—The rich custard and brittle caramelized sugar topping makes Crème Brûlée an irresistible dessert that demands a sweet, delicate wine that won’t overpower its delicate vanilla flavor. A sweet Bordeaux Sauternes with apricot and honey notes is the perfect dessert wine for the famous dish.

7. Coffee and Walnut Cake and Pedro Ximénez wine pairing—The bold flavors of coffee and walnut cake need a strong fortified wine with the mouthfeel and the flavors to match. Pedro Ximénez sherry’s sweetness and toasted coffee notes make it the best choice. It’s also a great choice for cake.

8. Cheesecake and Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc wine pairing—Even though cheesecake is sweet, the cream cheese content gives it a savory quality that’s enhanced by spice, fruit, and honey flavors. Choose a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc.

9. Cheese Plate With Quince Paste and Cabernet Sauvignon wine pairing—Who said desserts must be sweet? If you would prefer to end the meal on a savory note, a cheese plate is the way to go. Rather than opting for the same old, same old cheeses, choose manchego, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, and serve it with a quince paste called membrillo and toasted hazelnuts. The natural tannins and delicate sweetness of the quince pair beautifully with the red fruit flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The Ultimate Indulgence

The right pairing of a premium wine and a sweet or savory dish to finish a meal is one of the greatest joys in life. Create the ultimate indulgence by combining good wines with your favorite desserts. With the tips and suggested combinations above, you’re sure to impress yourself as well as your friends and family.

About the author

Malika Bowling

Malika is the author of several books including Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! and the founder of Roamilicious. She is also a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant. Follow us @Roamilicious on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the content not shared on the blog. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter (subscribe box below) and never miss a contest, giveaway or the latest must visit restaurant!