Dessert Wines


I find that you can usually put wine drinkers in two camps – those who like sweet wines and those who don’t. There are the few though, who might not drink sweet wines on a regular basis that can appreciate them for what they are:


In fact, as much as I try to move sweet wine drinkers across the spectrum to teach them how to appreciate red wines, I also aim to show dry wine lovers how to love the sweets.

Just to be clear, most wines are dry. If they aren’t, they are usually dessert wines. However, there are wines that people call sweet that are actually dry, but just fruity. This takes some time and tasting to discover. {Perhaps with some company?}

However, the real key to enjoying a sweet wine is to drink it with dessert. To do this, there is one very important rule of the thumb:

The wine must be sweeter than the dessert itself.

If there is anything you take away from this post, take that. Why is it so? Give it some thought. If you eat a sweet dessert and then take a sip of a wine that is not, the wine is going to taste bitter and not be enjoyable at all!

Here are three of my favorite examples of sweeter wines and the desserts that pair well with them:


Contrary to popular belief, Champagne is not a sweet wine. Most sparkling wines aren’t either. However, varieties like Moscato d’Asti {which has been a very popular Traveling Vineyard favorite in the past} and a similar reddish-pink wine such as Fissata are good candidates.


These wines are lightly sweetly with a bit of effervescence that cleanses the palate after each sip. Therefore,  \you don’t want to pair it with a dessert that is too sweet. Remember: Sweeter than the dessert itself

Favorite Dessert Pairings: Cheesecake or Biscotti {I’m told the Italians actually dip it in the wine!}

Looking for an easy, bite-sized dessert for a party? Here’s one my friend Amy served at her Wine Tasting.


  • 1 pkg of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 2  pkgs 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 egg yolks (save whites)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x13 pan with cooking spray. Spread 1 package of crescent rolls on the bottom bottom. Thoroughly blend together cream cheese, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Spread over crescent rolls. Cover with a second package rolls pinching perforations together. Paint top with egg whites, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if desired.

Bake 15 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool thoroughly. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. Cut and serve.


Sweet Rosé

Just like most bubblies, rosé wines do not tend to be sweet. It’s actually pretty rare for true rosés to be such. Those that are vary greatly in sweetness. Traveling Vineyard‘s Sweet American Rosé is one of the sweet ones! It’s nearly as syrupy sweet as the dessert wines you’ll find in a half-sized bottle. Due to it’s sweetness, we’ve found a perfect pairing to cut through that!


Favorite Dessert Pairing: Key Lime Pie

Here’s another recipe for an easy, bite-sized party dessert. It was found and adapted by one of my favorite repeat hosts, Wendee!

Key Lime Bars

Courtesy of Betty Crocker

Makes:  36 small bars

  • 1-1/2 cups coconut cookie crumbs (says ~17 cookies – more like~14-15 Voortman’s).
  • 3 Tbsp unsulted butter, melted
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened (1/3 less fat works great)
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (fat free works fine!)
  • ¼ cup Key lime juice or regular lime juice (suggestion: Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime juice)
  • 1 Tbsp grated lime peel
  • Lime peel or strawberries for garnish, if desired

Heat oven to 350⁰ F.  Grease or spray a 9 x9 x 2 inch square pan. Or line the pan with parchment paper for easier lifting out & cutting.

Mix cookie crumbs and butter thoroughly with fork.  Press evenly in bottom of pan. Refrigerate while preparing cream cheese mixture.

Beat cream cheese in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in milk until smooth. Beat in lime juice and grated lime peel. Spread over layer in pan.

Bake about 35 minutes or until center is set. Cool 30 minutes. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 3 hours until chilled (or overnight). For 36 bars, cut into 6 rows by 6 rows.  Garnish with lime peel.  Store covered in refrigerator.



Never had a Torrontés? Well, it’s the signature white varietal of Argentina. It can be hard to find, but when you do, you’ll fall in love.


I’ve had red wine, white wine and sweet wine drinkers go crazy over this wine. It’s probably because it’s so versatile. Although it’s not technically a dessert wine, it’s got floral aromas with a fruitiness that can be perceived as sweet. It pairs well with spices, Asian foods, guacamole and smoked meats. What’s more is that I’ve discovered that it sometimes can work well with a lemon cookie or meringue pie!

Favorite Dessert Pairing: Lemon Cookie or Lemon Meringue Pie

This discovery came about when a guest came to a tasting with a lemon trifle. Immediately, I remembered another consultant telling me that she had a crowd of sweet wine drinkers and successfully served a Torrontés as a dessert wine with a lemon dessert. On a whim that night, I switched the Torrontés to serve it last with the trifle.

It was a hit! As I was bringing the dessert around for everyone to try with the wine, one woman asked me if the Torrontés was a dessert wine because she generally didn’t like them, but was loving this. There were a few repeat guests who had already tried the wine at a past tasting, but were amazed at how different the wine tasted when served last and with dessert!

I asked the guest for her trifle recipe:

Lemon Trifle

  • Angel Food Cake
  • 2 cans of lemon pie filling
  • 8 oz cool Whip
  • 16 oz of lemon yogurt (She says she uses the Yoplait Lemon Burst – 3 of them)
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries or raspberries

Mix the lemon pie filling, coolwhip, and lemon yogurt together. Break up the Angel Food Cake into pieces.  Make 3 layers of each:

Angel Food Cake

Blueberries and strawberries (or raspberries)

Lemon Mixture

The Lemon Mixture should be the top layer, but if desired, you can finish with a thin layer of whipped cream or cool whip and sliced strawberries on top to make it look nice.


Of course, these are just ideas and not all desserts will work for all wines. It’s time for you to experiment! Just remember the rule: The wine must be sweeter than the dessert itself!

Consider savoring dessert with a dessert wine this Valentine’s Day. Or stay tuned next week when we discuss the debate of red wine and chocolate!

What is your favorite dessert wine pairing?


8 responses »

  1. It’s fun you brought up the Biscotti thing; actually, it’s “Vin Santo” that they are usually dipped in, a very nice, rich Mediterranean dessert wine made by drying the late-harvest grapes passito style after picking so as to concentrate their sugars. Juice is fermented, then aged in Chestnut barrels for about 9 months, and get that really nice slight oxidation to them.

    I so wish you got the chance to mention other dessert wines! Eiswein, Late Harvests, Ports, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Beerenauslese (and TROCKENbeerenauslese… oh my god nectar of the gods), Muscat Beaumes de Venise… I am obsessed with quality Dessert Wines.

    Hard to say my favorite pairing, but one dear to my heart was an Orange Muscat, slightly fortified, from California I got for Christmas. I paired it with a special dessert I made of Orange Spongecake, Peach-Nectarine Sorbet, Orange Meringue, Orange Powder, and Blood Orange Vinegar.

  2. I am actually not sure I’ve ever had a dessert wine – I’ll have to check that out! Thanks for your comment about our dog yesterday – I appreciate it!!

  3. I really don’t know anything about dessert wines. I’m always learning something over here, it’s just remembering it all!! And I’m not even into the wine yet 😉

  4. Pingback: The Red Wine & Chocolate Debate « Season It Already!

  5. Pingback: Nicollet Island Inn – Minneapolis (Wine Pairing Dinner) | Season It Already!

  6. Pingback: Torrontés – The White for Everyone | Season It Already!

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