Dessert and wine pairings are sweet to enjoy, but they can be difficult to match. The sweetness in the dessert makes it challenging to pair with wine, as it can alter the perception of bitterness and acidity. For that reason, in most cases it’s recommended to choose wine with a higher sugar level compared to the dessert. However, there are exceptions to satisfy all the palates and differences in taste.
In this blog post, you’ll find ten different desserts I prepared in the last couple of months. Some are the recipes that I frequently make and trust from heart, and some are new recipes from different countries. I always search for ways to improve or twist existing recipes and pair them with wines to create an unexpected harmony. So, here are some ideas for your next dessert and wine pairing experience.
1. Whole Orange Cake and Vidal Icewine
As the name suggests this Sicilian cake calls for whole oranges with the skins. The orange skins add its beautiful fragrance, but also some moisture so the cake comes out from the oven nice and moist. The result is a light and delicious cake that can make orange lovers’ dreams come true.
Wine pairing: The intensive orange flavor of the cake makes an enjoyable pairing with the complex aromas of Vidal icewine from Ontario.
2. San Sebastian Cheesecake and Medium Sherry
The recipe of San Sebastian cheesecake was created in a restaurant called La Viña, located in San Sebastian. This cheesecake takes attention with its burnt top, and creamy texture inside. One kilogram of cream cheese is needed for the whole cake, but the result is worth every single gram. The burnt outside gives a different smoky flavor which is not possible to get from a regular cheesecake.
Wine pairing: Creamy and burnt would be two words to describe this cake. So, for the pairing a rich dessert sherry, Medium, produced mainly with Palomino and some Pedro Ximenez grapes will be appealing. With its 17% percent alcohol and almost 60 grams per litre residual sugar, it complements the richness of this cheesecake. Moreover, burnt flavors of the cake blend in the complexity of the aromas of Medium Sherry, hazelnuts, roasted almonds, a touch of coconut, butterscotch, fig jam and even some candied oranges.
3. Rhubarb Crisp and Asti Spumante
Rhubarb is an edible stalk with a tart flavor. It has a similar crisp texture as a celery. Although it’s a vegetable, often used in the kitchen for desserts. With its tartness, lovely crisp texture and bright color, it makes a great ingredient for pies and crumbles.
I took the opportunity of rhubarb season and baked a rhubarb crisp. This is a slightly healthy option with almond flour and coconut sugar. It’s juicy, fresh and full of flavours.
Wine pairing: To complement the intense flavours of the rhubarb crisp, pair it with Asti Spumante. It’s a very aromatic wine thanks to the grapes used in this wine, Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains. The fruitiness of the wine is well complemented by the rhubarb crisp.
4. Tres Leches Cake and Cava
Tres leches cake has a very long history and it spread to different parts of the world, from South America until Europe. One of the interesting facts of this cake was its arrival to Turkey a couple of years ago, it became very famous as an “Albanian dessert”. Some people claim that Albanian chefs who were watching Brazilian soap operas saw this dessert, and revisited it with a twist, and brought it to Turkey. Leaving this deep discussion on the side, the Albanian version of tres leches cake is made with 3 different types of milks, cow’s, goat’s and water buffalo, while the South American version uses three states of cow’s milk, being milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk, and some even dulce de leche.
For my take on tres leches cake I used a recipe from Venezuela. However, sugar used for the cake, sugar in the condensed milk, and sugar into the meringue all added up and it ended up being a sugar bomb. If you love very sweet cakes, this will be your jam.
Wine pairing: High sugar amount in this cake makes it challenging to pair with a wine. A Cava – a sweet Cuvée made with a dosage of 50 grams per liter is a good idea for wine pairing. This gives enough sweetness to the wine to cope with the sweetness of the cake. The bubbles and creaminess of the wine helps to elevate the experience.
5. Pecan Pie and Late Harvest Zinfandel
Pecan pie is one of the most famous pies originated from the Southern U.S. Although generally baked in the holiday season, you can always find a reason to bake one. One slice will be enough to satisfy you with the crumbly pie crust and the toasted crunchy pecans.
Wine pairing: This pie is quite sweet since a good amount of syrup goes into filling. To have it under the balance, pair with Late Harvest Zinfandel from Paso Robles. This is one of those pairings that you’d simply describe as a perfect match. The wine is so complex with red fruits, dark chocolate and spice aromas that it can handle this heavy dessert. On the palate both are very lush and just slide down harmoniously.
6. Apple Pie and Tawny Port
Baking with apples creates miracles in the kitchen, tart and tangy apples turn into a warm and sweet treat.
Although my favourite apple baking recipe is tarte tatin, this time I tried something different and baked an open face apple pie. To make it look appetizing, I cut the apples very thinly with a mandoline slicer and aligned them nicely on the crust. Apart from its visual appeal, it’s very delicious, especially when it’s warm and served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
Wine pairing: This classic dessert pairs well with 10 Year Old Aged Tawny Port wine. The oxidative nutty and caramel notes in this wine give another layer of flavour to this union.
7. Homemade Baklava and Amontillado Sherry
Thin layers of filo dough, lots of butter, lots of nuts and a dense syrup… this is a nice summary of baklava. The traditional homemade baklava in Turkey is made with walnuts. Challenging steps of homemade baklava are preparing the filo dough, spreading butter in each layer and calculating the amount of syrup to have a good balance and moistness. Filo dough can be bought readily, fresh or frozen, however it’s a different taste when it’s made at home.
Wine pairing: For this delicious and crunchy homemade walnut baklava, the wine pairing is Amontillado from Jerez. It’s remarkable how nuttiness of the wine competes with nuttiness of baklava: A sweet competition creates a unique flavor ceremony on the palate.
8. Keşkül and Late Harvest Riesling
Another typical Turkish dessert, this one is lighter compared to baklava. It’s a type of pudding made with milk, almond flour, rice flour, sugar and egg. Although it contains almonds, it’s traditionally garnished with some crushed pistachios. It tastes as good as it looks, and the best part is it doesn’t leave you with a heavy stomach.
Wine pairing: A luscious wine made with hanging the Riesling grapes out there in the vineyard, until they just have extra sweet and delicious berries. Late harvest Riesling from Ontario it is. Peaches, apples and pear aromas coming from the wine meet with creamy and nutty keşkül.
9. Pumpkin Pudding Tart and Sauternes
It’s a three-layer dessert: On the bottom a no-bake tart made with Graham crackers, hazelnuts and coconut oil, in the middle a dense pudding made with milk, sugar, starch and vanilla, and finally on top a layer of pumpkin cooked slowly with sugar on its own water.
Wine pairing: Sauternes is the perfect pairing for this dessert with its luscious body and incredible bouquet with acacia, orange blossoms, apricot compote, poached pear, cinnamon and vanilla…
10. Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake and Chenin Blanc
A great option for gluten-free living. This cake has almond flour, ricotta, butter, coconut sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. While lemon juice and lemon zest add lovely aromas and freshness, ricotta makes it super soft and moist. Sprinkle some almond slices before it goes to the oven, and it will come out as a dream cake.
Wine pairing: This rich cake deserves a rich wine to pair with: A demi-sec style Chenin Blanc from Vouvray with intense aromas of honeysuckle, quince and pear. It has a good concentration on the palate that creates an enjoyable harmony with the texture of the ricotta in the cake.
Every dessert is another experience and finding an enjoyable wine is a sweet challenge. I hope any of these ten ideas can inspire you next time you’re preparing a dessert and wine pairing.
All images © 2020 by Wines of Nesli. All rights reserved.