[From Ladies Who Launch Wine Tip]
You may have heard of Chateau d'Yquem, the ultra lush and exceedingly expensive dessert wine from France but there are countless dessert wines out there from around the world to suit every taste and budget. Consider these ten examples from A to V as a very good place to start.
Aszu – Produced in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region of Hungary, this white wine is referred to as Tokaj Aszu (TOKE-eye-ee AHS-oo). It has flavors of nut and caramel with dried apricot and orange fruit and a refreshing acidity. Look for five or six puttonyos (related to the sugar level) for the best examples.
Banyuls – Made in the South of France predominantly from Grenache grapes. This red sweet wine is nutty and rich — almost Port-like.
Eiswein – German for “ice wine”, this rich wine is most often made from Riesling grapes picked while frozen on the vine. It is concentrated and fruity with a zing of acidity to balance out the sweetness. Worthwhile examples of ice wine are also made in Canada.
Marsala – When you think of Marsala you may think of an oxidized, mass produced Sicilian red wine best reserved for cooking (if that). But, pick up a bottle of Marco De Bartoli’s “Vecchio Samperi” Marsala and change your perception forever. The wine is delicious with flavors of dried fruit, maple, nuts, spice, and caramel. If you think it sounds like an ice cream topping, you are not too far off.
Moscato d'Asti – A slightly sparkling white wine from Piedmont, Italy, this is a lighter alternative to the luscious dessert wine crowd. The moderate sweetness and thirst-quenching bubbles make it perfect for dessert or for lounging by the pool in summer.
Port – A fortified red (and occasionally white) wine from Portugal, there are too many styles of Port to get into here but the general character is of dried fruit, toast and spice.
Recioto – Also a red wine, this sweet cousin of Amarone from the Veneto region of Italy is a plush, full-bodied, raisin-y treat.
Sauternes – The famous region of Bordeaux, France (home of the aforementioned Chateau d’Yquem) that produces complex, opulent and honeyed white dessert wines. Although it can be thought of as a dessert wine, some would argue it is the perfect partner for Foie Gras.
Sherry – This fortified white wine from Spain has many different personalities from bone dry to sweet. Pedro Ximenez is the sweetest, with a raisin-y flavor and thick texture.
Vin Santo – Primarily made in Tuscany, Italy, this white dessert wine is traditionally served with biscotti. Quality and price can vary drastically so ask your wine merchant or sommelier about reliable producers. The best examples taste of fig, caramel and honey.