With the holidays approaching, we begin to think of gatherings with family and friends and special meals to celebrate the occasion. While the Thanksgiving dinner is special, it also can be an over indulgent occasion. We decided to focus on a light, sweet ending to this classic meal. As pumpkin pie is dense, we kicked around other options, including pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin crème brule. We liked the idea of pumpkin crème brule paired with a French Sauterne dessert wine, but thought it is complicated to make and a little heavy to finish off a big meal. So, we settled on a pear fruit tart and an Italian Moscato dessert wine, to offer a light, sweet ending to this holiday feast.
Dessert wines are prized as they are produced in smaller quantities and are more expensive to make. They are served chilled and sipped in smaller glasses containing 2 ounces of indulgent heaven (six 2 oz. portions per 375 ml bottle). They are produced throughout the world, including wines from Sauternes, Barsac, Alsace and Anjou-Saumur in France, the Auslese and Eiswein (Ice) wines of Germany and Austria, late harvest wines from California and New York state, Ice wines of Canada, Australia’s “Stickies” dessert wines and Hungary’s great dessert wine Tokay Aszu. Dessert wines can vary in weight and sweetness level from light to ultra sweet wines that coat your taste buds like liquid honey.
Throughout the world, there are a variety of ways to produce sweet dessert wines, from picking the grapes late (late harvest wines) to allowing a fungal rot to form (botrytis) to allowing the grapes to be frozen (ice wines) to adding scoops of raisins to increase sugar levels (Tokays).
The Asti region of northwest Italy is home to Moscato D’Asti. This Italian dessert wine is generally a limited, small production wine made from premium grapes. It is a low alcohol wine that is slightly fizzy, lightly sweet and fruity. They are meant to be consumed after each harvest, so watch for the dates on the bottles. As they are not as sweet as Sauternes, Ausleses and Ice Wines, they can be sipped from a regular sized wine glass. Moscatos offer apricot, peach and pear notes. A quality, fresh Moscato actually bursts with the smell of apricots when it is first opened. These wines work well as an afternoon beverage or for a light dessert pairing.
Food and Wine Pairing