Dessert wine has a polarizing reputation. Popular opinions against it suggest that wine can only be truly great when it is full-bodied and tangy. While we wouldn’t necessarily disagree that there are more than a handful of wonderful bottles like those, this assessment ignores a broad spectrum of other flavors and occasions for wine. A dessert wine is as worthy of worship as any great cabernet or prosecco. Many are not just sweet, but also include punches of spice or waves of cacao-like bitterness.
Anyone that has ever taken a side against dessert wine needs better recommendations for the right amount of sweet for their palette. Luckily, we have some recommendations just for that purpose.
Whether buying for yourself, a friend, or a party, any of the bottles below will be a conversation starter, to say the least. With any luck, wine with dessert will become your new tradition.
Ports are a reliable indulgence, paired best with the most sinful dishes. This particular vintage evokes deep notes of fruit that can be interpreted as bitter due to their similarity to chocolate. Aptly, this port is meant to be drunk alongside chocolate mousse or Roquefort cheese.
Sweet apples and honey are predominant in this rich wine. It is so aromatic that its flavors both in its nose and your own allow it to stand alone. Even its aftertaste is worth raving about, making this an all-around treat.
If you have not considered the possibilities of tropical flavors in your wine, now’s the time. This Sauternes blend from Chateau d'Yquem in southern France has been described as including notes of peach, guava, papaya, and mango.
This sweet wine from California is known not just for its saccharine palette, but also for its spice. The acidity is unmistakable, complete with a complementary aftertaste of nectar.
Madeira has its own distinct taste, thanks to its unique winemaking process, where heat is added for fortification. This bottle, in particular, has a smokiness that gives way to its fresh final note.
Deep, nearly violet reds come through in this dessert wine. If you can invest in the Smith Woodhouse Port, go for it; the dark textures and flavors will continue to ripen for a few years, so this will last more than one celebration.
Need something unexpected? This 2015 bottle starts sweet, reminiscent of the golden hues of honey and caramel, and then a spicy taste lingers afterward. The bold wine originates from Klein Constantia’s vineyard in South Africa.
As seen with the Sauternes from Chateau d'Yquem, this classic Bordeaux contains a diverse set of flavors. Here they are slightly more underwhelming, which allows it a chance to truly envelop your taste buds.
Taylor Fladgate ages wines in wood, and the longevity of this Port is apparent from the first whiff. Spice and fruit mingle brilliantly on the tongue and can do even more with a sweet dessert plate to accompany it.
Light colors and flavors mark this sweet Moscato. It makes for a great summer wine, containing hints of peach, apricot, and, more surprisingly, sage. The creamy texture will feel like the smooth after-dinner treat it is meant to complement.