The wine buff: Wines for dessert
For some reason, most people associate dessert wines with Christmas. In an effort to have everything perfect for the big day, it is one more wine in the luxury line-up which can include everything from Champagne to Port, and this doesn't really give it an opportunity to shine. No wonder no one thinks about it for the rest of the year.
Why not have a dessert wine at the end of a casual dinner when you're having people around? If you're a chocolate fiend, it's worth bearing in mind the type of chocolate that will be in the dessert. Generally, the rule of thumb is: the darker the dessert, the darker the wine. Dark chocolate is more intense so matches well with Port, Banyuls and Maury, which are all fortified red wines, although some people love to pair dark chocolate with a full-bodied dry wine. I'm not entirely convinced by this pairing but there is a certain logic to it. Dark chocolate is not particularly sweet so is more on the savoury spectrum, but as it has some tannins, they can mount up a bit when you pair them with red wine.
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Hot chocolate desserts are a different matter, as they generally have quite a bit of sugar in them. If you're a domestic goddess and serving a molten chocolate fondant, a Pedro Ximénez sherry, which is intensely sweet, works well with it (and congratulations on your cooking skills - I'm sure you have plenty of friends). A Tawny Port or Demi-Sec sparkling wine goes well with milk chocolate and, for white chocolate, a delicate off-dry Riesling is a good match.
Then, of course, there are desserts made with wine, and these can be incredibly simple. I remember being dazzled by a beautiful pre-dessert I had years ago on my honeymoon in Normandy; it was apple sorbet with Pommeau poured over it. Pommeau is a mixture of apple juice and Calvados, an apple brandy - and, yes, I've managed to make a version at home, which works a treat. Limoncello poured over lemon sorbet is also beautiful, and it's incredibly easy to make. Google it, make up a batch and you're set up for the summer. And if you don't feel like going to the trouble of actually making a drink, Pedro Ximénez sherry, which I mentioned earlier, is amazing poured over a few scoops of good vanilla ice-cream.
One dessert that you may not be familiar with, which was shown to me by a French friend, is strawberries in red wine. You need a nice bottle of juicy red wine, add enough sugar so it tastes reasonably sweet, then add quartered strawberries and allow them to marinate for about an hour. So summery and great with ice-cream.
And if you want to drink wine as dessert, pick up a bottle of Vin Santo and some biscotti to dip into your wine. It is the simplest dessert imaginable and is absolutely delicious. You'll find Vin Santo in independent off-licences like Mitchell & Son.
Afternoon-tea fans are in for a treat at the Afternoon Sea at the Cliff Townhouse, where you'll find seafood savouries like potted monkfish, lobster, crab claws, mussels and oysters, which are just waiting to be paired with a glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut, the new house Champagne, made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier; €40pp or €55 including a glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut, see clifftownhouse.ie.
Delight Moscato Rosé NV
€5.20, 0.4pc, Marks & Spencer
With just the tiniest touch of alcohol, this dessert rosé, with flavours of raspberries, blood orange and lemon curd, is made from grapes that are machine-harvested at night and gently de-alcoholised after fermentation. Light, sweet and great with fruit desserts.
Longview Epitome Late Harvest Riesling
€16.95/375ml, 9.5pc, O'Briens and obrienswine.ie
With a beautifully perfumed nose, this Australian dessert wine's grapes have hung a little longer on the vine so the flavours become more intense. The fresh citrus and touch of honey would go well with crème caramel or a lemon tart.
Toro Loco Bobal Merlot, 2017
€6.99, 13pc, Aldi
Made from a blend of soft Merlot and Bobal grapes - and packed with red berry, cherry and blueberry flavours, with a touch of spice from four months in American oak barrels - this fruity red is perfect for marinating fresh strawberries once you sweeten it up.