This week we’ll look at a category of wines that lives at the margins of the dinner table, a type of wine that everyone knows, most people love, many forget about and few understand. When paired with the right dish it can elevate a meal to a memorable experiene.
The Spain report is completed, including some fine photos from chief eWine photographer Nancy Secen, whose photos are so good that I wonder why I even bring a camera. Go to brucecochran.com to see the photos and report.
That’s it for now—try a new wine this week!
Pairing a wine with dessert can be a really special part of a meal, but as with most things there are good ideas and other ideas about how to do it. Here are a few simple guidelines that I’ve discovered over the years. I hope they can save some of you a few years of trial and error.
Keeping in mind that there are almost always exceptions in the world of wine, it’s been my experience the dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert. Some dessert wines like late harvest rieslings have a fruitiness that I like with fruit desserts, like an apple tart. Others, like sauvignon blanc, I like with creamier desserts like custards and flans.
Crème brulee, one of the most popular desserts, is also one that I have trouble pairing with wines. I think maybe it’s the eggs, but I’m not sure. I usually go with something a little heavier, like a muscat (moscato in Italian). At least they’re both sweet and few desserts will overwhelm a moscato.
One dessert I’ve grown to love over the past several years is panna cotta. I first had it in northern Italy. In fact, I suppose that’s the only place I remember having it. That’s too bad, too, because it’s not complicated to make. The name translates, in English, to “cooked cream.” I’m sure you can find plenty of recipes on the internet, but it’s basically heavy cream flavored with vanilla—ideally you’ve scraped the inside of a vanilla bean for this— sweetened with a little sugar and cooked with gelatin. In Italy they have sheets of gelatin. Pour it into small, individual serving bowls and cool it in the refrigerator until it sets.
You can serve it alone, or with a topping. Berries are good. I like it with a few drops of really thick, old balsamic vinegar, but that’s not always easy to find. Many chefs will boil down some younger balsamic vinegar until it’s really thick, and that works well, too.
I discovered one of my favorite wines while having this dessert at a restaurant in Italy. It’s a delicate, flowery, semi-sparkling, lightly sweet white wine from a grape called malvasia. We’ve discussed that grape before; it’s also made in a dry style. You can get it in Arkansas now. I liked it so much I that began importing it to the U.S. a few years ago. It’s called Rosa di Bianca (White Rose), and it retails in the $10-$15 range.