Wines with dessert heighten culinary delight

by Despina G. Demetriades and Su Peterson


This fall, lift your next dinner to a higher level of culinary delight by topping off the evening with an exciting wine paired with dessert. We follow the philosophy that wine selection comes first, then choice of dessert; actually, we encourage this for all courses.


Some terrifically tasty autumn desserts include poached pears in red wine, La Tarte Tatin, key lime pie, pumpkin cheesecake, Three Berry Crème Brulee Pie with macadamia crust and Greek walnut cake, or Karidopeta. Alternative desserts include the three Cs: cookies, cheese and chocolate. At the end of a lovely dinner, they hold their own with the right wines and add a tantalizing joy to the evening.


Exquisite pairings

Poached pears in red wine make a perfect dessert after a red meat-focused dinner. While lighter than many desserts, the pear’s delicate flavors become elevated when paired with Brachetto d’Acqui. A sparkling red wine from Italy’s Piedmont region, Brachetto d’Acqui is a sweet, refreshing accompaniment to this dessert. Pears also can be poached in white wine and paired with Sauternes or German Riesling.


Julia Child herself prepared La Tarte Tatin on TV decades ago. Her recommendation to balance this buttery, caramelized apple and sweet cream dessert was a sparkling Vouvray wine. Vouvray, made with the Chenin Blanc grape, comes from France’s Loire Valley, which is known as the garden of France. A demi-sec sparkling Vouvray complements the caramelization in this dessert while adding a palate-refreshing experience with the Vouvray’s sparkle and freshness.


Key lime pie has just the right acidity, sweetness and intensity of flavor to release a waterfall on the palate. Such a zippy, sweet dessert needs a wine with a hint more sweetness while still having good acidity. Pair it with Beaumes de Venise, a sweet wine from France’s Rhône Valley that’s made with the Muscat grape. The aromas of tropical fruit, hints of honey and white flowers follow through onto the palate, matching perfectly with the pie’s flavors.


Pumpkin cheesecake — a fall staple — marries a favorite taste of autumn with a favorite dessert to deliver an outstanding taste experience, especially when paired with Sauternes or Champagne.


Berries abound this time of year, so bake a Three Berry Crème Brulee Pie with macadamia crust and enjoy it with Banyuls — a port-style sweet red wine — or Ruby Port. Karidopeta is an easy-to-prepare dessert that pairs exotically with a Greek Muscato or a Pessito from Italy.


The three Cs

Twice-baked cookies — better known as biscotti in Italy, Paximadia in Greece and Carquinyolis in Spain — come in a variety of flavors and consistencies. At the end of a delicious yet filling dinner, savor this dessert with a glass of Vin Santo, a sweet wine from Tuscany that’s made with Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. Italians dunk their biscotti into Vin Santo, so when in Rome …


An intriguing, tasty pairing with regional cheeses is Jurançon, a sweet white wine from Southwest France. Regional cheeses include Roquefort, a blue cheese; Cabecou, made from goat’s milk; Cantal Laguiole, made from cow’s milk; and Ossau Iraty, made from sheep’s milk. Dessert-style Jurançon, typically made with Petit Manseng grapes, is not as sweet as most Sauternes but has flavors reminiscent of pineapple, orange zest, and honey drops, with floral notes. The winemaker might toss in some lesser-known grapes like Camaralet, Courbu and Lauzet for taste.


Last but certainly not least comes the dessert option of chocolate with a complex wine. Several selections pair nicely with white chocolate, including Moscato d’Asti and Muscat d’Orange. With milk chocolate, the palate likely prefers sparkling wine, Champagne or a good Ruby Port. Bring out a rich Pinot Noir for dark chocolates around 55 percent and Banyuls for fine chocolates over 60 percent. Generally aged about eight years in oak, Banyuls exudes red fruit accented with vanilla bean flavors. It’s a classic match that will create a splendid memory.


Whether you select a dessert before wine or take our audacious path of selecting wine first, visit your knowledgeable, independent wine retailer for assistance. The bottom line: Have fun and live.


Despina G. Demetriades and Su Peterson are co-owners of Zeto, a wine and cheese shop in Greensboro. To learn more, call (336) 574-2850 or visit


How to serve dessert wine

A general rule of thumb for serving dessert wine is that it be sweeter than the dessert itself. Chill the wine to between 53 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit and serve a three-ounce pour per person. Taste the