Erik Neilson on March 7, 2017 0 Comments There is perhaps no beverage on the face of the earth that pairs with food more readily than wine. Beer may have something to say when poured alongside Asian and Latin American cuisines, but in the vast majority of cases, truly invigorating pairings occur when wine is on the table. That is, until dessert comes out — right? Wrong. Pairing wine with dessert has historically been thought of as a challenging process, but experimentation both at home and among experts in the food and wine industry has led to various pairings that have not only stuck around for good measure, but are actually shockingly delicious. Here are some that every wine lover needs to try sooner than later, all of which show just how versatile wine can be when it comes to pairing with food. Cabernet Sauvignon & Double-chocolate Cookies There are few wines that are better suited for pairing to various food pairings than Cabernet Sauvignon. More often than not, however, Cabernet tends to be paired with red meat — steak and lamb come to mind. One of the worst ways to utilize Cabernet in pairings is by pairing it with an equally fruity sauce, especially if you’re working with Old World examples of the grape. The solution? Chocolate, particularly if it’s in cookie form. The simple pleasures of a glass of Cabernet served alongside a plate of cookies is almost impossible to overlook, unless you’ve never experienced it before. Once you do, there’s no turning back. Riesling & Apple Tartlets Riesling is a notoriously difficult grape to pair with food, especially considering the fact that many Rieslings are inherently sweet and difficult to put up against certain foods. They work well with spicy cuisine, but what else? Frankly, the answer can be found in apple tartlets — especially those which have been prepared with brown butter. The buttery, fleshy apple tartlets will pair so perfectly with a crisp, dry Riesling, you’ll be left wondering whether or not you’ve stumbled upon the most transcendent pairing to date. Tartlets are ideal, but Apple pie works, too. Port & Pecan Pie Looking to experiment with one of the most difficult types of wine pairings you’ll encounter? Try pairing a dessert wine with…dessert. It may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s actually a true challenge that can lead to a number of poor combinations. If you’ve got Port on-hand and the meal is over, what’s left to do other than to drink it on its own? Serve it next to a slice of pecan pie. Pecan pie is a mainstay in many households, and for good reason. It’s sweet, sugary and characterized by a depth of flavor that’s impossible to recreate under any other circumstances. It pairs exceptionally well with bourbon, but if you’re sticking to wine, you won’t find a better option than Port. Port’s viscosity and slightly muted flavors of intense dark fruits will match up perfectly with pecan pie, and the more age it has on it, the better. One important thing to remember is that some Ports are so expertly crafted (and usually come with the price tag to show it) that they should only be drank on their own — lower-end Port is your friend when it comes to developing dessert pairings. Champagne & Tiramisu When it comes to “classy” desserts that simply exude elegance like no other, Tiramisu sits at the top of the list. The delicate balance of ladyfingers, chocolate, coffee and often many more elements brings with it textures and flavors that are nothing short of mindblowing when properly prepared, and naturally, the right wine is required in order to offset the dessert without overwhelming it. If you’re trying to lift dark flavors off the tongue, what do you choose? Why, Champagne, of course. Great Champagne offers such a wide variety of pairing options that deciding which route to take can often be easier said than done. That said, the best pairings are those in which the Champagne is allowed to do its job, which is effectively to cleanse and invigorate the palate. Few desserts require this like Tiramisu, which can be deep and sumptuous on its own, but light and airy when combined with a sip of Champagne. Save the best bottles for special occasion toasts, but don’t hesitate to break out a more approachable option when it comes time to have dessert. Orange Muscat & Panna Cotta Desserts come in a number of different forms, of course, and panna cotta may be one of the most “refreshing” of the bunch. What often trips people up is the fact that panna cotta seems impossibly difficult to pair with wine or any beverage other than say, seltzer water. Why? It brings with it a degree of sourness that can go terribly wrong when paired with dry wines. You want something on the sweeter side for best results, and what you really want is Orange Muscat. It’s a Mediterranean grape that many people are wholly unfamiliar with, but this is a true shame. The floral aromas associated with dessert wines created with Orange Muscat are intoxicating to say the very least, not dissimilar from what one might associate with tangerine blossoms. It is, then, a perfect pairing for panna cotta, which so desperately benefits from citrus elements to carry it through its long, sweet and sour finish. Pinot Noir & Caramel Everything Pinot Noir has decidedly been left off this list until now, simply for the fact that it works well with one specific dessert ingredient—caramel. What can be more rib-sticking sweet and delicious than a dessert revolving around caramel, regardless of what it gets incorporated into? Nothing, honestly, and this is why it requires a relatively light, yet fragrant wine. Pinot Noir is the star of the show here, and the lighter, the better. Experimenting with food and wine pairings can be a great deal of fun, even if it might lead to some shortcomings on occasion. When it comes to dessert, start with the pairings outlined above, and you’ll be sure to stumble upon something you’ll never forget.