A dessert wine is just that, a wine made strictly to pair with desserts at the end of a meal. Dessert wines are sweet wines; while many are naturally sweet, some are sweetned through the addition of grape must.
Famous dessert wines include Sauternes from France’s Bordeaux region, Rutherglen Muscat from Australia and vendages tardives (“late picked”) from France’s Alsace region. Germany also produces many famous dessert wines, ranging from Spatlese to Eiswein (made from frozen grapes).
Dessert wines from Italy include Vin Santo, Recioto di Soave and Recioto di Valpolicella. While some dessert wines have alcohol in the 12-14% range, others such as Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont in northern Italy are very low in alcohol (5.5%).
Dessert wines can accompany certain specific foods, especially cakes, almond tortes and fruit tarts; however, Sauternes and foie gras is a classic pairing.
While some lighter dessert wines such as Moscato d’Asti or Brachetto d’Acqui are meant for consumption upon release, others such as Sauternes or Auslese from Germany can age for decades, thanks to their high natural sugar concentration.