For those seeking a delicious dessert wine find that will pair well with a wide variety of your favorite desserts or act as dessert itself, here are the top wine finds that lie distinctly on the sweeter side of the vine. Dessert wines are in a unique category of wine. The medium to intense sweetness comes from harvesting grapes late during the harvest season when they've started to shrivel and lose some of the water content while leaving sugars behind, or by botrytis, a sugar-concentrating fungus found on the famous (and expensive) dessert wine of Bordeaux, Sauternes.
Dessert wines can also be the result of grapes freezing on the vine and separating the grape's innate sugars from the frozen water pellets prior to pressing, and finally fortification can make a delicious dessert wine by stopping fermentation before all of the sugar is converted to alcohol (and adding a distilled spirit later to bring the alcohol back up to fortified standards). Keep in mind that sweet dessert wines tend to pair best with confections that are only as sweet as the wine itself. Pairing overly sweet cakes and pastries with a semi-sweet wine will result in off flavors and a bit of bitterness.
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The Kracher Cuvee Beerenauslese is Blanc, decadent dessert wine from Austria. Made from Chardonnay and Welschriesling (unrelated to Riesling) grapes that have been favorably affected by botrytis, the noble rot that is encouraged for the world's finest dessert wines, like Tokaji or Sauternes.
On the nose, you'll find classic honeysuckle aromas, followed by a sweet intensity and the flavors of jam-driven apricot along with concentrated dried fruit and an enveloping elegance.
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This Moscato d'Asti is certainly a unique wine, being a semi-sparkling wine, or a "frizzante." It is noticeably sweeter and lighter in both taste and palate feel, with a lower alcohol content of around 8%. It is from the Piedmont region and oozes with ripe peach flavors surrounded by honeysuckle. Makes a terrific apéritif as well as a perfect partner to cheesecake.
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The fortified wine of the week is the Warre's Otima 10-Year Tawny and for good reason: this port would make a remarkable after Christmas dinner sipper -- paired with a pecan pie, raspberry cheesecake or a creamy mocha-based dessert. Otima is a very aromatic, lighter-bodied port, with plenty of ripe, rich fruit and the expected nutty nuance. You'll find the glow of vanilla spice, rich flavors, and an elegant finish -- a perfect port to have on hand for the holidays and perfect for gift-giving. Pairs well with all white, milk and dark chocolates.
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The Osborne Pedro Ximénez premium sherry begins with deep, dark brown color and proceeds to a full-bodied, full-sweeping flavor wine experience. The palate profile yields a cornucopia of flavors in the form of ultra creamy caramel, a toasty fig sweetness, and a hint of coffee with a welcomed mocha extension -- all surrounded by a decidedly nutty nuance. In the Osborne Pedro Ximénez, you've truly got it all -- unforgettable flavor, enduring finish, options like dessert accompaniment or dessert itself and all at a well-placed price point. This particular sherry would make a perfect partner with the likes of an apple crisp, pecan or pumpkin pie.