Dessert wines are usually served with a dessert, but can also be enjoyed by itself or with fruit or bakery sweets. They are a little more complex to define than other wines. For example, the United Kingdom deemed them as any wine that is sweet and can be drunk during a meal, whereas white fortified wines are drunk before the meal, and red fortified wine are drunk after. In the United States, dessert wines are legally defined as wines that are over 14 percent alcohol volume. As a result of the alcohol volume, these beverages are taxed higher.
When producing dessert wines, the makers want to have high levels of sugar and alcohol. There are a lot of ways to increase the sugar levels in these wines. One way is to grow grapes for natural sugar to spare for both the sweetness and alcohol. They also add sugar before fermentation as sugar or honey, or after fermentation as unfermented must. Add alcohol and remove water to concentrate the sugar.
When serving dessert wines, as a rule of thumb the beverage should be sweeter than the dessert. Many people have preferred a ripe peach to go well with dessert wines. It is also not a very good decision if you pair the wines with chocolate or toffee based dishes since the dessert would have more sugar than the wine. It has been said that, “Red dessert wines like Recioto della Valpolicella and fortified wines like the vin doux naturel muscats are the least bad matches for such challenging desserts. "
Most of the time a dessert wine can be a dessert itself, but bakery sweets go nicely with it, generally with a little bitterness. An expansion in this pairing of contrasts is a rich savory dish. White dessert wines are generally served somewhat chilled, but can be easily served too cold. Red dessert wines are served at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Lindsay Alston is a contributing editor for Classic Wines, specializing in dessert wine