‘Tis the season to have dessert! And that means ’tis the time for holiday dessert and wine pairing! Rich, traditional family recipes abound this time of year, so be sure to save some room for dessert after your holiday feast. I’ve gathered three traditional international desserts that will pair well with any sweet dessert wine. How well do you know sweet dessert wines? There are quite a few — ice wine, late harvests, raisin wines, fortified, etc., and you will certainly find one you like. It’s fun to experiment and see where your taste for sweet wine lies.
German Christmas Stollen. Stollen is a type of fruit bread, but not the kind you don’t want to get stuck with at the office gift exchange! When baked soft and moist under a thick layer of powdered sugar on top, it’s the best fruit bread in the world. Try this one from recipe.com. With the Stollen, I recommend Eiswein (literally “ice wine”) that Germany is most famous for. Leaving grapes (generally Riesling) on the vines until they freeze concentrates the sweet juices. Then the frozen grapes are harvested and pressed while still frozen so the grapes’ frozen water content won’t dilute the sugars. Because ice wine conditions don’t occur every year, and processing the grapes has to happen quickly in the cold, this type of wine is typically more expensive.
Alfajores, or dulce de leche cookie sandwiches from Latin America. These butter cookies with creamy milk-caramel filling are found year round, but at Christmas-time each family’s recipe makes them unique. You might find recipes resulting in a nuttier flavor, or a more sugary, milky flavor. This recipe from Sauveur.com includes brandy and lemon zest. Pair Alfajores with a fortified red dessert wine, perhaps a tawny port, matching weight for weight. If you create a lighter cookie, you might prefer to complement with a lighter wine, like a late harvest Chardonnay, or a dessert Riesling.
Basler Brunsli cookies (Switzerland). To me nothing speaks holidays quite like cinnamon and baking spices. These traditional Swiss cookies (recipe from Saveur.com) can be cut into beautiful Christmas shapes, so they’d be great to make with the kids or grandkids. Combining real almonds, chocolate and cinnamon, these cookies call for a warming wine like Vin Santo. Vin Santo is one example of a “raisin” wine — a wine made from grapes that have been allowed to dry, thus concentrating their sugars. You could even warm this wine gently over low heat with whole cloves and cinnamon bits, strain, and serve with a cinnamon stir stick.
Cheers to a sweet, WINEderful Christmas featuring holiday dessert and wine pairing!