5 Tips For Pairing Wine With Dessert

Everyone loves dessert, the sweet treat that ends every meal with sugary goodness, vivid colors, and big smiles.

While some may argue dessert is inherently perfect, we at Wine Insiders know from experience that even the best chocolates, cookies, tarts, sorbets, and ice creams can all benefit from an exquisite wine pairing.

With that in mind, read on to our Guide to Pairing Wine with Dessert for our expert tips on crafting the ultimate combinations of sweets and vino.

1. Play Chocolate and Wine Matchmaker

Chocolate and wine are a divine combination that makes for the perfect ending to many great meals.

As chocolate and wine are individually delicious, it can be easy to think that any pairing of the two will bring joy to your taste buds.

While this is incorrect, harmonizing your favorite chocolate and vino doesn’t need to be a hassle. In fact, we think it’s a lot of fun!

All you need to do is consider the personality of your favorite varieties of chocolate:

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate, with its creamy texture and prominent sweetness, pairs marvelously with light to medium-bodied, ripe whites and medium-bodied, fruit-forward reds.

We recommend pairings with Riesling, Red Zinfandel, or Port.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate, which comes in semi-sweet or bitter varieties, offers perhaps the most complex flavor profile in the chocolate world.

With its subtle sweetness and high levels of polyphenols (bitterness), this confectionery harmonizes best with medium to full-bodied reds with prominent, fruity flavors and a pleasant mix of spices.

For a delicious dark chocolate and wine combination, opt for Chianti, Merlot, or Syrah.

White Chocolate

Last but not least, white chocolate works best with light-bodied, fruity reds or sweet whites and pinks with citrus and floral notes.

If this is your favorite chocolate variation (it’s primarily made from sugar, cocoa butter, milk products, and vanilla), we suggest matching it with Chardonnay, Moscato, or Pinot Noir.

Delicious Sample Pairings

Some of our favorite chocolate-wine marriages are:

  • Milk Chocolate and Red Zinfandel
  • Bitter Dark Chocolate with Chianti
  • Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate with Syrah
  • White Chocolate with Chardonnay

2. Couple Tangy Desserts with White Wine

If tangy desserts are your thing, you’ll want to pair them with wines that amplify their sweet flavors.

To do this, you’ll need to avoid tannic red wines and focus primarily on whites that feature a pleasant balance of prominent sweetness and acidity.

Some of our favorite white wines in this category include sweet Riesling, sweet Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Sauternes.

Delicious Sample Pairings

A few of our favorite combinations of tangy desserts and white wine include:

  • Lemon Bars with Sweet German Riesling
  • Peach Tart and Tangy Raspberry Drizzle with Sweet Chenin Blanc
  • Lemon Crème Brûlée with Sauternes
  • Key Lime Pie and Gewürztraminer


3. Give Wine and Ice Cream a Try

Some say wine and ice cream are a pairing to avoid at all costs. We disagree.

Ice cream and vino lovers can have their sweet treat and eat it too — if they follow a few simple guidelines:

Seek Sweetness

If you’re going to marry ice cream and wine, it’s essential that your wine has relatively high levels of sugar. Otherwise, your sugary ice cream will make your wine taste dull and uninspired.

While the quality of wine-ice cream pairings definitely depends on the specific flavor and style (we’ll list some of our favorites below), we recommend pairing with bottles of Sherry, oaked Chardonnay, Moscato, or rosé.

Avoid Tannins

When mixing ice cream and vino, tannic wines, which are usually red, are often a no-go due to their astringent tastes.

As a result, we encourage avoiding high-tannin wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, and Syrah in your vino and ice cream pairings.

Moderate Acidity

Our last rule for this wine and dessert pairing is to keep a watchful eye on acidity.

While some acidic white wines, like sweet German Riesling, feature higher sugar levels, many others, like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, have a combo of prominent acidity and reduced sugar that will detract from the deliciousness of your ice cream.

Delicious Sample Pairings

Some of our favorite wine and ice cream combos are:

  • Strawberry Ice Cream and Rosé
  • Pistachio Ice Cream and Cava
  • Vanilla Ice Cream and Tawny Port
  • Blood Orange Sorbet and Moscato


4. Pair Your Favorite Cookies and Wine

Like cookies themselves, cookie-wine pairings are versatile and encompass a wide range of flavors and styles.

Another great thing about cookies is that they’re relatively easy to prepare.

Whether you’re buying them from a store or baking them at home, cookies are a simple, inexpensive dessert sure to please your guests.

With that focus on simplicity in mind, here are a few easy rules for serving wine with these yummy baked treats:

For plain cookies, like shortbread or sugar cookies, stick to sweeter whites like Riesling and oaked, sweet Chardonnay.

For more complex, non-chocolate cookies, like peanut butter and oatmeal raisin, your range of options shifts toward bolder vino. Feel free to pair these with dessert wines like Madeira or Port.

Lastly, for chocolate-based cookies, follow the rules we mentioned in Tip #1 and stick to wines like Riesling for milk chocolate, Merlot for dark chocolate, and Moscato for white chocolate.

Delicious Sample Pairings

At Wine Insiders, some of our favorite cookie-wine combinations are:

  • Sugar Cookies and Riesling
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Madeira
  • Shortbread Cookies and Oaked Chardonnay
  • Dark Chocolate Cookies and Merlot


5. Know Your Dessert Wines

For our last tip, we encourage you to learn about the exciting, sugary world of international dessert wine.

Whether you're a fan of Old World vinicultural traditions or New World contemporary styles, there are a plethora of fantastic dessert wines many people underrate and undervalue.

From Port and Madeira to Sherry, Moscato, and sweet Riesling, these delightfully sweet wines often offer rich histories, personalities, flavors, and aromas that more than equal their high sugar contents.

While these bottles can taste like a treat in themselves, the real fun of dessert wines is mixing and matching them with some of your favorite desserts.

Using recommendations we provide in this post or combinations you create on your own, the varieties of desserts and dessert wines to enjoy are practically endless.

Wine Insiders Tip: For an in-depth breakdown of our favorite sweet wines, read our Wine 101 Guide to Dessert Wines.

Delicious Sample Pairings:

While we’ve featured a variety of dessert wines throughout this guide, here are a few of our favorite miscellaneous mixtures of dessert and dessert wine:

  • Salted Almond Cake and Tawny Port
  • Tiramisu and Sweet Sherry
  • S’mores and Madeira
  • Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and Moscato


Wine Insiders: The Best Vino for Pairing

Now that you know how to pair wines with all types of desserts, take the opportunity to explore Wine Insider’s world-class range of fantastic varietals and blends:

From 6 and 12-bottle sets mixing diverse, delicious wines from across the world to exclusive collections curated by experts like Martha Stewart, Ludo Lefebvre, and Geoffrey Zakarian, we have the vino you need to spoil your taste buds and take any meal to the next level.

For more information about wine, tasting notes, and more - check out our full library of Wine 101 Guides!