Paired to Perfection: Desserts and Wine

Paired to Perfection: Desserts and Wine

It’s hard to imagine how to make a glass of wine or a bite of dessert better, but it turns out these two delicacies really are better together. David O’Day, director of wine for Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, shares his tips for pairing the two.

“There are two general rules for pairing wines with desserts,” said O’Day. “First, desserts lighter in color will pair with lighter colored wines. Desserts darker in color will pair well with darker wines. Second, the wine should be slightly sweeter than the dessert itself.”


Custards have flavors one would describe as mild, light, and buttery, meaning the wine profile should be the same.

“A late harvest Riesling or Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend from Sauternes would pair nicely,” said O’Day. “Any white varietals affect by Botrytis Cinerea* will be a nice complement to a lighter-style custard.”

*Botrytis Cinerea naturally occurs in the grape-growing process when growing conditions are wet then dry, which produces a distinctive sweet taste in dessert wines.


“Fruit and spice desserts vary in sweetness and style, so bubbles are always a good call,” O’Day said. “Champagne provides a nice balance of acidity, structure and round sweetness. A Sec or Demi-sec Champagne would be my suggested pairing.”


This category consists of dark, buttery, caramelized, and rich notes, and by now you’ll know that they pair best with dark, rich-flavored wines.

“Caramel and chocolate desserts beckon a more complex wine such as a Port,” said O’Day. “Port is a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley of Portugal that comes in many styles, but the most popular are Tawny and Ruby. Tawny Port is aged in wood, which allows contact with oxygen and produces a golden brown color and butterscotch and nutty flavors. On the contrary, Ruby Port is aged in steel with minimum contact with oxygen creating a deep garnet color and slightly sweeter taste.”

When choosing between the two, it comes down to the chocolate.

“With caramel and lighter chocolate, such as milk chocolate, a Tawny Port will pair nicely. Caramel and dark chocolate call for a Ruby Port,” said O’Day.

Some would say coffee is dessert’s perfect partner, but we think wine brings out the best flavors. Use this knowledge at your next dinner party and impress your friends with a selection of dessert and wine pairings. We all know a good glass of wine makes for a good dessert on its own, but try your hand at pairing. We’re sure you’ll love the results.

What’s your favorite dessert and wine pairing? Share your indulgences in the comments.