How to Pair Wine with Desserts [Dessert Wine Guide]

Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary, a holiday or simply having a lovely dinner, not pairing your dessert with an exceptional dessert wine is a big missed opportunity!

In this guide to choosing the perfect dessert wine we explain how to make the pairing process really easy.

You’re one short article away from dessert and wine heaven!

Welcome to Day 12 of the Twelve Days of Pound Cake! It’s the last day, and I want to tell you, Friends: this Red Wine Black Forest Pound Cake is for the grown folks. I’m just gonna put it out there IMMEDIATELY. This one is for the people born “IN THE 1900s” as my kids would say. ????

It is also as fussy as it is gorgeous. Which is to say that is diva-level fussy.

It is “start the day before” fussy.

But when you open this box at your holiday gathering and a hush falls over the room, it will be more than worth it.

Rich, moist, and flavorful, this red wine chocolate cake has an amazingly unique taste and fudgy, chocolatey flavor. The combination of wine and chocolate is irresistible!

Last week, I had a dinner party with friends, which naturally meant lots of food, wine, and desserts. As I’m sure you can already guess, the leftover wine found its way into chocolate cake batter – the combination of which turned out to be divine.

It truly is the perfect cake. The wine makes the chocolate cake very fudge-like, giving it an intense, rich flavor that you’ll definitely notice. The alcohol doesn’t bake out fully, though, so this is the kind of dessert you only want to make for adults. With its fancy name and even fancier flavor, this dessert would make a splash at any wine tasting.

Nothing compares to a glass of sweet red wine! Some red sangria does wonders when you want to celebrate small victories of a day or when you’re amidst a romantic banter. The pop of an uncorked bottle alone signals a joyous celebration! Truly, the sweet red wine is a dazzling drink that complements every mood and occasion.

Wine aficionados often categorize this type of red as a dessert wine as its enticing saccharine flavor perfectly matches desserts. This wine also exudes aromas that only add up to an already exquisite tasting experience.

With that said, we’ll guide you through the world of sweet red wines to help you plan a classy evening. After reading this, you’ll know the different types of this delightful drink, the perfect moments to indulge in their sweetness, and the things you need to consider when buying sweet wine.

Some wines don’t pair well with desserts. If you select the right combination, a good pairing will enhance the wine and dessert flavors. Matching these flavors and notes is the key to taking your dessert game to a new level.

When choosing the right wine for dessert, you don’t have to stick with just dessert wines. Varieties like Riesling, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Moscato, and Cabernet are great choices. Be mindful of the color of the wine compared to your dessert; you can eliminate most wines that are significantly different colors than the dessert. Here are some of our pairing recommendations for desserts at The Venetian.

New York Style Cheesecake

For our New York Style Cheesecake, we recommend Moscato, which goes well with nearly any cheesecake flavor and toppings. This white wine is famous for its sweet peach, orange, and nectarine flavors. Like Moscato, Sherry is made from white grapes and goes very well with sweet desserts. It has a rich mahogany color and a smooth velvety texture that helps a slice of cheesecake go down well. Many bottles of Sherry wine also tend to have a salty taste which pairs perfectly with cheesecakes with fruit toppings.

Fresh Cannoli

When indulging in fresh cannolis, it is critical to pair it with a sweet wine. The bitterness in red wine can clash with the sweetness of cannolis. The citrus notes and dry aromatics of white wine can also confuse your palate. They produce a wide array of sweet wines in Sicily called Vini Passiti/Vino Passito. These are the best to pair with fresh cannolis if you want something that will complement the flavors.

Chocolate or Carrot Cake

Some red wines have great hints of chocolate, which will be evident when paired with a rich chocolate cake. Syrah, Cabernet, and Grenache are some of the best wines with chocolate cake.  Sherry is an excellent choice when indulging in carrot cake. Because sherry is slightly sweet and has a dry finish, it will pair nicely with a carrot cake.

Gelato and Sorbet

Almost any sorbet tastes excellent with any bubbly, semi-sweet dessert wine. Pour Moscato over sorbet for a refreshing sorbet float! Opt for an off-dry riesling to pair with gelato. Riesling is characterized by the aromas of white peaches, apricots, and nectarine. Chardonnay is also a great option to pair with gelato and sorbet – the butterier, the better. The ice cream’s rich, nutty, toasty flavors mimic the aromas of chardonnay.

Visit Us To Try These Pairings.

If you are looking for a delicious dessert with the perfect wine pairing, come to The Venetian in Weymouth, MA! We have plenty of red and white wine options – sold by bottle or glass – not to mention our delicious Italian cuisine. Visit us today, make reservations online, or order takeout today.

Beginners Start Here

If you’re new to baking, or if you want to brush up on pound cake basics, here are a couple of super helpful articles from the BwB site that will help you get set up for success with this Red Wine Black Forest Pound Cake.

These resources are super helpful to help you build consistency and confidence on your baking journey. Happy Reading!

Below, you’ll find some tools that I used for this pound cake. These are the tools that I use in my kitchen for just about everything that I bake.

**I get paid a small commission if you purchase directly from some of these links, but they are truly amazing products that you’ll find in my kitchen.**

If you have them already, great! Think of this as a checklist to help you build the confidence that you’ll need to execute this recipe!

This Red Wine Black Forest Pound Cake stole my whole heart! The moment it came to me (in a flash, no less), I knew that it would be the last cake of this event. Because it’s just that special to me.

With all my love,

For the Cake:

  • (2.25 c) all-purpose flour
  • (2/3 c) Natural cocoa powder
  • kosher salt
  • baking soda
  • (2.5 c) granulated sugar
  • eggs
  • pure vanilla extract
  • (1 c) dry red wine (Black Girl Magic Red Blend is my wine of choice, but use what you like!)
  • (1 c)vegetable oil

For the Chocolate Simple Syrup:

  • (1/3 c) water
  • (1/3 c) granulated sugar
  • cocoa powder (can be natural or Dutch process)
  • pure vanilla extract
  • salt

For the Brandied Cherries:

  • (2.5 cups) pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
  • granulated sugar
  • fresh lemon juice
  • cornstarch
  • plus (1/4 c) cold water
  • (1/4 c) brandy

For the Chocolate Ganache:

  • (1 c) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • (1/2 c) heavy cream, well shaken

For the Stabilized Whipped Cream:

  • unflavored gelatin
  • water
  • (1 c) heavy cream, cold
  • (1/2 c) confectioner’s sugar

To Make the Brandied Cherries:

  • Add the cherries, granulated sugar, and fresh lemon juice to a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir to combine.
  • Once the mixture begins to bubble, stir again and reduce heat to medium-low.  Allow to cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the cherries are softened (but not mush).
  • Combine the water and cornstarch in a small prep bowl.  Add to the cherry mixture.  Increase heat to medium-high for one minute.
  • Remove mixture from heat.  Add brandy to the mixture.  Use a camp lighter to CAREFULLY light the brandy.  Allow the brandy to burn off completely before stirring.
  • Place cherries in a heat-proof container and allow them to cool completely before using.

To Make the Cake:

  • Pre-heat your oven to a true 325°F.  This temperature is super important!  An will help you determine if your oven runs hot or cold.
  • Sift together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, natural cocoa powder, and kosher salt in a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.
  • Thoroughly combine the granulated sugar, eggs, pure vanilla extract, and red wine with a balloon whisk.
  • Add vegetable oil to the liquid mixture and combine with the whisk until everything is thoroughly combined.  The oil will take a minute or two to combine with the rest of the mixture, but it will combine!
  • Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir with the balloon whisk until no lumps of flour or cocoa powder remain.
  • Prepare your bundt pan (my favorite way is the butter/cocoa powder method for this cake!) and add the batter to the prepared bundt pan.
  • Bake for 60-70 minutes in a 325°F oven, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 210°F-215°F.  My Goldilocks temp is 212°F.  Alternatively, you can remove this cake from the oven when a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to place on a cooling rack, in its pan, for ten minutes.
  • After ten minutes, invert the cake onto the cooling rack.

To Make the Simple Syrup:

  • Add the water, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, and salt to a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and boil just until all of the solids are dissolved.  Remove from the heat.
  • Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  • Brush on the cake after inverting it onto the cooling rack.  Allow the cake to cool completely.  Like, 3-5 hours “completely”.

To Make the Chocolate Ganache:

  • Place the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl.  Set aside.
  • Place the heavy cream in a heat-proof measuring cup (like !) and heat in a microwave until just before it starts to boil (45-75 seconds, depending on the microwave).
  • Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate chips and cover with plastic wrap.  Do not stir yet!
  • Allow the heavy cream to melt the chocolate for 5 minutes.  Stir with a small whisk or spoon to combine.  If the chocolate does not melt, place in the microwave at 10-second intervals, stirring in between intervals, until the mixture is completely smooth.
  • Allow the ganache to cool slightly (3-5 minutes) before using.  If you wait too long, the ganache will thicken and will not pour easily over the cake.
  • Pour the ganache over the cake using a spouted measuring cup, a squeeze bottle, or a spoon.

To Make the Stabilized Whipped Cream:

  • Place the gelatin in the 4 tsp of water.  Stir to combine completely.  Microwave for 10 seconds ONLY.  Set aside.
  • Place cold heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar into a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir gently until the confectioner’s sugar is completely covered in heavy cream.
  • Mix at a medium pace with a ballon whisk or in the bowl of your mixer for 1-2 minutes, or until very soft peaks form.
  • Add the gelatin/water mixture to the soft peaks and continue mixing on high speed (or keep working that balloon whisk!) for another 30-40 seconds.

Build the Cake:

  • Using a spouted measuring cup, spoon, or squirt bottle, add the chocolate ganache to the cake.  Allow to cool for a minute or two before piping the whipped cream onto the cake.
  • If desired, you can sprinkle some chocolate shavings over the whipped cream.
  • Add several cherries to the top of the whipped cream.  I add some of the reserved cherry juice to the cake as well.
  • Serve alone, or with more of the brandied cherries on top.


what exactly is a sweet red wine, and what makes them sweeter than the other types?

Red wines are typically made from several grape varieties that are reddish or deep purple, hence its color. Reds can be either dry or sweet. Generally speaking, a wine with more than 30-gram per liter of residual sugar belongs to the sweet side of the wine world. Sweet red wines also tend to have lower alcohol and tannin content as opposed to dry red wine.

This wine’s taste can be attributed to how it’s made. Like the usual wine-making method, the making of sweet red wines comprises picked and crushed grapes that undergo fermentation. To give its signature sweet taste, fermentation is stopped even before the natural grape sugar is completely converted into alcohol. With the relatively high amount of sugar left, the wine ends up tasting a lot more sugary than most wines.

Red Wine Labels To Look Out For When Buying

If you’re supposed to bring a bottle of sweet red wine on a date, it’s essential that you avoid picking up the wrong bottle, unless you want it to be an unremarkable night. Here are the things to look out for when buying sweet reds:

Residual Sugar Level

The amount of residual sugar is actually the primary indicator to determine if red is sweet or dry. Sweet red wines, as we’ve mentioned earlier, have at least 30-gram RS per liter. On the other hand, dry red wines contain very little amount of RS.

Alcohol Content

When checking the label, always check alcohol by volume (ABV) or the wine’s alcohol content. This will give you an idea about the amount of residual sugar level in a bottle of wine. Always keep this in mind: if a wine has a low ABV, or it ranges from eight to 11 percent, then its RS level is high. If the wine label indicates a low alcohol content, it’s definitely a sweet red. Dry wines usually have a higher ABV.

Fruity or Sweet

Usually, a wine’s sweetness is mistaken for fruitiness. If you’re an aspiring wine enthusiast, you should know that the indicators of sweetness are your tastebuds, while fruitiness is a task meant for your nose.

Tannin compounds, especially in high amounts, tones down the fruitiness in wines, hence sweet wines contain lower levels of these compounds.

Sweet Red Wine Makes for the Best Drink for Special Moments

Most occasions call for a glass of wine! May it be a job promotion or a small victory over a food temptation, you need a sweet red wine to amplify the joy you’re feeling. With these sweet wines in your cellar, any moment will be memorable!

More of my favorite easy cakes

This moist, rich red wine cake cake is great to make ahead for special occasions because its flavor improves the next day. It’s got a super chocolate-red wine flavor that’s unbelievable!

  • (210g) all-purpose flour
  • (75g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • (2 sticks/227g) unsalted butter, softened
  • (250g) granulated sugar
  • (100g) brown sugar (preferably dark)
  • (300 ml) dry red wine
  • Preheat oven to 350F/180C degrees. Grease a 12-cup bundt pan and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Beat in vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in (or fold by hand) the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating it with the wine in 2 additions (starting and ending with the flour). Do not overmix.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then turn it out and let it cool completely. Dust the cake with powdered sugar or drizzle chocolate ganache over the cake.
  • Store cake at room temperature in airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • Cake can be frozen for up to 2 months.

How to Pair Dessert Like a Sommelier

The Italian Federation of Sommelier Hoteliers Restaurateurs (FISAR) established two methods of wine and food pairing, one for salty foods and one for sweets.

The presence of sugar in a dish changes the perception and organoleptic properties of the wine, this is why having two separate rule sets is a must.

To make a good pairing, it is important to evaluate the characteristics of the sweet you’re going to serve and choose a wine accordingly.

Once again, FISAR has identified the parameters of the evaluation and assigned a numerical value to each element.

For a winning match, try to pair desserts with wines of similar value, ranging from 1 to 10.

The characteristics of the sweets to which a value is assigned are:

  • Aromatic and spicy sensations
  • Fat and greasy sensations

The cooking time and the structure of the dessert should also be considered when choosing the right dessert wine.

The characteristics of the wine to which a value is assigned are:

  • Intensity and persistence
  • Tannins and effervescence
  • Age and complexity
  • Body and sweetness

What kind of red wine should I use?

I recommend using any dry red wine for this cake. You can use any variety you want — I experimented with cabernet, shiraz, and merlot, and all worked great. Definitely don’t splurge on the wine for this cake. Because it’s baked in, a cheaper variety is just fine.

Wine Sweetness Chart

This handy wine chart shows how dry or sweet each sweet red wine tastes. Pick the ones that best match your taste buds!

Varieties of Dessert Wine

Remember the golden rule? Sweets pair well with sweet wines.

But not all sweet wines are the same.

There is a huge difference between a still and a sparkling sweet wine.

And then, when should you serve a raisin wine?

Or a fortified variety?

What are aromatized wines and when to serve them?

If you want to choose the best dessert wines like a sommelier, you must know the answer to all these questions.

Still Sweet Dessert Wines

Not all still sweet wines go well with desserts, but there are a few you can pair with your sweets.

Among them, there are two which deserve to be mentioned, Muscat and Malvasia.

Both grape varieties are renowned for their sweetness and they pair wonderfully with many desserts.

Since both Muscat and Malvasia wines are produced as dry wines as well, you should pay attention to choosing the right type of wine.

Both Muscat and Malvasia wines are also produced as sparkling, fortified and raisin wines.

Sparkling Sweet Dessert Wines

Although ending a meal and pairing dessert with sparkling wine is a classic, Champagne and Prosecco are rarely the right choices.

Nevertheless, there are many sparkling sweet dessert wines to consider. One of the most famous is Asti Spumante, a sweet wine made from the Muscat grape varietal.

A noteworthy sparkling dessert wine is also Vernaccia di Serrapetrona, an Italian wine made from dried grapes with a special technique that includes three fermentations.

Gran Reserva Cava and Brachetto d’Acqui are two other delicious sparkling dessert wines to consider for your final course.

Raisin Wines

Raisin wines are sometimes referred to as straw wines or Passito, the Italian word describing the production technique.

All raisin wines are typically characterized by a sweet flavor derived from the production method.

The grapes are left to dry before fermentation to eliminate water. In this way, the sugars and aromas concentrate in each grape, giving the wine a special flavor and strong aromas.

There are various ways to dry the grapes before making the wine. The respectable wineries usually dry them directly on the vine, delaying the harvest by about a month compared to the natural ripening of the grapes. The fruits dry in the sun and enhance their sweetness and aromas.

The grapes can also be dried after the harvest with the help of a ventilation system that simulates the natural process. Because the grapes are no longer attached to the vine, the results are generally poorer and the raisin wine resulted is less flavored.

Another drying technique practiced by many wineries is harvesting the grapes and leave them to dry in the sun for about a month. The grapes are hung on wires or stored on trellises until dried and this method is often used in respectable wineries.

Because of their rich bouquet and sweet flavor, raisin wines pair wonderfully with desserts. Cotes du Jura is a fine example of French raisin wine made from a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Poulsard grapes. Spain is famous for its Ligeruelo wine which also pairs well with many desserts.

But Italy is the most famous for its raisin wines. The most popular is probably Vin Santo produced in Tuscany; other delicious raisin wines to consider are Moscato Passito di Pantelleria and Caluso Passito.

Fortified Dessert Wines

Fortified wines are obtained through the classical fermentation technique but at some point of the production, the winemakers add a certain quantity of alcohol, either ethyl alcohol or wine distillates, to “fortify” the wine.

Depending on the type of fortified wine that is produced, alcohol can be added either during the fermentation or when the fermentation has ended.

In the first case, the high concentration of alcohol will kill the yeast and stop the fermentation process almost instantly.

The residual sugar left in the wine as a result of the interrupted fermentation will add up to the sweet flavor of the wine.

Madeira and Port are probably the most famous fortified wines. Another noteworthy wine to pair with your sweet treats is Marsala.

However, keep in mind that Marsala is obtained by adding brandy to the wine when the fermentation is over, this is why Marsala is produced as both dry and sweet wine.

For a winning wine and dessert pairing, choose Marsala Dolce. Jerez is another fortified wine similar to Sherry.

To be considered fortified, a wine must have an alcohol concentration between 15% and 22%.

Aromatized Dessert Wines

Aromatized wines are obtained from blending one or more wines with liqueurs, herbs, juices and/or spices.

There has to be at least 75% of wine in the total volume of the beverage but there is no rule on what aromas or spices to use to flavor the wine.

Natural dyes are sometimes used to enhance the color of the beverage. Because the addition of alcohol, aromatized wines should have an alcoholic concentration similar to the fortified wines.

A famous aromatized wine is Vermouth, which is produced in both dry and sweet varieties.

Sweet Vermouths pair well with desserts while the dry varieties are ideal to make delicious wine cocktails.

The Cake Ingredients

Kosher Salt: Chocolate cake (or really, any sweet thing) needs salt to balance the sugar. Without a tiny bit of salt, the cake becomes too sweet very quickly.

Vegetable Oil: I played with this recipe and ended up wanting to use vegetable oil instead of butter. First of all, that means this cake comes together lickety-split (and yes, that is a technical term). But I eventually chose vegetable oil because I found that butter covered the wine flavor more than I wanted (and I wanted the wine to shine without being overpowering.

Granulated Sugar: As always, granulated sugar adds sweetness to this cake and helps with caramelization.

Eggs: The protein in the eggs adds structure to the cake, while the fatty yolk adds delicious flavor.

Pure Vanilla Extract: Chocolate and vanilla seem like polar opposites, but they go together oh-so-well. Make sure to use pure vanilla extract and not the imitation stuff that’s so prevalent on store shelves this time of year. (I see you, retailers.)

Dry Red Wine: Someone told me a long time ago: “Don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.” That same rule applies here. You want a dry wine for this cake; you’ll definitely taste it in the finished product!

14 Different Types of Sweet Red Wine

Special moments won’t be as special without a bottle of good, sweet red wine. However, you shouldn’t be careless when picking! You still need to have the best sweet red wine at hand fit for the occasion. It might be daunting, especially if you’re not sure about the many kinds, but here is a rundown to help you!

Sparkling Sweet Red Wine

Sweet and frizzy, the sparkling kind make for the best drink when celebrating an equally bubbly event! Here are some of the most common types of sparkling red wine:

Brachetto d’Acqui

Brachetto d’Acqui is made with red Brachetto grapes, which is native to the Piedmont region in Italy. And that’s where this sparkling sweet red wine got its name. This wine has an attractive ruby color and carries notes of strawberry candy, cherry jam, and rose.

With more than 100 grams per liter residual sugar and 5.5 percent ABV, this semi-sparkling (frizzante) sweet wine is sure to delight your taste buds. Sip on this light-bodied sweet wine on a date night or during Valentine’s Day. To complete your romantic evening, pair it with brownie cake recipe

Want more Valentine’s day recipes to pair with your glass of sweet red wine? Here are 65 Easy Romantic Dinner Ideas For Two: Best Valentine’s Day Recipes


Lambrusco red wine, which is traditionally produced in Emilia Romagna, is yet another gem of Italy. It’s a light to medium-bodied sweet wine made with Lambrusco grapes.

Lambrusco wines come in many forms from sweet to dry and light to bold, offering you a wide selection of flavors. Lambrusco sweet wine exudes a mixture of ripe berry and cream that will pop right on your tastebuds. This wine complements desserts, cakes, and pies such as this yummy open-faced apple pie. Bring a bottle of this sparkling sweet red on your next summer escapade!


Three grape varieties—croatina, teroldego, and lagrein—from the Lombardy region in Italy are blended to create this delightfully sweet wine. In terms of aroma, Roscato wine gives off notes of blackberries and ripe wild berries. Made with only a bit of sparkle to balance out its sweetness, this light-bodied wine is fizzy, yet with an enticingly sweet finish. This is the ideal wine to pair with spicy flavors, so try it when you decide to make a spicy penne recipe

Recioto della Valpolicella

comes from the word which literally translates to “ear” in the dialect of Verona. This is referring to the upper part of a bunch (a group of grapes) which are picked and withered to make this saccharine wine.

This Italian wine is considered a Denominazione di origine controllata (DOCG), which makes it a premium wine. It has a captivating deep ruby red color, but other colors may come out depending on the aging process. In terms of aroma, you’ll get a whiff of fruity notes plum, cherry, and raspberry. As the wine ages, you’ll also notice spicy notes of vanilla, licorice, and cocoa.

This full-bodied wine has a sweet finish but also has hints of a spicy aftertaste. Drink this wine along with a dark chocolate dessert like rich chocolate walnut fudge a great way to end a special meal with some friends.

Still Sweet Red Wine

These wines lack carbon dioxide, the component which gives sparkling wines their signature fizz. Nevertheless, they’re worth adding to your collection as well. Read on and learn about these still sweet red wines.


Made with grapes of the same name, this sweet red originated in Germany. And because dornfelder grapes are native to Germany, this type of wine is rare in the U.S. It’s available in different styles, from dry to sweet.

And since it has relatively low alcohol content, this medium to full-bodied wine is bursting with aromas of cherries, fresh blackberry, and spiced herbs with notable floral characteristics. It’s best served with veal and pork dishes like this delicious pork tenderloin recipe during a summertime escapade with friends.

Want to know more about the nutritious and tasty yet divisive veal meat? Read What Is Veal and Is It Good for You?


This light-bodied sweet red wine isn’t made with cotton candy grapes, but it definitely tastes like one! In fact, this wine is made with an Italian grape called Schiava, which predominantly grows in Alto Adige, making it a rare sweet wine.

Schiava wine, or Trollinger in Germany, is mostly dry. However, it also brims with notes of sweets you’ll typically find in a candy shop, such as strawberry, bubblegum, lemonhead candy, and cotton candy. The overwhelming sweet aromas are balanced out by its subtle flavor. With approximately 12 percent ABV, this sipper is slightly lighter compared to the others. This really works well paired with chicken and turkey dishes. Enjoy this sweet, refreshing wine in a family gathering or on a summer day with a cheesy ground turkey casserole

Fortified Sweet Red Wine

Fortified wines are types of wines that are “fortified” with a distilled spirit such as brandy. The added spirits enhance the wine’s flavor to suit any palate. Here are four fortified wine for you to savor on special occasions:

Ruby Port or Tawny Port

Port sweet red wine, the most popular fortified wine in the world, hails from the Douro Valley of Portugal. Having around 100 grams of sugar per liter, port wine makes for a sweet sipper. This wine comes in several categories such as ruby and tawny port.

These two styles are made with red grapes. When it comes to ruby port, expect hints of blackberries, raspberries, cherries, plums, and other notable sweet flavors. To savor its fruity characteristics, it’s only aged for a short period of time. Tawny port, on the other hand, is aged for a longer time. In terms of flavor, tawny gives off nutty and caramel notes. Serve slightly chilled alongside a southern pecan pie. Ruby and tawny port also make for a great wine choice during semi-formal occasions.

Vin Santo

Vin santo, which means “holy wine” in Italian, is one of the finest sun-dried wines made in Tuscany, Italy. This wine can be made using either white or red grapes. To make this dessert wine, grapes are naturally dried before being pressed and fermented, giving it an exceptional taste. This sweet dessert wine oozes with hazelnut and caramel notes. Sip on a glass of vin santo red wine after dinner. For a delectable treat, pair it with this elegant chocolate cake.

Madeira Wine

Madeira wine originates from a small island of the same name in the coast of Portugal. This sweet wine comes in various styles from dry to medium-dry and sweet to medium sweet.

Madeira wines are often made with varieties of grapes such as tinta negra (red grapes), malmsey, and bual (white grapes). These grapes undergo a maderization process where they’re heated, resulting in a wine brimming with burnt caramel notes. This wine also exudes several flavor profiles such as honey, brown sugar, hazelnut, and orange peel. Sweet madeira wines are usually served after family dinners. It’ll taste amazing with sweet desserts like this irresistible poke cake

Marsala Wine

Marcela wines hail from Sicily, Italy. Generally, this wine is oozing with vanilla, brown sugar, stewed apricot, and tamarind flavors. It can be in the form of dry or sweet wine.

This type of wine is widely used for cooking and baking. Of course, it makes for a great drink, especially after dinner! Though both styles are produced using the same process, the sweet style, obviously, has a higher amount of sugar. Its saccharine taste is suitable in sweet desserts such as this

Dry Red Wines with Sweetness

Dry red wines, sometimes, also brim with hints of sweetness. Below are the classic examples:

Amarone Della Valpolicella

This wine is a full-bodied, ruby red wine that imparts notes of raisins, black fruits, wild berries, cherries, nuts, and flowers. The more it ages, the more it develops other notable flavors such as cinnamon, cardamom, and tobacco.

Elevate your stay-at-home date night with a fancy bottle of Amarone wine. Serve this fine wine alongside creamy or braised beef.

Barbera Wine

This palatable wine is primarily produced in Piedmont, Italy. Barabara grapes, which are under one of the oldest grape varieties in Italy, give the wine an intense color. The resulting wine is juicy and light-bodied as well.

Young barbera wines carry strong aromas of blackberries. However, like most other wines, its flavor profile may vary depending on the aging process. If it’s aged for a longer time, hints of strawberries and raspberries are noticeable. The flavors of barbera wines are perfect with rich and hearty food such as this filling potato risotto recipe


Dolcetto, which literally translates to “little sweet one” in Italian, is a popular red wine in Piedmont, Italy. Most dolcetto wines are bone dry and contain moderate amounts of tannins. In terms of color, it has an intense ruby and purple color. You’ll also be delighted with its licorice, blackberry, and almond flavors.

Dolcetto wines are often served in the middle of a meal. It’ll surely taste fantastic when paired with a cheesy pasta bake

Beaujolais Nouveau

Lastly, this light wine is primarily made with Gamay Noir grapes which are usually grown in the Beaujolais region in France. It isn’t aged like the other types of wines as it’s best consumed immediately.

This wine has a purple-pink hue. It’s a sweet wine with notes of berries, which you can liken to grape juice. Its fruity aroma is also something you won’t forget. This sweet wine is often served during Thanksgiving dinners. For an intensely delicious meal, serve it with a ham salad and lobster mac and cheese

9 Surprising Dessert and Wine Combinations

Delicious Dessert and Wine Combinations. Photo Credit: Pixabay

White Chocolate and Moscato d’Asti

The sweet, light fizz of Italy’s Moscato d’Asti is an exquisite match for buttery, mellow white chocolate. The sweetness of the Moscato d’Asti will highlight the creaminess of the chocolate, creating a sensational dessert experience. A sweeter Spanish sherry or Orange Muscat will have the same effect.

Chocolate Mousse and Syrah/Shiraz

Syrah or Shiraz is perfect for pairing with a mousse made with semi-sweet or bitter chocolate (70% cacao). The wine’s redcurrant, violet, white pepper, and dried coriander notes provide an element of noticeable yet subtle sweetness, natural acidity, and a finish that’s silky and long-lasting.

Marzipan Almond Cake and an Oaked Chardonnay

Oaked chardonnay is known for its buttery, creamy mouthfeel, and often has nutty marzipan notes. When the wine is chilled, these notes become more pronounced, making it an ideal choice for pairing with almond-based desserts such as an Italian marzipan almond cake.

Crème Brûlée and Sauternes

If you’re serving crème brûlée, pair it with a delicate, sweet wine that won’t overpower the custard’s vanilla flavor. A sweet Bordeaux Sauternes with honey and apricot notes will create a beautiful combination with this classic French dessert.

Champagne and Salted Caramel Tarts

Champagne or another sparkling wine with naturally high acidity is the perfect complement to salted caramel tarts. The fizz of the wine pairs well with the caramel’s smoothness, the acidity of the wine balanced with the salt, and the flavors of the wine enhance those of the tart and vice versa.

Sweet Bubbles with Dessert. Photo Credit: Pexels

Dry Riesling and Peach Cobbler

A popular German wine, dry riesling has notes of green apple and citrus and can range from sweet to dry. Drier Rieslings are known for also offering slate-like minerality. The fruit flavors and bright acidity of the wine cuts through the rich flavors and syrupy sweetness of the peach cobbler while enhancing the fruitiness of the peach. The wine’s earthy tones also enhance the flaky crust’s understated sweetness.

Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cheese Plate with Quince Paste

If you’d rather end your meal with a savory dessert in the form of a plate of Spanish sheep’s milk or Manchego cheese with toasted hazelnuts and a quince paste known as membrillo, combine it with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine’s red fruit flavors are a great match for the quince paste’s delicate sweetness and natural tannins.

Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and Cheesecake

Complex, full, and multilayered, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc has ripe tropical fruit, tangy dried fruit, and rich honeyed, and citrus fruit flavors. These flavors enhance the savory quality of the cheesecake’s cream cheese over the sweetness of the dessert.

Pedro Ximénez Sherry and Coffee and Walnut Cake

The coffee and walnut cake’s bold flavors require a strong fortified wine that can match the cake’s flavors and mouthfeel. Pair the cake with Pedro Ximénez sherry, known for its sweetness and toasted coffee notes that will complement the dessert perfectly.

Sweet Sherry with Cake. Photo Credit: Pexels.

Basic Guidelines to Consider When Pairing Wine With Dessert

Wine and Chocolate – Served in the right combination, wine and chocolate can be blissfully good. While there’s a general rule about not pairing wines and desserts according to the level of sweetness, you can break that rule when it comes to wine and chocolate. As a rule of thumb, pair dark chocolate with fortified deep red wines, and pair milk and white chocolate with white wines.

Wine and Nut Desserts – The nuts usually used in desserts are slightly bitter and have creamy textures. If your dessert includes nuts with bolder flavors, pair it with a bold wine. If the nuts have more subtle flavors, combine your dessert with an elegant oak-aged white wine. If your dessert is nutty and sugary, pair it with a sweeter wine. It’s helpful to remember that sweet sherries with notes of dried fruit and toast enhance the flavors of most nuts.

Wine and Dairy Desserts – When thinking about combining wine and a dairy dessert, it’s important to match the flavors of the wine with those of the dessert. Oak-aged white wines with buttery notes pair well with creamy, dairy-rich desserts, while sweet wines with honey notes pair well with smooth, creamy desserts.

Wine and Syrupy Desserts – Be careful when pairing wine with cakes, desserts, and puddings, which include lashings to caramel, honey, syrup, toffee, and other sweet, sticky ingredients. The right wine will subtly enhance the flavor of the dish, whereas the wrong wine will make it overly sweet. Rich, full-bodied fortified wines which aren’t too sweet are a good pairing for incredibly sweet desserts, while crisp sparkling wines add a refreshing contrast to dishes which are sweet, syrupy, and sticky.

In summary, pairing wine with dessert can be an exciting and memorable way to end a meal. Especially if you’re working with hard-to-find wines that deserve special treatment and a chance to savor every sip. The trick is to approach your pairing carefully, taking care that flavors balance or complement one another rather than being overpowering. When you get this right, the results speak for themselves.

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Does this cake contain alcohol?

Yes. Only serve this cake to adults who can have alcohol.

About this Red Wine Black Forest Pound Cake

This cake features dry red wine in the batter. While the alcohol evaporates during baking, there is still a beautiful flavor from the wine left in the batter. I’ve used Black Girl Magic Red Blend exclusively in this cake. It has gorgeous cherry notes that are just dreamy.

The cherry notes in that Black Girl Magic Red Blend are the perfect tie-in for the brandied cherries that top this special cake.

When my lucky friends opened this cake, they gasped. And my heart just melted.

It is that special. Whether you serve it for holidays or birthdays, it’s an incredibly sophisticated pound cake that deserves center stage on any dessert table.

How to make red wine chocolate cake

For this recipe, I use dark brown sugar to deepen the flavor and moisten the cake. Plenty of cocoa helps to keep it super fudgy and chocolaty while balancing out the alcohol, and round cinnamon enhances the flavor (although you can’t taste it in the final product). I experimented with several different wines such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and shiraz, and all of them turned out amazing.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C degrees. Grease a Bundt pan and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined, and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
  • Beat in vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in (or fold by hand) the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating it with the wine in 2 additions (starting and ending with the flour). Do not overmix.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then turn it out and let it cool completely.

Serving tip: Dust the cake with powdered sugar or a drizzle of chocolate ganache! Both look and taste amazing.

Basic Dessert Wine Pairing Principles

Pairing food and wine is certainly not easy, and in some ways it’s even trickier when it comes to desserts.

In fact, wine pairing is a combination of technical knowledge and creativity. When choosing a wine, one must consider the characteristics of the dish and the properties of the wine, but also the classic pairing guidelines.

Pairing food and wine doesn’t have a simple purpose of finding a wine that “fits” with the dish. When choosing the wine you should aim to blend the two elements harmoniously and elevate flavors to new levels.

There are two main ways to pair food and wine. Either by providing balance through contrasting flavors or by harmonizing similar flavor components.

With some types of food it’s impossible to find a common flavor theme in a wine so pairing through contrast is the only option. This is true for salty and greasy foods, for example, as these are characteristics which aren’t present in wine.

However, as simple as that sounds, there’s a fair degree of nuance that we need to cater for.

Although desserts tend to be similar in that they are sweet, they can be wildly different in other ways.

I should just clarify here that pairing sweets and wine by contrast is definitely a possibility too! It’s just much harder.

It requires a full assessment of both the dessert and the wine. You should have a strong understanding of how the components of the wine change or alter the taste of the dish.

Unless you’re an experienced sommelier or a chef, the average joe (like me) is unlikely to have the requisite knowledge or skills to make it work. It’s a risky and difficult job and sticking to the golden rule is the wisest thing to do.

Can I freeze this cake?

Yes, you can freeze the cake in an airtight container for up to 2 months. To thaw, place in the fridge or on the countertop overnight.

Dessert Pairing Recommendations

You can choose from sweets with leavened or unleavened dough, baked or fried, filled with creams, dried or candied fruits, spices, and lots more. There are many fresh desserts to consider, such as fruit salads, yoghurts, or ice creams, too.

But, which wine should you actually pair with which type of dessert? According to the sommelier’s advice, here is a list of sweets and their best wine pairs.

Baked Leavened Sweets

Leavened sweets are often served as desserts and they are popular all over the world.

In this category, we can mention sponge cakes, brioches, savarins, baked doughnuts, and all the other leavened baked desserts.

The best wines to pair with these sweets are soft sparkling wines with low alcoholic concentrations, such as sparkling Riesling.

Fried Sweets

Fried doughnuts, pancakes, churros, and fried pastries pair well with sweet white wines.

You should choose a still wine with a very fragrant aroma and a rich and soft flavor, such as Ramandolo or Gewürztraminer wine.

Dried Sweets

Dried sweets are often made of puff pastry or cookie dough and are filled with candied or dry fruits such as nuts and almonds.

Biscuits and shortbread sweets are also included in this category. Dried sweets pair well with fortified or aromatized wines.

Moscato d’Asti Passito, Vin Santo, Porto, Marsala or Vermouth are all great choices for this type of desserts.

Desserts with Fillings

Many of the desserts mentioned above have fillings, and in this case, the reminded rules might not apply.

In this case, you should pair the wine with the filling rather than the dough. Here is how:

  • Jam or cream fillings: pair well with medium-soft sweet wines such as Muscat, Müller-Thurgau or Riesling wines.
  • Fresh fruit: pies and sponge cakes can often have fresh fruit fillings. Sweet white wines with intense aromas, such as white raisin wines, are the best choice in this case. Make sure the wine’s aroma is fruity and intense.
  • Red fruit fillings: raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and other red fruit fillings pair wonderfully with sweet and very fragrant red wines, such Brachetto d’Acqui.
  • White fruit fillings: apples, pears, bananas and other white fruit fillings should be paired with slightly sparkling sweet white wines such as Rappu di Rogliano. The effervescence and perfume of these wines contrast very well with the filling.

Almond Biscuits

Almond biscuits, macaron, marzipan, and other sweets made with almond flour pair well with the flavorful body and intense aromas of white raisin wines.

You should choose a raisin wine with a full body and intense structure, such as Albana di Romagna.


Choux pastries and éclairs pair well with flavored red wines and fortified wines.

If you want to make the dessert stand out, pair your chocolate filled choux pastries with a bottle of Banyuls.

If the pastries are filled with vanilla creams or whipped cream, a very sweet and fragrant wine like a semi-dry Marsala will certainly do justice to your dessert choice.

Mignon Pastries

Mignon pastries are usually filled with fruits or creams but regardless of the filling, they pair well with very sweet fragrant wines, such as Vin Santo.


All soufflés pair well with fortified wines. Lemon, vanilla and candied fruit soufflés find their best buddy in a white fortified wine, such as Marsala Oro or Marsala Ambra. Chocolate and liqueur soufflés benefit from pairing with red fortified wines.

Pancakes and Crepes

Pancakes and crepes are easy to make and loved by everyone. They can be filled with whipped cream or topped with sauces and syrups.

Regardless of your choice, the distinctive taste of the dough pairs wonderfully with sweet and not very fragrant wines, such as Alsace Gewürztraminer.

Ice Creams and Sorbets

For decades, sommeliers advised against ice cream and wine pairings. The cold desserts alter the perception of the wine, therefore their claim has a strong base.

Nevertheless, you can make a winning combination if you choose your wine wisely.

Sweet Muscat wine pairs well with vanilla or hazelnut ice cream. Raisin wines enhance the flavor of pistachio, chocolate and strawberry ice creams or sorbets. Tokaji wines and ice wines pair perfectly with eggnog and almond ice creams.

Creams and Puddings

Desserts such as crème caramel, crème Brulee, or Bavarian cream pair well with fresh white wines such as Muscat de Rivesaltes.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best dessert wines for your final course is not rocket science but it’s an important skill to learn if you want to impress your guests at your nest dinner party!

Therefore, forget about pairing that dry Prosecco you saved for special occasions with your delicious chocolate cake.

Instead, use the guide above and pair your sweets with the dessert wines that are able to enhance their flavor and end your meal with a bang!

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