What is dessert wine, exactly? It's a fairly overarching category of decadently sweet, complex wines that are often enjoyed with or as dessert in small glasses, one indulgent, delicious sip at a time. Missouri wineries make several styles of dessert wines. In this post we'll break them down:
First things first, let's clarify Port vs. "dessert wine" verbiage. Not all port-style wines are called Port for the same reason not all sparkling wines are Champagne. A trade agreement between the US and the European Union states that American wines can no longer use the name Port on new wine labels. However, existing brands are allowed to continue under a grandfather clause. So, many Missouri wineries make wines in the port style that may not be called Port on the label. Usually they say "dessert wine", but not all dessert wines are Port. Now that we've cleared that up...
Port-style dessert wines: There are many different styles within this category, but generally speaking these wines are made from red grapes and fortified with brandy. Missouri Ports and port-style wines are often made with Norton grapes and are delicious and award-winning. Port-style wines pair well with blue cheese, dark chocolate, dried fruits, and nuts.
Late harvest dessert wines: The name leads you down the right path. These are wines made from grapes that have been allowed to hang on the vine much longer than most. In the extra time these grapes stay on the vines they go through what is called Noble Rot or Botrytis cinerea. While this sounds a little gross, it adds delicious and desirable flavors to the finished wines, which are rich, complex and totally decadent. Late harvest wines are great for sipping as dessert, but are also wonderful paired with crème brulee, panna cotta and spiced nuts.
Ice wines: Ice wines are most commonly found in colder regions, because the traditional way to make them is from ripe grapes that have frozen on the vines, which requires a relatively early freeze. It's not what you'd call common, but you will find ice wines at several Show Me State wineries. They are a rare treat, indeed. The next time you come across a Missouri ice wine, treat yourself!
Dessert wines are often misunderstood, but take the time to get to know them better. They are worth it!