Wine Review: Bottles to match with sweet food

There are no hard-and-fast rules in matching wine to food these days, of course, which is why I regularly champion Portuguese red with salt cod (really) or fine white burgundy with cheesy chips (not). But there is one tradition that holds up: match sweet food with sweet wine. Always. That includes high-acid, fresh fruit desserts. Dry rosé or brut champagne taste quite stripped down and sour next to anything remotely sugary. Indeed, the pairing of dry wine with sweet food is still a horribly common crime, occurring most frequently, m’lud, in a domestic setting during the hot-weather months.

So, when faced with a glut of red berries, what should we pour? For simple, unadorned strawberries, cherries or raspberries I’d plump for cool, smooth orange muscat (from Australia or California), or, for a lighter touch, the frothy Italian sparklers asti or moscato d’asti. Other options include crisp German or Austrian pudding wines, Loire sweeties (coteaux du layon etc), or – a treat this – Hungary’s magnificent citrus-and-toffee tokaji.

For berries that are cooked, or paired with cream or pastry, try stronger French sweet muscats, including beaumes de venise and de rivesaltes, or an Aussie sweet sémillon. Spain’s moscatel de valencia stands up well to red berry pies and tarts. A cold sweet muscat would be the best choice with Diana Henry's glorious red berry tart, though who wouldn’t be tempted by a frosty demi-sec champagne with a red berry pud? Expensive, yes, but you might think up something to celebrate. Lots to choose from, then – all of them sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey.


Champagne Mumm Demi Sec NV, France (selected Waitrose and Ocado, £30.99)

Divine, luscious champagne with toasty, ripe lemony depths, yet fresh acidity and tingly, crisp bubbles. The posh choice with red berries

Estrella Moscatel de Valencia NV, Spain (Morrisons, £3.69)

A smooth sweetie with notes of citrus marmalade, lemon peel and light caramel, and at a startlingly low price

Dom Brial 2007, Vin Doux Naturel, Muscat de Rivesaltes, France (Waitrose, £8.49 for 50cl)

High quality from a large producer of sweet muscats, this is a good summer 'house’ dessert wine with its honeyed yet fresh, peachy character

TIPPLE TIP how to chill red wine...

'There’s a huge craze for chilled red wines right now, but don’t put full-bodied, tannic ones in the fridge – cold, they will taste chewy and odd. Chill only light, juicy, soft reds such as beaujolais, pinot noir, the simplest merlots and rhônes. Aim for a subtle coolness, not red popsicles. Half an hour should do it’

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