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Dessert Wine and Cheese

A dynamic duo
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Dessert Wine and CheeseDessert Wine and Cheese
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Dr. Dieter Simon

It’s a classic pair, red wine and cheese, but it is not always harmonic, the stronger tannins of many red wines causing a more biting relationship with cheese, especially the more delicate ones.

A lesser known fact is that strong, well-ripened cheese makes an excellent match with many dessert wines. It is a combination to tickle the palette, either as an interesting dessert course or as a small gourmet snack.

Elegant dessert wines are magical, explosively aromatic on the palette.

As masterpieces of the art of vinification, they are pure and natural, no added flavors or sugars. Such gems of wine arise when, during a warm and dry harvest season, single grapes or entire bunches, which are still hanging on the vines, shrivel up until they resemble raisins. If these raisin-like grapes are harvested and sorted individually, the sugar levels in the pressed juice skyrocket. The sugar is so concentrated that the natural fermentation process cannot naturally convert all the sugars into alcohol. The fermentation comes to a halt and a natural sweetness remains in the wine. Relatively low levels of alcohol combine with concentrated extracts. Referred to as premier dessert wines, winemakers commend the beauty of their intense fruity flavors. They are called Beerenauslese, or selected berry harvest, and Trockenbeerenauslese, selected dry berry harvest. Ice wines show very similar intensities as well. These arise by a kind of natural freeze-drying technique, which occurs when the grapes are left on the vines until the temperatures fall below 8° C. The harvesting begins in the wee hours, just before dawn, when the night is at its coldest. The grapes are pressed while they are still frozen, so the water stays in the press with the seeds and skins, and only the sugars and concentrates are extracted from the fruit. “Premier dessert wines are very highly recognized,” says the sommelier in the 1-Michelin-star “Wilder Ritter” restaurant in Durbach, “with a particular emphasis being placed on the German Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and ice wines.” The view is similar in the “Bourdeaux-Stube” in the Sonnenhof in Lautenbach, where French cheese varieties such as Munster, Comté or Époisses are the most popular. “Reblochon or Roquefort served with a premier dessert wine is a match made in heaven.”

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