It happens every Christmas – your fave (but slightly batty) aunt comes over and brings her usual syrupy, sickly dessert wine for you all to, errr, enjoy with her. You then have to go through the process of misplacing it so you can bring out a decent Pinot Grigio and get sloshed on that instead. The dessert wine is recovered sometime around May and donated to a school fair…

That sweetness that makes you gag is only so wrong because you’re drinking it wrong. Yes, you are, you wannabe wine-buff. You’re failing to place it in the right context to enjoy its qualities – and it does have qualities. Your aunt’s not that batty, she knows exactly what she’s doing. She thinks you’re batty, in fact, for continually losing the gifts she brings you…

Anyway, here’s how you do dessert wines

The idea behind dessert wines is to pair them with sweet foods that complement them. A good example is serving a white dessert wine with a custard, or with a vanilla-infused blueberry compote. Red dessert wines can go down very easily alongside stronger-tasting berries, cooked fruits (especially if cinnamon is involved), and chocolate or coffee puddings.

The other thing you have to remember is that you’re not supposed to quaff a dessert wine like it’s going out of fashion. No, you sip it delicately between mouthfuls of pudding. It’s an experience.

Dessert wines can surprise you…

…because they chum up exceedingly well with blue cheeses, especially the more aromatic types. You need a striking, strong wine to stand up to a big blue cheese, or even an aged salty hard cheese. If either the wine or the cheese is a bit of a wimp, it’ll fade into the background and you’ll lose half of your taste experience.

Go large, go bold, go batty!

A novice tip

If you’re thinking of serving a dessert wine with some cheese at a party, then start off simply with a Riesling/Pinot Blanc blend and some creamy blue cheeses or hard salty ones. Yum.