I decided to give the ladies a little intro to the wide, delicious world of dessert wines, liqueurs and digestifs today on the show.
Though we usually talk about wine and spirits to serve with a meal, I wanted to give them an overview of the vast flavors available in a dessert wine or spirit, walking them through a few of my favorites for after a meal.
Late Harvest Wine – late harvest wines are some of the most sought after in the world, made from grapes that become highly concentrated after botrytis, (or noble rot) a type of fungus, settles into the grapes, removing water from grapes leaving behind a very sweet, fruity, complex flavor of honey, white flowers and citrus – particularly in made in Sauternes (Château d’Yquem is a Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux made from Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc)
Maison Nicolas 2006 Sauternes Reserve ($40) from Bordeaux blends 70% Sauvignon Blanc with 30% Semillion grown in limestone filled soils in Sauternes. Aged 1 year in French oak creating a nicely rounded, honeysuckle and lemon cream filled wine.
Dolce Late Harvest ($85) may be the most loved dessert wine from Napa. A part of the Far Niente family, Dolce blends Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc from a small vineyard which benefits from nightly layers of fog settling into the vines, creating the required botrytis effect. Harvest of these grapes typically lasts up to 6 weeks as the hand-harvested bunches are only picked when the desired effect has fully taken place on the grapes.
Port and Madeira – With fortified wines, like Port, Madeira, Marsala and Sherry, grapes are grown as they would be for making still wine, but during or at the end of fermentation brandy, or distilled grape spirits, is added to the wine originally for preservation. Fortified wines today are some of the most loved selections with wide range of styles from very dry, served as aperitifs, to sweet, creating distinct flavor profiles.
Warre’s Otima 10 Year Tawny Port ($26) – From Portugal, barrel aged after fortification creating spice, toffee and honey notes with touches of orange peel and caramel, delicious with blue cheese
Blandy’s 5 year Malmsey Madeira ($20) – from the Island of Madeira, traditionally made in estufas, where the heat from the island sun would bake the wine while it was being aged creating robust, rich, somewhat oxidized flavors. Malmsey is from the Malavsia grape variety, aged 5 years creating espresso, toffee, chocolate and spice notes.
Brachetto D’Acqui – From the Piedmonte region of Italy, certified DOCG from 100% Brachetto grape, made into either a still or slightly sparkling (frizzante) wine, known for its fresh, floral aromas and rich, red berry flavors with low alcohol, and varying levels of sweetness from very sweet to slightly off dry. DOCG regulations Brachetto d’Acqui must be produced from 100% Brachetto grapes.
Banfi Rosa Regale ($20), a spumante (or sparkling) version of Brachetto d’Acqui is filled with strawberry jam and cherry pie notes, very easy to drink with a low alcohol level that can be enjoyed any time of day.
Ca dei Mandorli Brachetto d’Acqui ($25), a still version filled with concentrated red berry and tea roses, great for pairing with raspberry tarts, balsamic strawberries or chocolate.
Liqueurs and Digestifs – Sipping a liqueur or digestif at the end of a meal helps settle palate, and the tummy, from the big meal, just as an aperitif wakes up the palate. From Raki or Grappa, to Sambuca and Cynar, to even sipping ginger liqueur in your hot tea, each is filled with herbal notes intended to help with digestion. Their alcohol is usually quite high, so they are meant to be sipped on their own, or with a touch of soda or added into coffee or tea, each bringing its unique flavors to the palate.
Molinari Sambuca ($22) is anise/licorice liqueur; Cynar ($25) is a slightly bitter, artichoke based liqueur, and Amarula ($20), the sweetest of the bunch, is a crème liqueur made from the marula fruit in South Africa.