Wine 101: How to Pair Lodi Wine with Dessert

Enjoying a dessert wine with a dessert (or perhaps as dessert) can transform a meal into a decadent and indulgent experience. Here’s what you need to know to top off your meal with flair!

Kinds of Dessert Wines

There are essentially three types of dessert wines: fortified, late harvest and sparkling dessert wines.  

  • Fortified wines are wines to which a distilled beverage (usually grape brandy) has been added.
  • Late harvest wineis a term applied to wines that are made from grapes left on the vine longer than usual.
  • Sparkling dessertwines are effervescent semi-sweet or sweet wines.  


In general, the darker color the dessert, the darker the wine should be. So pair a rich, chocolate cake like this with a richer, more intense red wine.

Pairing Wines with Dessert

There are three key factors to consider when pairing wine with dessert - acidity, intensity and sweetness.

When pairing a fruit-based dessert like fruit pies, crumbles or cobblers look for a dessert wine with vibrant acidity such as NV Uvaggio Vermentino Passito, a naturally sweet, late harvest style wine crafted from four German grape varieties.  A wine made from Muscat grapes (aka Moscato) such as the 2016 Sorelle Muscat Cannelli Sogno Dolce would also pay well with fruit-based desserts.

The more intense the dessert, the more intense your wine should be.

A good rule of thumb is the darker color the dessert, the darker the wine should be.  When pairing rich desserts like dark chocolate truffles or pecan pie consider a fortified dessert wine like the Harney Lane Lizzie James Port-style wine.  It’s a fortified old vine Zinfandel.


A great place to pick up some wine, whether it be dessert wines or not, is the Lodi Wine & Visitor's Center. They carry a variety of handcrafted wines from Lodi and are extremely helpful in assiting you in finding the right wine for any occassion or palate (PHOTO BY MARTIN REDMOND). 

In terms of sweetness, generally, a dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert itself.

Finally, because sparkling wines come in varying ranges of sweetness, they can also be versatile when it comes to dessert pairings.

For example, I’d consider pairing a rich white chocolate cheesecake with the Weibel Family Raspberry Sparkling Wine.  The effervescence of the wine offers a refreshing counterpoint to the creamy, velvety texture of the cheesecake. 


Of course, the best way to find out which dessert and wine pairing are your favorites are to try your favorite desserts with the wide variety Lodi dessert wines that are available at the 85+ wineries in Lodi! Even better, start planning your stay in Lodi and come pair some wines and desserts at our diverse restaurants yourself!

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Martin Redmond

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