When the dessert menu comes around, all we can think of are the inches about to be added to our hips. Who can turn down just a forkful of cheesecake or a spoonful of Rocky Road? We used to fool ourselves into thinking it would be only one bite – but, of course, it never was. So instead of even a single cake pop, we choose to satisfy our sweet tooth with dessert wines.
Are we really saving calories? The answer is yes if you compare a typical dessert wine with 130 calories to a slice of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake with 500 calories. And that’s just the way we choose to look at it.
Talk about sweet! Because they’re so rich, dessert wines are served in little glasses – typically two to three ounces a serving. They come in smaller bottles too – about half the size of a regular table wine. And get ready for sticker shock. They carry a high price tag.
Dessert wines are expensive to buy because they’re expensive to produce. The winemaker’s job is to concentrate the sugars in the grapes, and he does so by any one of several methods. With late harvest wines (cleverly named because the grapes are picked late in the harvest season), the grapes dry on the vine and are then hand-picked.
The technique used to make ice wines is letting the grapes freeze on the vines. They’re quickly harvested and pressed while they’re still frozen, eliminating all the water that has formed as ice pellets. The result is an extremely concentrated sweet juice. Making ice wine is a risky business, though. If the weather conditions don’t cooperate, the winemaker could lose the entire crop.
The wines that are affected by “Noble Rot” have become famous: Sauternes from France, Trockenbeerenauslese from Germany and Tokay from Hungary. A beneficial mold causes these grapes to shrivel, leaving sugar-laden fruit full of rich, concentrated flavors. Noble Rot is unpredictable in that it doesn’t happen every year, and – when it does – it makes fermentation tricky.
We think a great dinner deserves a delicious end. To us, that means dessert wine. Time to throw caution to the wind!
Barbara and Beverly