A number of years ago when we lived in Vancouver my wife and I did a series of tastings over the course of 6 years. We called it “Sticky Night in December” . It was an evening of approx 10 homemade desserts and a matching number of dessert wines AKA “ Stickies”. We would make a guest list of approximately 30 people and usually about 22-25 would show up. Lots of customers and wino friends and the occasional Master of Wine Candidate. It was an enormous amount of work for my wife and a lot of patient collecting on my part. We would include Madeira, Port, Sauternes, Barsac, Monbazillac, Trockenbeerenauslese, Rutherglen Fortifieds, older rare late harvest Zinfandel from California, BC Ice wine, Commanderie St John from Cyprus as well and Vin Santo and Banyuls ( France’s version of Port made with fortified Grenache ) Each was specifically matched with a cake, biscotti, chocolate or other sweet treat and each guest was handed a list of all the dessert wines and desserts. We would let them pour the wines for themselves and portion the dessert to suit their tastes. Each guest could come and go at their own schedule and at the end of the night they all got a goodie bag filled with dessert items suitable for travel. It was in the top 5 tastings we ever put on in our home. The reason is it was very satisfying to hear people say to me or each other “ I have never tried this before and it’s amazing “ or “ I never buy these wines because they are too sweet, but know I know why David like them “ also the comments about the pairings were interesting. I’m the first person in the room to express a preference for cheese and dessert wine as an after dinner treat rather than a sweet dessert but given enough time to think about it and tweak a recipe the results can be sublime. In the spirit of those events I would love to tell you about three of my favorite styles of dessert wine that are a little less traditional.
Banyuls, as mentioned earlier Banyuls is France’s version of port. Grenache dominant and typically slightly lower in alcohol than Port. Absolutely brilliant with chocolate based dessert. Individual chocolate that have dried fruit in them and flour less chocolate torte are among some of my favorite matches. Legacy Liquor Store in Vancouver has some Chapoutier Banyuls for sale.
Rutherglen Fortifieds, I view the Albury Wodonga region of Australia referred to as Rutherglen should be a World Heritage site and is worthy of a special trip to Australia just for these wines. Muscats, muscadelle and other fortified wines aged in a reductive environment, often not in a coo,l cellar but a passive above ground storage, sit in casks for 10 20 30 years before being bottled and in my view sold for ridiculously cheap prices. Britannia Wine Merchants in Alberta had a single bottle of Seppelt DP 59 for sale and it’s brilliant.
Sauternes, while wine drinkers know about these wines they rarely buy them and age them, often purchasing them just before a tasting or dinner with very little planning. In my view a well aged Sauternes is a thing of beauty and worthy of a place on your dinner table, buy them and age them 5-15 years and call me. My old store, Marquis Wine Cellars has a small selection of 375ml Sauternes.