Christine Austin offers a few choice tips on the best sweet tipples to serve with your festive desserts.

As the season of festive entertaining looms larger, every dessert deserves its own wine. That final course, perhaps a delicious, decadent pud or a chunk of artisan cheese, is how a dinner should end, and whatever you serve there is a wine to go alongside.
If you describe that wine as sweet most of your guests will turn it down, so just pour it and wait for the reaction. The right wine, chosen to balance the weight of whatever is on the plate, should round off the meal perfectly and perhaps provide a few new taste sensations for your guests.
Sweet wines go with all kinds of winter desserts and they combine gloriously with cheese, or if the dessert is declined, they can be sipped on their own. One of the great joys of sweet wines is that each person really only needs a small glassful. Even a half bottle will stretch to around six people and if there is any left over you can put the cork back in the bottle and keep it in the fridge.
Dessert wines come in all weights, from a gentle kiss of sweetness to a big, robust fortified wine that rolls around the digestive system emitting warmth and a healthy glow.
The main point to remember is that sweetness in wine only ever comes from natural grape sugar. Even port is a sweet red wine that has been fortified and aged to bring it to right point of maturity.
From a flavourful Christmas pudding to a light fruit meringue or even a choice piece of Wensleydale cheese, there is the perfect dessert wine out there on a shelf near you.

Here are my suggestions…
Christmas pudding
After all that has gone before, can anyone actually manage more than a spoonful of Christmas pud? If you have assorted grannies and aunts around the table then you will need to have one on standby, so pour a glass of De Bortoli Liqueur Muscat (£14 for 50cl, Tesco) alongside. Serve it slightly chilled to heighten its delicious raisin and caramel notes and if you move on to cheese, this will happily take on a mature Cheddar. Alternatively head for Blandy’s Single Harvest Malmsey 2008 (£13.99, Waitrose) for its basketful of dried fruit flavours, figs, apricots and raisins, backed by notes of chocolate.
Chocolate puds
I love those rich molten chocolate fondant puddings that ooze chocolate sauce when they are cut into. Alongside this dessert serve a glass of Noval Black Port (£21, Harvey Nichols) which is made in a youthful, juicy, black fruits, liquorice and chocolate style. Alternatively head for Marks & Spencer and the smooth, and rather good value flavours of Finest Reserve Port (normally £12, but on offer at £8 over Christmas). Lighter chocolate flavours such as a mousse need a wine with round, plummy fruit and a rich but not overwhelming sweetness. Try Seriously Plummy Grande Réserve Maury (£10.99 for 37.5cl, Waitrose), and serve it lightly chilled. For desserts with just a touch of chocolate, such as chocolate profiteroles, try Finest Dessert Semillon (£6 for 37.5 cl, Tesco) for its honeyed apricot flavours with a bright clean finish.
Meringues
There is nothing to beat clouds of crunchy meringue with a dollop of whipped cream at the end of a meal. These days I tend to blend yoghurt in with the cream to lighten the load so I head for a wine with a fresh, clean finish to match. Ch. Liot (£13.49 for 37.5cl, Waitrose) has fabulous crystallised citrus fruit flavours with a lingering, juicy finish, while Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Tradition (£6.99, Lidl) has more lemon and grapefruit notes backed by pure, delicious sweetness. While you are in Lidl, head for Vidal Ice Wine from Pillitteri Estate in Canada (£13.99 for 37.5cl). This is a sensational wine, made from grapes that have been frozen on the vines and picked early in the morning, then rushed to the winery.
Caramel
Sticky toffee pudding is always a favourite, especially with children and granddads. Gonzalez Byass Noe Pedro Ximénez (£19 for 37.5cl ,Tesco) has been aged in barrels for over 30 years and concentrated down to a gloopy, flavour-packed, figs, spice and toffee style wine. Pour this over the pud, preferably with a spoonful of ice cream for a tasty experience.
Lemon and ginger
One of my favourite puds is a simple lemon mousse served on a ginger biscuit base, and Tokaji is the absolute top wine to serve with it. Made in Hungary from Furmint grapes that have been allowed to shrivel on the vines until they are no more than raisins, it is then aged underground in casks, developing honeyed apple and spice notes while retaining rapier acidity. Tokaji Aszú Puttonyos 2009 (£18.99 for 50cl, Lidl).
Apple tart
Whether it is a plain apple tart or one with a caramelised top, Paul Cluver Late Harvest Riesling 2014 (£14.99 for 37.5cl, Marks & Spencer) is a fine match, accenting the freshness of fruit, gorgeous sweetness and a vibrant clean finish.

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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