The one-minute lesson on dessert wines

A crash course in pairing wines with holiday sweets

Sara Schneider


Called "extra dry," "sec," "demi-sec," or "doux," depending on the sweetness of the dosage (a blend of sugar and wine added just before corking).

Tastes like

Apple, pear, creamy citrus, berry, and yeast flavors.

Great with

Cheesecake, custard-fruit tarts, apple pie, buttery-crusted desserts, pumpkin pie, and English toffee.

Wine picks

Mumm Napa "Cuvée M" nonvintage (Napa Valley; $19, 750 ml.). Toasty yeast and spicy apples followed by vanilla-laced peaches and pears.

Domaine Ste. Michelle Extra Dry nonvintage (Columbia Valley; $12, 750 ml.). A pleasant bargain ― yeasty pear aromas and toasty apple flavors.

Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec 2004 (Napa, Mendocino, and Sonoma Counties; $38, 750 ml.). This is your pumpkin pie wine ― hints of warm spices mix with apricots, ripe peaches, and honeysuckle blossoms.


Sweet wines from Portuguese grape varieties, Zin, or Syrah, fortified with brandy.

Tastes like

Dark cherry and berry flavors, with chocolate, coffee, and licorice.

Great with

All things chocolate, pecan pie, and mocha.

Wine picks

Eos Zinfandel Port 2003 (Paso Robles; $30, 375 ml.). Plush, textured palate of chocolate, coffee, licorice, and blackberries.

Robert Hall Vintage Port 2003 (Paso Robles; $34, 750 ml.). Made from traditional port grapes, with an interesting mix of anise, herbs, dried cherries, and chocolate.

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