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Though often called “champagne,” that name only truly applies to sparkling wines from Champagne, France. True French champagne is made primarily from pinot noir and
chardonnay grapes, but technically any varietal from anywhere in the world can be made
sparkling. Port is a dessert wine fortified
with brandy, which gives it a higher alcohol content and traps the grape’s natural
sugar, resulting in a sweet wine. Almost any grape can be made into a sweet dessert style by overripening on the vine or by
drying them out after harvest. Continue reading for flavor profiles and food suggestions for
each of these styles.
The name “champagne” only truly applies to sparkling wines from Champagne,
France. French champagne is made primarily from
pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, but any
varietal from anywhere in the world can be made sparkling. Styles range from dry to sweet:
“Brut” means dry while “extra dry” is actually sweeter, and although
“demi-sec” translates literally as “half-dry” it is sweeter than extra
dry and is more of a dessert wine. Sparkling
wines are a universally recognized symbol for celebration and the traditional drink for
toasting special occasions, but it's also nice to sip a dry sparkling wine before dinner with
light cheeses or puff pastry; a sweeter style
is enjoyable with cakes, berries, and fruit
Dessert wines are sweet wines that pair well with desserts or function as dessert
themselves. White varietals that offer flavors of apricot, peach, and honeysuckle—such
as muscat, riesling,
gewurztraminer, and semillon—are
especially popular with fruit pies and tarts, cakes, meringues, or a simple cookie platter.
Other than port, dessert wines made from red varietals tend to be less common, although
their wild berry sweetness and rich jam flavors make them an excellent match for chocolate desserts, such as cakes, cookies, or a
simple piece of dark chocolate.
True port is from Oporto, Portugal, and is primarily divided into “ruby” and
“tawny” styles. Both are suited to after-dinner sipping, or pairing with strong cheeses, nuts, or
chocolate. The sweeter “rubies” are typically dark purple to black, and full
of sweet jam-style blackberry and raspberry flavors, a warming headiness, and a roasted
spiciness. Tawnies are clear amber, or tawny, in color, with flavors of caramel, butterscotch,
toffee, and roasted nuts. True tawny ports are aged in wooden casks (usually ten years or
longer). Simple tawnies are blends, and don’t list an age.
The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes
only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult
your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any
supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications.