By Christopher Matthews
Occasionally I “appear” as guest on Martha Stewart Radio’s show, Living Today, hosted by Mario Bosquez (part of the Sirius Satellite Radio network).
Every Wednesday, the show features a wine segment (“Winesday) at 3:30 pm, when an invited wine expert brings in a few wines geared to a particular theme, and then leads an impromptu tasting with Mario and staff…on air(!), along with some wine banter and a Q&A with Mario. In this respect, Radio beats TV hands down — you can actually drink!
Most recently, the topic was dessert wines for summer dining, along with some pairing ideas.
Many people expend a lot of energy on which wines to serve as warm weather aperitifs, or which to match with summer grilled fare, but in my experience, very little thought is given to the dessert course. When people hear “sweet” or “dessert”, they imagine heavy Ports, Sherries or Madeiras, which are indeed better for cooler months. Or perhaps they identify “dry” as quality and sweet as cloying and mediocre, a common misconception in the US.
But summer is a time of sweetness, especially late July and August, when berries and stone fruits — plums, apricots, nectarines and peaches — are flooding into the local farmers’ markets. Whether it’s a bowl of freshly picked fruit, or cobblers, crumbles and clafoutis, summer is a marvelous time for desserts and, if you keep it light, fruity, floral and relatively low octane, some sweeter wine accompaniment. Only one important rule to remember: the wine should be slightly sweeter than the dessert; otherwise the wine will seem sour or overwhelmed by the dish.
Here’s what I brought:
Jaillance “Cuvee Imperiale”, Clairette de Die, NV (a white Rhone sparkler; 90% Muscat, 10% Clairette);
Banfi “Rosa Regale”, Brachetto d’Aqui, NV (a northern Italian red sparkler; 100% Brachetto);
Domaine de Durban, Muscat Beaumes de Venise, Vin Doux Naturel, 2006 (a southern Rhone fortified dessert wine; 100% Muscat).
Mario and staff flipped for the Jaillance, a light, peachy and refreshing Sparkler, with some Gala apple and citrus notes on the finish. Nicely balanced and low alcohol (only 7% ABV), this fruity sparkler is a bargain at $15, and would be fabulous with fresh white peaches topped with fresh mint. Could be served as an aperitif as well.
The Rosa Regale turned heads as well, an aromatic, strawberry delight with persistant bubbles and a light minty note. Red-fruit desserts would pair beautifully, but the Brachetto marries well with chocolate, too — that strawberry-chocolate thing — as long as you keep it light. Available across the US at around $20.
The Muscat Beaumes de Venise has more alcohol and residual sugar than the other two, but it’s on the light side of the fortified family. A pure expression of Muscat, it features honeysuckle and acacia aromas, and stone fruits on the palate. Served chilled, a 2 ounce pour of this could be dessert on its own, or paired with a sweeter, more substantial dessert, like an apricot tart, a la Provence. Around $17 for a half bottle.