What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

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What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#1 Post by J. Rock » November 21st, 2019, 5:06 pm

I apologize if this is a rookie question... but I'm a rookie!

For the Thanksgiving meal I'm hosting, I want to serve a few dessert wines with a few desserts. I'd like to order the dessert wines from lightest to fullest/most intense, but between the varying amounts of sugar and alcohol, I'm having trouble figuring out the proper order. If anyone can give me some guidance, I'd really appreciate it!

The wines I'm thinking of are:

- 1998 Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein

- 2011 Clos Solène Sweet Clementine (97% Grenache and 3% Syrah; 100gr/l sugar; 15.8% ABV)

- Graham's 20 Year Tawny

- Graham's 30 Year Tawny
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#2 Post by cjsavino » November 21st, 2019, 5:18 pm

Have a cheese course for after dinner, pick out 3-4 that they can enjoy with those wines.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#3 Post by Ethan Abraham » November 21st, 2019, 5:49 pm

By dessert nobody wants to wait for more flights...just give everyone a few glasses and put them all out!

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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#4 Post by J. Rock » November 21st, 2019, 6:19 pm

I was considering just putting everything out at once, but I was just worried that we'd randomly taste the most intense wine first and then the others would seem a bit underwhelming in comparison. However, it seems I've been over thinking it.

Thank you!
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#5 Post by Kris Patten » November 21st, 2019, 6:42 pm

I'd do 30 year, then 20 year Port, then Molitor as even German dessert wines have a ton of acidity. No clue what the other is.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#6 Post by GregT » November 21st, 2019, 6:55 pm

You're not overthinking it but maybe overdoing it.

The eiswein is not fortified. It's very syrupy and while I haven't had the 1998, that's almost twenty years ago so it may be picking up some caramel notes to go with the citrus and petrol that those have when young. It is usually extremely low in alcohol, usually under 7%, and really high in both acidity and sugar. In fact, while I don't know the sugar level of that particular one, it will have the highest sugar content of all your wines.

The Clos Solène Sweet Clementine is a sweet, young, fortified wine that would probably have been fairly sweet and ripe to begin with, even without the fortification. It may seem less complex than the eiswein, but it will also have more of an alcoholic burn. And it may have some tannins. I'm not too familiar with that specific one but they do make fortified Grenache in Spain and France and I've had plenty of those.

The tawnys are going to have around 100 g/l sugar as well. I think the Graham's is actually a little bit higher, but I can't say for certain. It usually tastes a little sweeter. They're both going to be fine, with nice caramel/toffee notes that work wonderfully with nuts, sharp cheeses, cured ham, and even, although I hate to say it, chocolate. I don't think chocolate should ever be served with wine and have no idea why people keep trying to push that pairing, but if you're going to have anything, it should be a tawny.

The eiswein can have maybe double the sugar of the other three and it won't have the alcohol. I wouldn't serve it with any dessert and I would let that be the dessert. No food is really necessary.

For me, a fortified wine after a non-fortified dessert wine always tastes clumsy and overbearing. So long ago I swore I would never have the two together. I used to open aszu wines and a friend would insist on bringing fortified wines and it's like listening to Mozart and having someone come in playing heavy metal. So it's not like one will be underwhelming as much as awkward.

On their own, the fortified wines can be delicious and they do pair with different foods.

If you're not going to finish them, I'd rather have a half bottle of tawny left than a half bottle of the other two. Good luck!
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#7 Post by Tran Bronstein » November 21st, 2019, 8:14 pm

Ah, a question about sweet wine after my own heart. To follow up on Greg's answer, I would love to know what you'll be serving for the desserts. You want the wines to either complement the desserts or deliberately contrast with them to cleanse out the palate. May I offer the following tips:

* you might want to try this. Before even digging into the desserts, open all the bottles for your guests and everyone take a small sip of every wine. That way you'll have some idea of what of what each is going to taste like and what might go with which dessert. Then try the wines again with the desserts. Mix and match, see what goes well with which dessert and what doesn't. This is probably the most fun and experimental way to try everything. Since you mentioned a concern about one of the wines spoiling your palates for the others, the solution is simple: just have water handy to sip in between and clean out the palate.

* Now if you want to be fancy and actually serve as a flight which it sounds like, then it's good to have some idea of what flavors in general you can expect so you can serve them in an appropriate order. Greg got the ball rolling so let me continue on a bit with that:

- 2011 Clos Solène Sweet Clementine -- This Cali Port style wine will be the youngest and fruitiest of all the fortified wines, have a full body, red berry fruit and plum flavor, and a bit of an alcohol bite but far less than the two ports you have.

- Graham's 20 Year Tawny -- Tawny is famous for 'rancio', a complex mixed taste of burnt sugar, toffee, tobacco, coffee, vanilla and caramel flavor. Underneath that will be some stewed red fruit and particularly in the case of Graham's a touch of floral muscat accents in the aromas and flavors. This will be a very rich wine with the rancio and fruit in about equal balance. Body will be very full due to the 20% ABV but not syrupy in texture.

- Graham's 30 Year Tawny -- The rancio flavor will be far more advanced in complexity and strength and outweigh the stewed red fruit, though that will still be there. Finish will likely be very long. Body will also be very full but not syrupy. This is going to be a very intense wine.

- 1998 Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein -- As Greg pointed out, this will have intense lemon-lime flavors, high acidity, a lot of sweetness and very low alcohol. It is also likely to have some rancio flavor of its own due to the long aging which will make it more complex but the sweetness and acidity will be the standout features. This will have a full body but this time it will come from the high concentration of natural fruit sugar as opposed to alcohol and so it will feel and taste a little syrupy as it coats your palate more.

Without knowing what the desserts are, if I were to be serving the wines I would do them in the exact order listed above: the Sweet Clementine followed by the 20 and then the 30 year Tawny and the Eiswein last.

Regardless of what you do, your guests are very fortunate to be able to indulge in your generosity. Have a great Thanksgiving dinner! [cheers.gif]
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#8 Post by J. Rock » November 21st, 2019, 8:31 pm

I'm still kind of figuring out the dessert pairings, but I'm thinking something like:

- 2011 Clos Solène Sweet Clementine: I had the most recent vintage of this wine at the winery this summer and they served it with chocolate truffles (French, of course) and the pairing was immaculate. It was like a beautiful raspberry (but better) glazed chocolate. So, for anyone who doesn't think wine and chocolate pair well (and they usually don't), I suggest trying this. Anyway, I'll once again pair this with dark chocolate truffles

- 1998 Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein: I've actually never had Eiswein before, but I typically really enjoy GKAs and BAs with strong cheeses. However, since one of my guests is a great baker and wants to bake, I think we'll pair this with apple pie. I think the wine should compliment the pie but be intense enough to still excite the palate even after the pie.

- Tawny Ports: I was thinking of pairing this with sharp, salty cheeses, and maybe sharp blue cheese (since that's one of my favorites, but I'm not sure that works well). Of course, I think we could also see how these do with left over chocolate truffles and pumpkin pie.

I typically don't have sweet desserts after dinner and usually pair sweet wine with cheese, but I'd like to try something new and also offer people more variety, so I'm very open to suggestions.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#9 Post by Doug Schulman » November 22nd, 2019, 12:23 pm

To me, it's crazy to even consider pouring that Riesling after any of the fortified wines. The latter are all palate destroyers and would really diminish the palate impression and aromas of a sweet Riesling. I don't know if there is a correct answer for the other wines, because the Sweet Clementine might have the most obvious alcohol despite having considerably less alcohol than the Ports, but in my mind, Riesling first is the only way that makes any sense at all.

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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#10 Post by J. Rock » November 22nd, 2019, 12:51 pm

I haven't had the 30 yr Tawny, but the 20 yr has more noticeable alcohol than the Sweet Clementine.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#11 Post by Anton D » November 22nd, 2019, 12:56 pm

How about serving them as a course before the sugar deluge of the desserts?

My vote:

A small selection of charcuterie with the tawny ports, then a small cheese selection with the other two.

Then, hit the food desserts!
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#12 Post by p. raghib » November 22nd, 2019, 1:21 pm

Tran Bronstein wrote:
November 21st, 2019, 8:14 pm


- 2011 Clos Solène Sweet Clementine -- This Cali Port style wine will be the youngest and fruitiest of all the fortified wines, have a full body, red berry fruit and plum flavor, and a bit of an alcohol bite but far less than the two ports you have.

- Graham's 20 Year Tawny -- Tawny is famous for 'rancio', a complex mixed taste of burnt sugar, toffee, tobacco, coffee, vanilla and caramel flavor. Underneath that will be some stewed red fruit and particularly in the case of Graham's a touch of floral muscat accents in the aromas and flavors. This will be a very rich wine with the rancio and fruit in about equal balance. Body will be very full due to the 20% ABV but not syrupy in texture.

- Graham's 30 Year Tawny -- The rancio flavor will be far more advanced in complexity and strength and outweigh the stewed red fruit, though that will still be there. Finish will likely be very long. Body will also be very full but not syrupy. This is going to be a very intense wine.

- 1998 Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein -- As Greg pointed out, this will have intense lemon-lime flavors, high acidity, a lot of sweetness and very low alcohol. It is also likely to have some rancio flavor of its own due to the long aging which will make it more complex but the sweetness and acidity will be the standout features. This will have a full body but this time it will come from the high concentration of natural fruit sugar as opposed to alcohol and so it will feel and taste a little syrupy as it coats your palate more.

Without knowing what the desserts are, if I were to be serving the wines I would do them in the exact order listed above: the Sweet Clementine followed by the 20 and then the 30 year Tawny and the Eiswein last.

Regardless of what you do, your guests are very fortunate to be able to indulge in your generosity. Have a great Thanksgiving dinner! [cheers.gif]
Interesting, I would actually serve in the exact opposite direction. I would start with the Eiswein, then 30, 20, Clementine. I would imagine there is a good chance showing more heat than any of the others. Also, I'd rather have the Eiswein in front of the tawnys.

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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#13 Post by John Morris » November 22nd, 2019, 1:30 pm

J. Rock wrote:
November 21st, 2019, 8:31 pm
- 1998 Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein: I've actually never had Eiswein before, but I typically really enjoy GKAs and BAs with strong cheeses. However, since one of my guests is a great baker and wants to bake, I think we'll pair this with apple pie. I think the wine should compliment the pie but be intense enough to still excite the palate even after the pie.
If the pie is of typical sweetness level, it will probably compete with the Eiswein. You don't want to put a really sweet unfortified wine against a really sweet dessert. They fight with each other. Something like a not-too-sweet tarte tatin would be better. The wine could play off the fruit.

For those wines, I like nut cakes that aren't too sweet. I sometimes make a hazelnut cake with a bit of dark chocolate, very little flour and a small measure of sugar that works well. Biscotti also work because they typically aren't too sweet.

The alcohol in fortified wines makes them a bit better foil for sweetness, but the combined sugar can be a bit overwhelming. I like the cheese idea better.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#14 Post by Anton D » November 22nd, 2019, 1:37 pm

John Morris wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 1:30 pm
J. Rock wrote:
November 21st, 2019, 8:31 pm
- 1998 Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein: I've actually never had Eiswein before, but I typically really enjoy GKAs and BAs with strong cheeses. However, since one of my guests is a great baker and wants to bake, I think we'll pair this with apple pie. I think the wine should compliment the pie but be intense enough to still excite the palate even after the pie.
If the pie is of typical sweetness level, it will probably compete with the Eiswein. You don't want to put a really sweet unfortified wine against a really sweet dessert. They fight with each other. Something like a not-too-sweet tarte tatin would be better. The wine could play off the fruit.

For those wines, I like nut cakes that aren't too sweet. I sometimes make a hazelnut cake with a bit of dark chocolate, very little flour and a small measure of sugar that works well. Biscotti also work because they typically aren't too sweet.

The alcohol in fortified wines makes them a bit better foil for sweetness, but the combined sugar can be a bit overwhelming. I like the cheese idea better.
Yes! Not too sweet!

John is, as usual, correct.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#15 Post by Chuck Miller » November 22nd, 2019, 1:37 pm

Make sure to have some insulin on hand.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#16 Post by John Morris » November 22nd, 2019, 1:50 pm

Anton D wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 1:37 pm
John is, as usual, correct.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#17 Post by Anton D » November 22nd, 2019, 2:47 pm

John Morris wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 1:50 pm
Anton D wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 1:37 pm
John is, as usual, correct.
May I have your permission to add that to my signature?
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#18 Post by GregT » November 22nd, 2019, 2:55 pm

Yep, nutcakes and cheese.

I'd probably not serve the eiswein at all. As Doug said, those other wines will be palate destroyers and as I mentioned, they suffer after something like the eiswein.

But - you can serve it prior to dinner, with some nibbles. No reason it has to be a dessert wine. Something like sauternes with Peking duck can be pretty good.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#19 Post by J. Rock » November 22nd, 2019, 3:13 pm

The Eiswein is the wine I'm looking forward to the most, and I'd love to share it, so it needs to be served. We have some Port/Tawny fans as well, so I think those will be appreciated.

With the slightly mixed advice on this thread, I'm thinking of serving the Eiswein before the other dessert wines because I know that it won't be spoiled by anything before it. Maybe we'll take a short break after the Riesling so our palates can kind of reset and then open the red dessert wines over some cards or board games or something. Also, unlike the Eiswein, I'm anticipating that we'll have more Tawny left after we're done for the night (plus, it's easy to get a hold of anyway). So, even if we kind of spoil the experience for the Tawnys, we'll be able to revisit.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#20 Post by Doug Schulman » November 22nd, 2019, 4:01 pm

I wouldn’t serve anything sweeter than fresh fruit with any of these wines. Pretzels, salted nuts, etc. Sweet plus sweet plus sweet equals way too sweet, to the extent that none of it is really appealing. I think the idea of pairing sweet wines with desserts in general is one of the great fallacies of the “accepted wisdom” of the wine world. Dessert wine is dessert; it doesn’t go with dessert. That’s especially true when talking about multiple dessert wines.

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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#21 Post by Jim Stewart » November 22nd, 2019, 4:05 pm

Doug Schulman wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 4:01 pm
I wouldn’t serve anything sweeter than fresh fruit with any of these wines. Pretzels, salted nuts, etc. Sweet plus sweet plus sweet equals way too sweet, to the extent that none of it is really appealing. I think the idea of pairing sweet wines with desserts in general is one of the great fallacies of the “accepted wisdom” of the wine world. Dessert wine is dessert; it doesn’t go with dessert. That’s especially true when talking about multiple dessert wines.
Good advice here, I think . . . .
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#22 Post by J. Rock » November 22nd, 2019, 4:25 pm

Doug Schulman wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 4:01 pm
I wouldn’t serve anything sweeter than fresh fruit with any of these wines. Pretzels, salted nuts, etc. Sweet plus sweet plus sweet equals way too sweet, to the extent that none of it is really appealing. I think the idea of pairing sweet wines with desserts in general is one of the great fallacies of the “accepted wisdom” of the wine world. Dessert wine is dessert; it doesn’t go with dessert. That’s especially true when talking about multiple dessert wines.
Honestly, this is the practice that I usually follow (sweet with savory, salty, spicy, etc.), which mirrors a large philosophy behind my cooking as well, as I think contrast/juxtaposition really makes food (and wine) exciting. However, I keep hearing about pairing dessert wine with sweet desserts (e.g., creme brulee, pie, etc.), so I figured maybe I'm missing something or should at least give it a try.
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#23 Post by Doug Schulman » November 22nd, 2019, 5:18 pm

You're missing nothing other than not enjoying the dessert or the wine as much as you would with either on its own. Seriously. It never works as well as people want it to.

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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#24 Post by J. Rock » November 29th, 2019, 10:59 am

GregT wrote:
November 21st, 2019, 6:55 pm

For me, a fortified wine after a non-fortified dessert wine always tastes clumsy and overbearing. So long ago I swore I would never have the two together. I used to open aszu wines and a friend would insist on bringing fortified wines and it's like listening to Mozart and having someone come in playing heavy metal. So it's not like one will be underwhelming as much as awkward.
You really nailed it with this analogy. We served the Eiswein first (of the dessert wines). It was very intense and heavy, but still elegant and miraculously lively and pure (and just all around exceptional). The Close Solene followed and was still great (and it's not very heavily fortified at 15.6%), but it was definitely lighter and probably didn't have quite the impact it would've if served first. The Tawnys are last and while very good, definitely seemed especially strong, but in fairly lumbering/clumsy manner, at least compared to how they are when served on their own.

In the future, I think the Eiswein would be fine after the Clos Solene, but the Tawny's just don't really fit that well, although, people were very excited to have them.

Also, while it was really interesting to see how the EW seemingly changed when paired with pie, aged parmesan, etc. it really is a wine the deserves to be savored alone and contemplated.

Also, FYI, we had 7 different wines in total, and 5/6 people voted the Molitor EW as wine of the night (and pretty much everyone was blown away by it) and 1 person voted the Clos Solene Sweet Clementine as their wine of the night (although, she had it after the EW, so I'm not sure if she realizes just how sweet it is)
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Re: What Order to Serve these Dessert Wines?

#25 Post by Tran Bronstein » November 29th, 2019, 11:31 am

John Morris wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 1:50 pm
Anton D wrote:
November 22nd, 2019, 1:37 pm
John is, as usual, correct.
May I have your permission to add that to my signature?
This is as good as if not better than Miek Grammer gifting me with "Tran's the smart one!". You know, except for that whole unintentional aspect of it followed by the immediate regret! [rofl.gif]
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