Dessert Wines

“Life is short – eat dessert first”. Haven’t we all wanted to start with dessert? Well, don’t forget to add a dessert wine. Since dessert wines have a higher sugar content and taste sweeter on the tongue than most other wines, they are perfect when paired with your favourite guilty pleasure. Too much at the end of a meal? Why not try a dessert wine on its own. Just the thing to finish off a meal!


Perhaps the most well known of the dessert wines is Port. This is a fortified wine made from a blend of red grapes that comes originally from the Douro region of Portugal.

Port is rich and sweet because it has been fortified by adding brandy to the grapes during fermentation, increasing its alcohol content. Aging the wine in oak barrels is critical to the production of Port as it creates a distinct flavour and character depending on the length of time it is aged.

Ports range from the full-bodied Ruby Port and smooth, mellow Tawny Port to the light and refreshing White Port and the complex, specialized flavours of a Vintage Port.

Officially, Port only comes from Portugal but “port style” wines are available in the Cowichan Valley. Port is the perfect accompaniment to an after dinner cheese plate with nuts and dried fruit.


Originating in the Jerez region of southern Spain, Sherry is another fortified wine made from fermented white grapes. The dry wine is then fortified by adding distilled spirits such as brandy. As with Port, this increases the alcohol content.

Officially, Sherry is only made in Spain. The Canadian Wine Industry has renamed this type of wine and it is now known as Apera.

There are different types of Sherry determined by the type of grape, how long it is aged and what type of barrel is used. Dry Sherries such as a Fino and Manzanilla are usually served as an aperitif.

The sweet Sherries, such as Amontillado, Palo Cortado, and Oloroso are rich and nutty and popular as dessert wines. Cream Sherry is another sweet wine created by blending other types of Sherry together to get a smooth, creamy texture and nutty flavour.

Sherry has recently been enjoying a comeback and it is now possible to find bars and restaurants offering sherry flights, so give it try. It’s not just for grannies anymore!

Ice Wine

Canadian Ice Wine is highly prized as it is widely considered among the best in the world. No surprise there, we are the Great White North after all!

Creating Ice Wine is quite a process. The grapes (usually Riesling) are left to freeze on the vine and are harvested by hand typically at night in the middle of winter. This unconventional process concentrates the sugar so when the frozen grapes are pressed and fermented, the result is an intensely sweet and rich dessert wine.

Ice Wine is sought after for its honey sweet taste with the flavours of peaches, apricots and citrus. As it is so sweet, it is often consumed on its own and in smaller quantities than some of the other dessert wines.


Rounding out our look at dessert wines is Moscato. This is the lightest of the dessert wines and is becoming an increasingly popular choice.

Moscato is a delicate, sweet white wine made from Moscato Bianco grapes. This wine has the flavours of peaches, apricots, and oranges and provides a refreshing alternative to some of the richer wines. It is light bodied and has a low alcohol content.

As well as pairing well with lighter desserts such as sorbets and fruit tarts, its fizzy taste is perfect for making toasts!

Spend some time and get to know dessert wines. They might be the perfect way to end a meal when you are just looking for a little something sweet.