Top Tips on Pairing Your Desserts with Wine

As the festive season approaches, there is a delicious array of desserts to tempt your taste buds. With this in mind, Ideal Wine Company has created a guide to help you perfectly pair your wine and dessert.

Ideal Wine Company wine and dessert
Here are our top tips for pairing your desserts with wine.

Useful Tips

With wine, there are three factors that must be kept in mind: acidity, intensity and sweetness. From here, you can make judgements over what wines to choose to pair with your desserts. Using these three factors, Ideal Wine Company has made a handy list of tips to remember:

  • It is advised that you pick a wine that is equally sweet or sweeter than the dessert you are serving. This ensures that the wine does not taste sour.
  • If your dessert is very sweet, it is a clever idea to wait and serve your wine later. The intensity of both a sugary wine and dessert may overpower and be sickly.
  • When choosing a wine for dessert, wine experts have a saying: “the sweeter the chocolate, the sweeter the wine, and the darker the chocolate, the darker the wine”. Using this as a guide, it is best to choose a darker wine, such as a full-bodied red, for darker and richer desserts.
  • For simple flavours, such as vanilla and caramel, try an oaky wine.

Dessert Ideas

  • Apple Pie – pairs well with light caramel flavours

This delicious dessert is a popular choice in autumn. Its blend of fruit, cinnamon and nutmeg provides a seasonal spice. This is lighter than most pies, which means it pairs well with a light botrytized wine. Try a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion, which provide caramel and honeyed flavours as well as an acidity that will cut through the sugar and butter. Alternatively, the refreshing sweetness and high acidity found in Riesling enhance the baked flavours and cleanses your palate as you eat.

  • Brownies – rich and dark notes

A classic dessert full of cocoa, chocolate chunks and nuts. Here, it is a good idea to take the rule of “the darker the chocolate, the darker the wine”. The deep chocolate in brownies makes it a perfect match for a dark red wine. Try a Merlot or a Pinot Noir for a decadent accompaniment.

  • Mince Pies – look out for sweet flavours

These sweet and spicy little pies are synonymous with the winter season. However, the difficulty with mince pies is that not only can the mince meat filling be very sweet, it can also be quite acidic. With this in mind, try serving a Madeira or Sauternes. Both wines help to bring out the sweetness of the mince pies, without making an overwhelmingly sugary dessert. The fortified Madeira carries flavours of toffee, raisins, caramel and marmalade, pairing well with the citrusy notes. One the other hand, the lighter Sauternes is French and sweet. Made from botrytized grapes, it results in a sweet and acidic wine, with honey, apricot, peach and nut flavours. You can opt for either wine and still guarantee a delicious pair with your dessert.

With mince pies, serve Madeira or Sauternes. While the fortified Madeira is from Portugal carrying flavours of toffee, raisins, marmalade and caramel, Sauternes is French and sweet, made from botrytized grapes that result in sweet and acidic wines with apricot, honey peaches and nut flavour.

Your brain enjoys expensive wine more

Scientists have been conducting research into how we analyse wine according to how expensive it is. Their research shows that our brains are wired to enjoy higher priced wine more, even if the samples tested are actually from the same bottle, Ideal Wine Company finds out how price can impact taste.

Ideal Wine Company wine price and taste
How can the price of wine impact the taste of it?

Brain trickery

This provides evidence towards the claim that our brain tricks us into thinking more expensive wine is better wine.

The experiment comprised of researchers from the University of Bonn and INSEAD Business School asking participants to try wine samples. The scientists gave the participants the same wine priced at €12 over and over, although they showed them different price tags ranging from €3 to €6 to €18.

During the tastings, the subjects’ brains were monitored using a nuclear spin tomograph.

Participants fooled

Thirty subjects, all aged around 30, took part in the experiment. They were each given 45 euros to spend and given 1mm of wine at a time through tubes leading directly into their mouths.

As the scientists predicted, the subjects were convinced that the wine that was priced higher tasted the best. Interestingly, it didn’t seem to matter whether they had to pay for the wine themselves, or were given it for free. The results were the same in both cases.

Two parts of brain analysed

During the experiment, scientists focused on two specific parts of the brain. One is the medial pre-frontal cortex. This appeared to compute price into their expectation of flavour, and therefore heavily influence the subject’s evaluation of the wine.

The other part of the brain is the ventral striatum, which works as a reward and motivation system. It’s activated much more with higher prices, and also increases the enjoyment of the flavour based on this activation.

Can we train the brain?


It’s not clear from this experiment whether people can actively train their taste buds to change the effect of brain impulses based on price. This could massively effect people’s taste being influenced by marketing.