The holiday table is one of the most inviting spaces ever to be experienced and in France, the gathering of family and friends over a deliciously prepared meal is the height of good living.
Many believe that the treasure known as pudding, or dessert, is the pinnacle of gastronomy. French holiday desserts delight and tempt; as part of a meal or as a spirited treat. The French also know that something delicious in the glass perfects the art of sweets.
The term dessert wine describes a bottle that’s enjoyed primarily at the end of or prior to the meal. The wine itself, depending on sugar levels, may even be meant to be enjoyed as a dessert in itself. Enjoyed as an aperitif, at the beginning of a gathering, sweet wine has a festive, honey sensation that makes guests feel welcome and tended to.
Dessert wines are generally enjoyed in a smaller glass; some even have their own glasses named after them (such as the famous Sauternes). These wines can be expensive and are considered a drink to sip – not to gulp!
Some of the wines in this category have special production methods, such as a late harvest (vendage tardive) picked by hand as the weather turns cooler. The chill in the air causes the sugar to concentrate which in turn sweetens the wine. Other varieties experience what’s called noble rot (again, the famous Sauternes) which heightens sweetness due to a desirable mold which grows on the grape. The harvest is carefully monitored for the perfect concentration of the noble rot.
Some regions, in particular Languedoc-Roussillon, produce a naturally sweet wine (vin doux naturel) that’s fortified, causing a slow in fermentation from the addition of alcohol. This creates a sweeter wine with higher alcohol content. It’s not uncommon to see these particular wines compared to port. The region even produces a special holiday wine, Muscat de Noël, which promises to be a perfect partner to many famed French holiday desserts.
Of course, there is always room for a gorgeous bottle of Champagne or other French sparkler. It’s no coincidence that these wines herald celebrations, holiday kisses and festive toasts. They are served cold, in their own delicate glasses and are often enjoyed before or after a meal. Consider chilling a few bottles to put some zing around your holiday meal.
The pairing of wine with pudding should be fun, it’s not a serious moment, so embellish the celebration with as much indulgence as possible…
More about wine in France
Champagne The French Elixir
The History of Champagne
Classic Champagne Cocktail recipes
The biggest bottle of Champagne in the world
Jill Barth is a wine writer in Chicago who thinks you’d like a lovely glass of wine.