Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Raise Your Glass!- alternatives to champagne with wedding cake

Tawny Port served with Chocolate Cake

Weddings are all about pairings-at the alter, on the dance floor and definitely between food and wine. Wedding cake and champagne are considered a classic pairing- but depending on the match, it may be a stumble rather than a glide.

Champagne is highly regarded as our celebratory drink of choice. There is nothing like the throaty POP!! of a cork to put smiles on faces, raise arms and get a party started. I love sparking wine, my fiancée loves sparkling wine, and we are happy not to have to wait for a celebration to enjoy it (why not every day a celebration?), and though there is a world of sparklers to serve with Wedding Cake {more than you may think} I am going to take the opportunity to talk to you about still wines, dessert wines and fortified wines. These wines don't get nearly as much attention as they deserve.

Vin Santo is a wonderful wine with a nutty taste

Sweet wines are a bit of a mystery for most and sweetness is often equated with low quality- but I am here to tell you that is not necessarily the case. In fact some of the best wines in the world have sweetness to them. The infamous Sauternes from Bordeaux can reach into the thousands of dollars

When I have dinner parties I often serve dessert wines at the end of the meal, and it is always a surprise and a delight for people. “Oh this is delicious! What IS it?”

In addition to the delight of introducing something new or different, the fact is that with desserts the bright sparkling acidity of champagne is not always the best.

{A quick aside- there are many styles of sparkling wines that are fantastic with dessert, which I will address in a future post- there is just too much to share!}

When it comes to dessert I am a chocolate person and with my chocolate I like red wine or ruby port or something husky, full of berry flavor. I like a little ying and yang.

To get a better understanding of this I asked around at a couple of wine places for some insight. I wanted to also offer the ability for you to actually find and purchase what I’m talking about. Unfortunately most of the big wine outlet/shipping places didn’t have much time for me, but my new best friend Scott, over at Appellation in Chelsea, was wonderful.

Scott recommended Maury or a Granache from Roussion to go with my chocolate, two red wines from the South of France where the sun stays high in the sky resulting in juicy berry ripe grapes to make wine from.

For a more refined wine, Tawny Port or a Fino Sherry are really delightful when you want to add a nuttier profile to your palate. These wines can have a muskiness to them that is a great accent to almonds or spice cake. Another wine in this category is Vin Santo-
“Sainted Wine” which also adds a nutty, raisiny component.

For a lighter cake, such as a Vanilla Cake or Lemon Cake I like to serve Essencia, which is an Orange Muscat. It has a bit of alcohol, and great acidity so it’s not too syrupy and you can appreciate the fruit. In fact, my Golden Yellow cake was developed years ago for a client who was pairing his entire wedding menu with wines from his cellar. For dessert he wanted a cake to compliment Essencia. We worked for a few weeks to get the recipe right and over 20 years later I’m still making that cake!

But with all these choices how to really decide?  I say call Scott, or speak to the most knowledgeable person at your local wine store. Go equipped with a list of the things you would like to serve and let them guide you through. With your menu in hand they should happily help guide you into what wines they have on their shelves to best accent your offerings.

If your feeling less than confident about your local guy/gal, you can try going to Natalie MacLean's website and blog where there are some great discussions and a "wine match"  thingy to help you find a type/style/grape to go with your dessert.

The wines at Appellation are organic, biodynamic and often local to NY. It’s a small store full of gems and you already know how cool Scott is. There are many things there you don't see elsewhere and I have never had a wine I didn't enjoy there.  I highly recommend you go see him and tell him I sent you.

As for me, I am planning on doing some further research on this myself- and why not? With so many things to choose from it will be great fun exploring- and my guests are all the luckier for it- as will be yours.

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