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Let's Make the Holidays Just a Bit Sweeter

By Christopher Chan

Remember way back when? Like when we couldn't hug, hold, huddle, or even say "Hi" during the holidays in 2020/2021? I know, let's not look back, but let's also not forget how sour life was back then. Well… Cheers to the end of 2022 and, of course, our new beginnings in 2023! Yes… 'tis the season for bubbles and besties, laughter and libations, red wines and cocktails, sparkles and gems, savories and sweets. As you plan your meals and merry making activities, don't forget to add a little sweetness to the occasion. Life is short, so let's make it sweeter!

Yes, I'm talking about dessert wines and there's more than just sweetness to dessert. Refrain from that extra cookie or two and pour an ounce or three as a little dessert wine goes a long way in terms of fun and flavor! It's not about the amount of sugar, it's how much acidity is in the wine that gives world-class sweet wines their deliciously complex longevity. Of course, residual sugar/sweetness is required to be considered a dessert wine, but like all kinds of desserts, there's a plentitude of styles to choose from and they aren't necessarily just for the final course.

This holiday season, consider splurging on a bottle of sweet white Bordeaux from Sauternes, such as Chateau Rieussec 2iem Cru paired with an appetizer of Seared Foie Gras or even liver Pâté. Taste sweet red blends from Oporto, Portugal, with a Late Bottled Vintage, simple Ruby or Vintage Port from Dow's, Taylor-Fladgate or Symington Family Port Wine paired with Stilton, Roquefort or Blue Cheese and a dish of Roasted Nuts or even your favorite Figgy Pudding. Want something a bit less red? Then bust out an amber colored Tawny Port such as Graham's 10- or 20-year expression and a slice of pecan or pumpkin pie or even both. Grab an Ice Riesling or Ice Viognier from Washington State, a Vidal Ice Wine from Inniskillin in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada, with apple crumble or pie a la mode. Perhaps a heady PX Sherry from Toro Albal√° (Pedro Jimenez from Spain) over your favorite vanilla ice cream. Pacific Northwest late harvest whites are fabulous with medium firm white and gold cheeses, crackers, and dried fruits and there's always room for a fortified Grenache (Banyuls) or Viognier (Beaumes de Venise) from the South of France to add a little hint of sunshine to these dark cold days. Lastly, the pop of some Italian Asti Spumante, Moscato d'Asti, or the ever-so-appropriate Vin Santo from Tuscany might be the perfect match made in heaven to those beautifully colorful Christmas sugar cookies. Whatever your sweet-tooth desires, soak your senses in a glass of something sensual!

It seems we've faced our worst fears these past few years, so let's not be afraid of a little sweetness in your glass, making time to sip, savor, and linger over the flavors of desserts and wine. This is how humankind has celebrated (see symposiums) since the Greek and Roman Times.

Cheers and please be kind, be safe, be merry!

December 2023

Christopher Chan is an Advanced Sommelier, Founder & Executive Director of the Washington State Wine Awards. As an entrepreneur, special events producer, and wine/spirits educator, Christopher's reach includes Seattle International Cider Awards, Oregon Wine Awards, Idaho Wine Awards, Seattle International Spirits Awards, SommSummit, Holiday Wine Fest, Coral Wines,, and his latest launch: TikTokTasting. He is currently residing in Walla Walla hosting wine education and hospitality classes while studying for the Master Sommelier exam May 2023.

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