“This rhubarb flan I’ve just made would go beautifully with a glass of sweet wine. I don’t suppose we’ve got anything suitable?” My wife had barely finished her question before I was heading towards our wine rack.
We often think of the different styles of dry wines pairing well with particular main course dishes – white Burgundy with chicken, perhaps, Rioja or Claret with lamb – but it is the same with sweet wines and desserts. A delicate pudding would be overwhelmed by a powerful Australian ‘stickie’, yet that’s exactly the wine you would be thinking of to match a rich chocolate dessert or Christmas Pudding.
So, how did I choose a partner for our rhubarb flan? Rhubarb can be quite acidic so we cooked it with some orange zest and juice to counter that and a little cinnamon for a soft, spicy flavour. And those additions pointed me in a particular direction for the wine. Flavours of orange or marmalade are often found in wines made with botrytised grapes. (This happens when the grapes are left on the vine until they are attacked by the botrytis fungus which shrivels the berries and concentrates the sugars). Thin skinned grapes (Semillon is a good example) grown in vineyards in humid areas are particularly prone to this – Sauternes in southern Bordeaux is probably the best known – but I opened a bottle from the Australian producer, De Bortoli, who also use the same grape variety.
Their ‘Florence Broadhurst’ Botrytis Semillon (Majestic, £9.99 for a half-bottle) is, as you can see, a wonderful deep gold colour with lovely honey, orange and spice flavours – just a perfect match for our rhubarb flan. But, although the flavour is quite intense, this is not a heavy wine as, unlike many sweet wines, this has just 10% alcohol – an important consideration if you’ve already enjoyed a dry wine with your main course.
We love sweet wines and have always got a few bottles in stock for occasions such as this where a pudding is just crying out for a glass of something to end a lovely meal perfectly.