Matching the noblest late harvests

Tuesday, 17 August, 2004
Melvyn Minnaar for Slowfood Newsletter
For some foolish reason, they've become known as 'dessert' wines. One suspects that this is because many people simply don't quite know when to pour a wine that is so seductive in appearance and presence - and one that often costs a lot and is frequently a top topic of conversation among wine cognoscenti. Because it is sweet, it is delegated to the 'pudding' side of the menu.

At a very fancy event a while back, perhaps the finest and famous of these wines was poured at the end of a meal, accompanied by a dessert invented for those ready to die for, and of, chocolate. Well, to cut it short: the three of four variations of the most dense and deepest of sweet chocolate puddings on the plate simply gave the extraordinary Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 1997, no chance. It was a silly wine selection: no match, no winner. Those at the do who could not believe their luck at being served such a gem, simply skipped the choc (don't caterers realise that not all people in the world are chocoholics?!) for the delicate golden elixir. Others savoured it later, after lunch, reflecting on the sunny, lingering winter afternoon through the glimmer in the glass. It is not simply a matter that sweet and sweet often clash when you try to match them.    
On the level of the truly noble late harvest and naturally sweet wines - of which some of the best are produced in the Cape - there is often no food match. Nothing to complement the heady botrytis perfume of some; the finely-tuned sugar-acid balance, the length of flavour.

If anything, the French have it right: serve 'dessert wine' with foie gras or the perfect blue cheese. But not malva pudding, nor fruit salad. Certainly not chocolate dessert.

Of course, to come into their own, Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 1998 (the current release available), Nederburg Edelkeur 2002 or Paul Cluver Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest 2003 (the latter both gold medal winners at the recent International Wine and Spirit Competition in London) should be savoured on their own.

Or with friends. With Mozart. With admiration and rapture.