vino passito

What are dessert wines.

Dessert wines are produced from grapes subjected to withering, even partial, on the plant or after harvest; they must not undergo any enrichment practice, neither before nor after this natural concentration in sugars. The wines obtained from this over-maturation have a marked alcohol content and a high sugar residue, however not all dessert wines are sweet.

Dry dessert wines

To make dry dessert wines, the must of raisins is left to ferment until all the sugars present in it are consumed, thus obtaining a wine with another alcohol content but without residual sugar. The most famous Italian denominations of this particular type of wine are Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG and Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG.

Fortified dessert wines

Fortified dessert wines are dessert wines to which ethyl alcohol is added during or at the end of fermentation. The italian denomination par excellence is certainly the Pantelleria Passito Liquoroso DOC.

Types of withering

There are several methods for drying the grapes and they can be grouped into two categories:

Withering on the plant: There are three ways to carry out the withering directly on the plant:

  • Late harvest: The grapes are left to dry completely on the vine with a delay in the harvest of at least a month.
    An extreme form of late harvest is carried out to produce Icewine, dessert wines produced mainly in cold countries such as Austria, Germany and Canada. To make this type of wine, the grapes are left to freeze on the vine until they reach temperatures of around -7 °.
  • Noble Mold (Botrytis Cinerea): Botrytis Cinerea is a mushroom that manifests itself in particular temperature and humidity conditions not present every year, generally after the autumn rains and prefers white grape varieties. It develops on the surface of the peel of the berries giving rise to a greyish bloom that makes the bunch of grapes wither. Through this process it is possible to give life to the famous Muffled or botrytized wines. The most famous denominations are surely the Tokaji, in the Tokaj area in Hungary and the Sauternes in the Graves area in Bordeaux, France.
  • Torsion of the peduncle: a technique which has by now fallen into disuse due to the high cost of construction. When used, it serves to block communications between the mother plant and the bunch, favoring withering.

Withering after the harvest: there are two different methods:

  • Natural withering: the grapes are placed in a ventilated area on mats or racks, hung on ropes, or placed on stacked crates.
  • Artificial drying: an artificial ventilation system with heated air around 30 ° C with a humidity of about 55-60% is applied.

The pairing between cigar and dessert wines in detail

The high alcohol content and the presence of a significant amount of sugary residue make the pairing between cigar and dessert wines perfect. The criteria to be considered are essentially concordant and refer to the structure, persistence and sweetness.

Matching based on structure and persistence

  • Light-bodied and not persistent on the palate cigars should be paired with slightly structured and persistent dessert wines, possibly young.
  • Medium-bodied and persistent on the palate cigars should be paired with medium-structured and persistent dessert wines, possibly with a few years of maturation and aging.
  • Full-bodied and structured cigars, with a long persistence on the palate (limited Cuban editions, for example) should be paired with dessert and fortified dessert wines, structured, with a long persistence in the mouth and which have reached a few years of maturation and aging.

Pairing based on sweetness

It is a good practice to prefer cigars that release aromas of sweet spices rather than spicy spices, further leveraging fruity notes rather than herbaceous notes.
Choosing the cigar correctly starting from the assumption that it must release sweet notes, with the continuation of the smoke there will be less chance of encountering too marked spicy notes or roasting notes that could ruin the pairing with this type of wine.


In this article, we introduced the pairing of cigar and dessert wines. When we talk about dessert wine it doesn’t necessarily mean sweet wine, but it is true that most dessert wines have a high sugar residue which gives them a remarkable sweetness. We have seen how particular withering techniques create particular wines such as moldy wines and icewines. Finally, we analyzed the pairing between cigar and dessert wines in detail, taking into consideration two concordance pairing criteria, the structure and the sweetness.



Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay

Sommelier professionista (ASPI Associazione Sommellerie Professionale Italiana) in sedia a rotelle pubblicato a livello internazionale con svariate esperienze nella ristorazione e nella organizzazione di eventi. Scrive di abbinamenti sigari - bevande su Gusto Tabacco.