Understanding Dessert Wines at The Vineyard Hotel in Berkshire

March 18, 2019


The Vineyard Hotel recently hosted a ‘Dessert Wine – Wine School’ event highlighting this unique type of wine, often also described as sweet wine. Statista shows, that for example in the US, dessert wine sales are on the rise. They note; “This statistic illustrates the sales volume of dessert wine in the United States from 1999 to 2017. According to the report, the sales of dessert wine in the U.S. amounted to approximately 40.8 million 9-liter cases in 2017. In 1999 this figure was just 13 million 9-liter cases”.


At The Vineyard Hotel in Berkshire, sweet wine is taken very seriously and guests can order from a long list of around 153 bottles with different vintages from countries and regions including – France (Alsace, Rhone Valley, Bordeaux), Italy (Piedmont, Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto), Germany (Mosel, Rheinessen), Austria (Niederösterreich, Burgenland), Greece (Santorini), Hungary, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada, China, Thailand and the USA (California, New York). Prices range from an Argentinian 2017 Bodegas Norton Chardonnay, Cosecha Tardia (37.5cl) priced £20 to a Hungarian 1993 Istvàn Szepsy 6 Puttonyos (50cl) priced £750!


The Vineyard Hotel’s award-winning head sommelier Romain Bourger guides us through dessert wines:

How do you propose one selects a dessert / sweet wine?

I would suggest the wine depending on the flavours of the dessert and its sweetness. The rule of thumb is to match a wine that is at least as sweet at the dessert it is paired with.


What is your favourite dessert wine and why?

I love Riesling made into dessert wine, especially German Auslese. Riesling has a naturally high acidity which balances its sweetness making the wine vibrant, pure and easier to drink.


What dishes / flavours would you pair with a dessert wine?

One of my favourite pairings on our menu is the white chocolate and ginger crème brûlée, mango, passionfruit, and banana paired with a late harvest Chenin Blanc from Monsoon Valley from Thailand. It is a delicate dessert wine with seductive notes of honey, confit ginger and dry apricot.


On the high street where and which dessert wine would you suggest?

One of the best for me is Tesco Finest Dessert Semillon, a botrytised Semillon (made in a Sauternes style) from Australia. It is priced £6 per bottle.


The entire experience at the UK’s wine hotel showcases unique moments in wine. Guests are welcomed by a vast wine vault spread over two floors, home to 30,000 bottles of wine. They are later greeted with an exclusive huge canvas ('After the Upset') of the legendary 1976 Judgement of Paris event. Each of the 49 bedrooms are named after an iconic international wine. There are five sommeliers from around the world at the hotel and all guests interact with a sommelier during a meal to select a wine from the 3,000 on the long wine list. 100 wines are served by the glass.


The Judgement of Paris (or the Paris Wine Tasting of May 24, 1976) is seen as one of the most pivotal moments in wine history. A blind wine tasting of French and Californian wines, nearly forty years ago, that forever changed the future of winemaking when unknown Californian wines were chosen over some of France's finest by some of France’s top wine aficionados. Organised by British wine merchant Steven Spurrier, excellent Californian Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons were tasted alongside white Burgundies and Bordeaux reds. For Californian winemakers—and for winemakers around the world—the event transformed the industry. Those in attendance included journalists Odette Kahn the editor of La Revue du Vin de France and George M. Taber from Time Magazine. A comedy drama film; 'Bottle Shock', was released in 2008 and is based on the Judgement of Paris and stars Alan Rickman.


From then on Sir Peter Michael, owner of The Vineyard, was inspired. Here, in an atmosphere devoted to gastronomy, guests may recreate their very own blind tasting with wines matched to each of seven delicious courses prepared by British chef Robby Jenks. Traditionally a French and Californian glass are served with each course and the diner decides which they prefer. Each Judgement of Paris dinner also includes two blind taste tests to decide where the wine originates from; France or California. At the end of the dinner, guests raise a glass to California or to France. Which country gets your vote?


Those interested in wine stories can book to attend a lunch with Nina Caplan: Nina Caplan’s new book ‘The Wandering Vine’ is Louis Roederer Wine Book of the Year 2018. Nina, an award-winning journalist follows the vine into the past, wandering from Champagne's ancient chalk to the mountains of Campania, via the crumbling Roman ruins that flank the river Rhône and the remote slopes of Priorat in Catalonia. Nina will be hosting a ‘Lunch with…’ event at The Vineyard Hotel on 3rd June 2019.


Why not end a meal with a glass of dessert wine?


Eat. Sleep. And drink wine.



The Vineyard, Stockcross, Newbury, Berkshire RG20 8JU 01635 897589

Accommodation and breakfast are priced from £255 based on two guests.

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