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Pine Wine: Dessert wines for Valentine’s Day

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Chocolates are a traditional gift on Valentine’s Day, but if your Valentine is a wine lover, there’s something special she or he could savor even more: dessert wine.

Don’t confuse dessert wines with simple sweet wines, because good dessert wines have complexity, personality, length and much more. Indeed, some high-end dessert wines cost $100 or more, and no one spends that kind of money on simple wines.

But most dessert wines are much less expensive. Indeed, those recommended below begin at $16. Plus, they offer more value than regular wines in at least two ways:

First, dessert wines are best sipped slowly from very small glasses, like an expensive scotch or tequila.

Second, dessert wines tend retain their high quality for days, if not weeks, unlike regular wines that begin to decline a couple hours after opening.

Therefore, dessert wines provide extended enjoyment.

Also, dessert wines come in many styles, so there is something sure to please almost anyone.


Chamber’s non-vintage Muscat “Rosewood Vineyards, Rutherglen, Australia” ($16; 375 ml): This “stickie” (Aussie slang for dessert wine) is a fine buy with an excellent, expressive nose. It also has strength on the palate, coupled with impressive complexity, great length and a touch of oak.

d’Arenberg 2016 “Wrinkled Riesling, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Australia” ($17; 375 ml): Some dessert wines are made from grapes left on the vine until they lose water, their skins wrinkle and their flavors concentrate. This “Wrinkled Riesling” is beautiful in the glass and also very strong and thick-bodied on the palate with forward fruit, honed balance and a prolonged finish.

R. L. Buller & Son non-vintage “Fine Muscat, Victoria, Australia” ($17; 375 ml): My favorite costing under $40 is an exceptional bargain with gorgeous, deep amber color presaging powerful complexity, as well as excellent integration, impressive refinement and great length.

Casas del Bosque 2013 “Late Harvest Riesling, Casablanca, Chile” ($20; 375 ml): Late-harvest wines tend to have more concentrated flavors, and this very pleasing example also has eye-catching, deep-gold color, as well as strength and complexity on nose and palate and thickly textured unctuousness. See for availability.

d’Art non-vintage “Lodi Port, Lodi” ($28; 500 ml): This Californian is highly pleasing with great purple hue, a strong, complex nose and a personality on the palate expressing hints of chocolate accompanying fine balance, engaging complexity and extended length. Available from

Quinta de la Rosa 2013 “Late Bottled Vintage Port, Porto, Spain” ($29; 750 ml): LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) Ports can be great bargains, and this one is highly attractive for its price. Appealing to the eye, nose and palate, I especially enjoyed its strength, full body, rich fruit and lingering finish.

M. Chapoutier 2016 “Red Dress Wine, Banyuls, France” ($32; 500 ml): Impresses the eye with its deep-purple hue and strong nose featuring fruit and complexity. Red Dress also has forward, well-balanced fruit, along with fine integration and great length. Quite a wine!

Harney Lane non-vintage “Lizzy James, Old Vine Zinfandel (Port), Lodi” ($35; 500 ml): This gold-medal-winning Californian is strong all-around, with deep purple color, an exceptional nose and strength on the palate featuring excellent fruit, complexity and personality. Available from

Navarro 2016 “Late Harvest Riesling, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County” ($35; 375 ml), $69; 750 ml): Yet another beautiful wine from Navarro is forward on the palate with thick body, expressive fruit, finely honed balance, highly pleasing personality and extended finish. Available from

Donnafugata 2015 “Ben Ryé, Passito di Pantelleria, Sicily, Italy” ($40; 375 ml): Rich amber color and strong, complex nose portend strength, thick body, appealing crispness and great length. Very harmonious and expertly crafted from the Zibibbo grape, aka Muscat.

Quinta do Vallado non-vintage “10 Years Old Tawny Port, Porto, Portugal” ($40; 500 ml): As fine a 10-year Tawny as I’ve tasted in several years, this wonderful wine is expressive with powerful complexity, superior integration, pleasing personality and a minutes-long finish.

Sokol Blosser 2014 “White Riesling, Dundee Hills” ($40; 375 ml): Made from organic grapes, this gorgeous wine has stunning color and is strong on the palate with thick texture, engaging complexity, well-honed balance, forward personality and great length.

Warre’s non-vintage “Otima, 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Porto, Portugal” ($54; 500 ml): I loved gazing at the amber color before sampling its impressive strength and complexity on nose and palate. Its smooth texture and great refinement carry through a long-lingering finish.

John Vankat’s Pine Wine appears most months and his Wine Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday. Wines can be ordered from local wine stores, unless indicated otherwise. Prices may vary. John can be reached at


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