Dessert wines are, at least in my view, almost always best drunk on their own: a pudding in themselves, a little bit of sweetness that finishes off a dinner. Food is just a distraction, or wine is just a distraction, if you’re coming at it from the spoon-holding side of things. However, I make a few exceptions and tarte tatin is one of those, the buttery caramel, the tang of the cooked apples, and the flake of the puff pastry are only complemented by the right sort of wine. My favourite match is a sweet riesling, which has a refreshing sharpness and often a suggestion of apple strudel to it. Tarte tatin also emphasises the honeyed, orchard-fruit scent of sauternes and other, similar sweet wines – the apple brings out the exotic fruitiness of the wine while the caramel underscores its sumptuous sweetness.
This classic dessert is also delicious with spirits. The apple flavour is a natural with cognac and armagnac, but the ultimate brandy would be calvados from Normandy, or English apple brandy from Somerset.
Even better, though, is that you don’t need to make this dessert at all as they’re all great stand-alone digestifs, too.
Four to try
Waitrose Sauternes Chateau Suduiraut 2007 Sauternes France (£15.99/37.5cl, Waitrose,14%) Luscious sweet wine made for Waitrose by one of the best sauternes producers out there.
Dupont Calvados Pays d’Auge France (£26/350ml, select M&S stores, 40%) Highly accomplished calvados – beautifully sleek and smooth. Smells gorgeous too.
D’Arenberg The Noble Wrinkled Riesling 2011 Australia (mix six price £9.74; single bottle £12.99, Majestic, 10%) A sticky riesling from Down Under that tastes of marzipan, exotic blooms and sweet limes.
Darting Estate Fronhof Riesling Eiswein 2012 Germany (£20/37.5cl, select M&S stores, 8%) Very special, rare sweet wine made from riesling grapes picked very early one freezing December morning, when the mercury had fallen to -8C. Tastes of crystallised limes and lemons.
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