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Pairing Wine with Ice Cream

Erin O'Reilly - Certified Specialist of Wine

Wine and ice cream pairing is a thing? You bet it is! These two sensory powerhouses can come together for a hedonistic treat. Ice cream and wine have never tasted so good! Here’s what you need to know.

What Wine Goes with Ice Cream?

The general guideline is to pair sweet foods with sweet wines. Before you start scooping and pouring, it’s helpful to keep a few things in mind when pairing ice cream with wine.

  • Sweet foods can make a dry wine seem alcoholic. If you pair a sweet dish with a dry wine, this will accentuate the alcohol and you will feel the burn in the wine, making it seem out of balance.

  • Red wines have tannin, that drying and slightly bitter and astringent quality in the wine. Sweet foods will bring out red wine tannins. Dry red wine and ice cream pairing will enhance the astringency and bitterness in the wine.

  • All wines have acid. This helps the wine’s fruit seem fresh and vibrant, but when paired with sweet foods, the acid in wine will seem more pronounced.

You will want the wine to be slightly sweeter than the food, otherwise, your wine can seem bitter, thin, alcoholic, and acidic. Yuck!
Check out these winning wine and ice cream pairings.

an ice cream sundae with two glasses of Riesling

Wine: Medium-Sweet to Late Harvest Rieslings

Ice Cream Recommendations: Vanilla, Stone Fruit, Tropical Fruit, Sherbet

Look for low-alcohol Rieslings for this pairing. Try a Spätlese (translates to late harvest) Riesling, made using grapes harvested at least one week after Riesling grapes destined for dry wines. This means that they have higher levels of sugar. While most Spätlese is made into a sweet or off-dry wine, be sure to look at the label. If you see the word ‘Trocken’, the wine will be dry. Don’t buy trocken wine for your ice cream pairing.

On US Riesling labels, look for ‘late harvest’ Rieslings.

Why Riesling? The honeyed aromatics will complement the vanilla bean and stone or tropical fruit and the wine’s high acid will cut through the milk fat in the ice cream. These are power couple pairings.

a plate of dessert with Sherry wine

Wine: Pedro Ximénez Montilla-Moriles Sherry

Ice Cream Recommendations: Vanilla, Chocolate, Coffee, Mocha, Rocky Road, Caramel, Peanut Butter Cup

Produced in Southern Spain, Sherry has the unfortunate reputation of being the tipple of choice for an older generation. Pedro Ximénez Sherry, made from the white Pedro Ximénez grape, makes an intensely sweet, dark dessert wine. Instead of sipping it with your ice cream, pour it over your old-fashioned scoop of vanilla, like you would chocolate sauce. You’ll find the wine brings an intoxicating elixir of coffee, chocolate, and toffee notes.

A glass of Ruby Port with espresso gelato

Wine: Ruby Port

Ice Cream Recommendations: Chocolate, Mocha, Cookies and Cream, Rocky Road

Ruby Ports are the entry-level Ports made in the Douro region of Portugal. These affordable, fortified wines have candied red fruit notes and soft tannins that will marry well with the bitter cocoa and coffee notes in ice cream.

Fruit sorbet with two glasses of Champagne

Wine: Sweet Champagne

Ice Cream Recommendations: Vanilla, Stone Fruits, Tropical Fruits, Pumpkin Pie, Key Lime Pie

Careful with sparkling wine and desserts! Dry Champagne has searing acidity that will make it seem like you’ve squeezed a lemon over your ice cream. But if you love bubbles, then you’ve got options.

Look for doux, or sweet, on your wine sparkling wine label. These bottles bring sugar that masks the acidity making it perfect for vanilla and other fruity ice creams.

Erin O'Reilly Author Bio Image Author Bio: Erin O’Reilly, Certified Specialist of Wine, is a wine writer and educator. She pens her work from Monterey wine country where she raises a glass to the growers and producers crafting wines that transcend time.