Your customers have had a wonderful dinner. They are loving the world, they are singing praises of your restaurant to their waiter and sending back compliments to the chef—they’re even posting on Facebook about the great meal they just ate. Now, they’re ready to order dessert, and their good mood makes them want a great sweet wine with their dessert. They read the pairings that you’ve set up on your digital wine menu (hint, hint), and they order the most decadent dessert menu item you have: the Chocolate Cake with Buttercream. They’re really indulging, so they also order the champagne, which your menu has recommended as a great celebration pairing with that fabulous cake. They love the cake, and their champagne catches the light as they toast your restaurant. They love champagne. Then, they take a sip and disaster happens. Do you know what went wrong?
Intro to sweet wine pairing
Since you’re dying to know what happened, I’ll tell you now. The cake was so sweet and luscious that the champagne just couldn’t compete. It tasted sour and bitter, like a lemon in their mouths after the cake. They wanted to send the champagne back because they were sure that you had given them a bad champagne, but they were too embarrassed to do so, and each sip just made them angrier at your restaurant for serving such substandard bubbly. Of course, with that amount of frustration and anger right at the end of their meal, they never returned, and they even told their friends about your terrible champagne.
Sweet wine (and champagne) pairings are easy if you follow this rule of thumb: don’t serve a food that’s sweeter than the wine. If your guests want to order the Chocolate Buttercream Cake, suggest a sweet mixed drink or Ruby Port. Make sure your wine menu and dessert menu reflect this too, and you’ll never run into this disastrous situation again.
Oh yeah, what about that red wine and chocolate thing?
Wine and chocolate problems extend past champagne. You know how everyone always recommends red wine and chocolate as a match made in heaven? Well, if you do it wrong, it’s a terrible blend. Your guests might be making the misguided mistake of ordering a chocolate dessert with the most affordable red wine on the menu (or the second-most affordable, because you have that one marked up, right?). If they order a dry red with a sweet chocolate dessert, it’s even worse than that champagne blunder, it becomes an undrinkable, inedible mess. You’re the food expert, don’t let your guests blunder through their ordering. Make sure that your staff or digital wine menu makes the right suggestions for dessert.
Sweet wines also go really well with spicy dishes, and champagne goes really well with oysters and other salty dishes. These are wonderful pairings… but chocolate and other very sweet desserts can destroy a diner’s good dinner experience. Check that your servers and your menu all reflect the sweet wine rule of thumb above, and never commit that sweet wine disaster again.
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