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Kulers Uncorked: Dessert Wines

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

Yalumba Museum Reserve, 21-Year Tawny Muscat, South Eastern Australia

Yalumba Museum Reserve, 21-Year Tawny Muscat, South Eastern Australia

  • $19
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Aromas of mincemeat pie with deep, rich flavors of brown sugar, molasses and caramel. It has touch of acidity that keeps it from becoming too heavy. It leaves a pleasant clove-like aftertaste.

For some time, fans of Kulers Uncorked (both of you) have asked if it is possible to get more of me. This is a request I took to heart and one I dedicated myself to the entire month of December.

Here’s my solution: I gained 10 pounds.

There is indeed more of me pounding on this keyboard right now. And while I’d like to blame my dedication to serving readers, my talented neighbors and friends played the greatest role in creating “more” of me with their limitless supply of irresistible candies, cookies and cakes. (Special shout out to Mary Kathryn Hagge, our family’s “Cookie Tante.”)

Seriously, though, I must lose what I’ve gained. Here’s my ingenious diet plan: Until I drop the 10, I’m replacing all my desserts with dessert wine.

Dessert wines are the forgotten wine category. Since many of us have so little exposure to dessert wines, it just seems like foreign territory.

Here is a primer on the dessert wines that will be gracing and replacing sweets on my table until the excess body fat disappears:

Vin Santo (Recioto-style): Primarily made in Tuscany, Italy, from white grapes that are left on mats to dry for three months or so. The highly concentrated juice from these grapes is fermented, then placed in small barrels. The barrels are stored in a winery’s rafters for several years to expose the wine to extreme cold in winter and heat in summer. The result is something akin to toasted almonds dipped in honey. That’s why it so good with biscotti, which I won’t be having for a little while. (Recommendation: Badia a Coltibuono)

Late Harvest Wines: A broad category that includes Sauternes-style and ice wine. Instead of mats, these grapes are left on the vine to dry out or freeze. The dried-out grapes are sometimes infected by a beneficial fungus called botrytis cinerea. These wines have an unctuous, honey quality about them and offer flavors ranging from lemon custard to apricot pie to poached pear-marzipan tart—all of which make for great pairings, but are now off my menu. (Recommendations: Mer Soleil “Late,” Kiona “Ice Wine,” and Höpler Trockenbeerenauslese)

Port Wine: These fortified wines come in three styles, but the two most important are tawny and ruby. Tawnies spend decades in large oak tanks and gain a brown sugar, golden raisin, toasted nut quality and go quite nicely with something I won’t be eating: crème brûlée. Ruby ports spend much less time in oak and retain their blackberry, black cherry, dark chocolate flavors. Needless to say, a perfect match with gooey chocolate cake and berry sauces. Needless to say, a dessert I’m not interested in for the time being. (Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port, Yalumba “Museum Reserve” Tawny-style Muscat)

So here’s the science to my diet secret: One serving of Trader Joe’s Crème Brûlée has 340 calories. A four-ounce serving of tawny port has about 190 calories (135 from alcohol, 55 from sugars). If I average three desserts a week, but substitute a scrumptious glass of dessert wine instead, that’s a net savings of 450 calories per week! A simplified estimate says there are 35,000 calories in 10 pounds of fat. So, in just about 78 weeks, I’ll be a lean, mean writing machine again.

“Umm. Gil, that’s not quite right.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Carolyn O’Neil, registered dietician, award-winning journalist and, at the moment, your conscience. You know there’s a lot of ‘fudging’ with these numbers you’ve presented. Pun intended.”

“Yes, Carolyn. I know, but…”

“But nothing, Gil! Satire is not so easily digested and should be left to the professionals. And, while you are correct about the calorie differential between most desserts and a small serving of dessert wine, your scheme could only work if it is part of greater lifestyle choices that include exercise and many more dietary decisions.”

“Sorry, Carolyn.”

Guess you can’t have your cake and drink it, too. See you at the gym.

Gil Kulers is a sommelier and maitre d’ for an Atlanta country club. You can reach him at

Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.

2 comments Add your comment


January 10th, 2014
6:25 am

I’d like you if you came back to Tower. You introduced me to some good wines.

Gil Kulers

January 10th, 2014
10:55 am

Well, thank you. Very kind words, indeed. Tower was great to me and I miss my time in the aisles, but these wines are available there or can be ordered. Thanks for reading.