What dessert wine with chocolate mousse?

Several weeks ago, we had a great dinner with two other couples.  We started with salmon mousse tarts and a choice of a Hunter Valley Semillon or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Even though we knew it was going to be a scorcher of a day, everyone wanted DAZ in the Kitchen’s famous beef stroganoff which we paired with a 2009 Bouchard Pere & Fils Pulingy-Montrachet.  We wanted to have creme brulee for dessert, but did not have a torch available, so decided to go with chocolate mousse instead.  (The recipe for all courses is provided in the obvious links.)

I had a number of good sticky dessert wines, including some very nice Sauternes to go with creme brulee, but was uncertain as to what dessert wine would work well with chocolate mousse.  After some internal debate including considering Port or Muscat, I felt a peppery Hunter Valley Shiraz could work, so put aside a 2007 Tyrrell’s Stevens Shiraz.  This is a typical high-end Hunter Valley Shiraz from a great vintage.  However, through the generosity of our guests and them offering to help determine what dessert wine to drink with chocolate mousse, we had a bottle of Ivanhoe Madeira and Audrey Wilkinson Muscat to choose from.  I also had a bottle of 1993 Lindeman’s Porphyry leftover from the evening before (notice the small cork bits in the bottle from the shattered 20-year-old cork).  So we decided to try all three dessert wines and the main lesson learned is that sweet wine and sweet food match quite well, regardless of other characteristics involved!  All three wines provided unique, but pleasurable drinking experiences while eating chocolate mousse.

Three dessert wines to go with chocolate mousseThe Porphyry was sweet, almost too sugary due to its age and worked better as a dessert wine with the apple tart we had the night before.  Yet, it provided a viscous mouthfeel that felt good with chocolate mousse and set off well the strawberries adorning the chocolate mousse.  The Madeira was sweeter yet, but sharper in taste and complimented, almost competed with the chocolate mousse.  The Muscat (which was one of my original alternatives to consider as the dessert wine) probably worked the best as it less sweet, containing caramelized orange flavors to compliment the chocolate flavors of the mousse.

But the key lesson learned was that almost any dessert wine worked!  Looking back, I wish I would have also pulled out a few different Ports wines as I think they could have worked as well as the Muscat or even better.

What wines have you served with chocolate mousse?  Let me know if you have any good suggestions.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2014.  Steve Shipley.  All rights reserved.
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The wines of my 60th birthday were fine indeed!

It was quite a birthday weekend overall, with guests flying in from the US and Melbourne to join those of us already based in Sydney.  We started with a Friday evening pre-birthday dinner celebration at Fish at the Rocks (with our out-of-town visitors) with some great wines, including:

  • 1992 Waverley Estate Semillon;
  • 2007 La Belle Voisine Chassange Montrachet;
  • 1996 Lindemans St George; and
  • 2005 Chateau Haut Beregon Sauternes

This on its own was a great line-up!  Then on Saturday, I tasted three wines while being a guest on Food in Focus with Natascha Moy.  By the time I returned from the show, I had a bit of a buzz having consumed almost 750 ml by myself (one needs to make sure they are voicing the right opinions when one is serving the public like I was that day)!

By the time I arrived home, Jay Huxley, Masterchef, had arrived and was preparing dinner, and what a dinner it turned out to be.  A number of our guests (including most who had attended Deanna’s 40th birthday several years ago) thought it was the finest meal they had ever had!  They felt that the wine drinking for Deanna’s 40th was the best wine drinking experience they ever had and it came with a great meal, but my 60th was the reverse – the best meal they ever had with a great line-up of wine.

It was my intent to make my 60th birthday the second best wine tasting meal I ever had, but I admittedly fell short.  There were two main reasons for this.  The first that being my 60th birthday, it was really tough to get birth year wines (1952) that were truly outstanding compared to Deanna’s 40th which had a birth year of 1971 when we had:

  • 1971 Lindemans Limestone Ridge;
  • 1971 Penfolds Grange; and
  • 1971 Chateau D’Yquem

each bottle easily being in the Top 10 bottles I have ever drank!  But the most important reason was that Jay had developed such an awesome menu that it was actually difficult to match the very best wines with the food!  For Deanna’s 40th birthday dinner, I presented the nine wines I wanted to drink to the chef and he did a magnificent job matching the food to the wine.  But for my 60th birthday, I let Jay have total freedom and while he created a killer food line-up, it was difficult to match great wines to every course.

I had been working for a couple of months to pick a line-up of great wines for my 60th birthday, including thinking it was time to have our last bottle of the 1981 Penfolds Grange, and do that just after the 1991 Grant Burge Mesach (given to me for my 59th birthday BTW!) and the 1992 Henschke Hill of Grace.  My original line-up of wines for my 60th, included:

  • 1998 Pommeray Louis Champange
  • 1990 Waverley Estate Semillon
  • 2001 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling
  • 2007 La Belle Voisine Chassagne Montrachet
  • 2005 Chateau Brane-Cantenac
  • 1991 Grant Burge Mesach
  • 1992 Henschke Hill of Grace
  • 1981 Penfolds Grange
  • 1997 Chateau D’Yquem
  • 1967 Lindemans Vintage Port

However, once I saw Jay’s menu, I knew I needed to back off the big reds (especially the Shiraz) and I also ‘downgraded’ some of my choices, including moving from the 1990 Waverley Estates Semillon to the 1992 Waverley Estate Semillon (which we had the night before at Fish at the Rocks), and I also decided to drink the 1980 Lindemans Vintage Port instead of the 1967.  I only have two bottles of the 1990 Waverley Estate Semillon left and I needed a good bottle and a back-up bottle to share with my wife’s boss who I greatly admire and who is a Semillon fanatic, and I wanted to sip the 1967 Lindemans Vintage Port over several months instead of ‘gulping’ it down at the end of a boozy meal, which I have mistakenly done with some iconic Ports previously.

But the key thing about Jay’s menu is that it demanded more whites than reds and the reds had to be more refined than the big Shiraz’ that I had nominated for the evening.  Therefore, I eliminated the:

  • 2005 Chateau Brane-Cantenac
  • 1991 Grant Burge Mesach
  • 1992 Henschke Hill of Grace
  • 1981 Penfolds Grange

I also decided upon seeing the desserts and having some guests who would never have the experience again to go with the 1975 Lindemans Porphry instead of the 1997 Chateau D’Yquem.  I only ended up using two wines from my original list being the 1998 Pommeray Louise Champange and the 2008 Grosset Polish Hill.

So what was the menu and matching wines for the evening?  It was as follows:

  • Upon arrival – Bollinger NV Champagne
  • Tian of Alaskan King Crab, black caviar and radish – 1998 Pommeray Louise Champagne
  • Sousvide Pork Fillet, red cabbage, cauliflower puree and lentil pear salad – 2008 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling and 2007 La Belle Voisine Nuits St George (Pinot Noir)
  • Tomato heart and gin shooter, in tomato tea and basil oil – finishing off the 1998 Pommeray Louise Champange and 2008 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling
  • Smoked eel, jamon croquette with beetroot and apple – Rose Vin de Pays du Vaucluse
  • Vichy Asparagus with citrus and olive crumb and sousvide duck egg yolk –  2009 Bouchard Perrin & Fils Puligny Montrachet
  • Charcoal octupus in romesco sauce and verde oil – 2007 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz
  • Confit duck in mushroom sauce, abalone and star anise consume – (we continued to drink whatever wines we had going at the time!)
  • Canon of saltbush lamb in minted pea soup and taro – 2000 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Spiced poached pear crispy wonton, salted caramel and double cream – 1975 Lindemans Porphry
  • Death by Chocolate – 1980 Lindemans Vintage Port and Bailey’s NV Rutherglen Muscat

As you can imagine, we were quite satiated by the end of the evening!

This post has become quite a bit longer than I had expected, so I will leave my review of the food and wine matching and descriptions to the next post.  I just wanted to let you know that this was a very special meal – the best meal I have ever eaten thanks to Jay Huxley and his team, and among one of the best wine drinking experiences I have ever had.  Not every meal is like this though.  Tonight I am having a Chinese pork bun and drinking a 1997 Rosemount Show Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  But it is still great as I am sharing the evening with my loved one over good food and good wine.  What could be better?

Overview of Australia’s Wine Regions – Part 4

Part 4 – Characteristics and Grapes of Australia’s Smaller Wine Regions

In Part 1, we discussed why Australia has become a renown wine producing country, and that all states and territories other than the Northern Territories and Queensland produce high quality wines.   In Part 2, we described where Australia’s prominent wine regions were located.

Discussing, even in simplest terms, each region, takes up some space, so I broke the wine regions up into the four large wine regions which I described in Part 3 (last  post):

  • Hunter Valley – about two hours north of Sydney, New South Wales
  • Barossa Valley – just north of Adelaide, South Australia with close-by regions of Clare and Eden Valley, and with McLaren Vale south of Adelaide
  • Yarra Valley – about an hour north of Melbourne, with close-by regions including Mornington Peninsula and Geelong, south of Melbourne, and Heathcote, Victoria northwest of Melbourne and on the way to Bendigo, Victoria
  • Margaret River – about 4 hours south of Perth, Western Australia

In Part 4 (this post), we will now describe what makes each smaller region so special and what grapes grow best in those regions:

  • Rutherglen – about half-way between Sydney and Melbourne, close to the New South Wales and Victorian border and the cities of Albury and Wodonga
  • Mudgee, NSW – about 4 hours northwest of Sydney, with some wineries relatively close by around Orange
  • Tasmania
  • Riverina – in southwest New South Wales


    Rutherglen is one of the best wine regions in the world for Muscat.  They make a wide variety of great Muscats.  They also are known for their Durif wines.  Durif is a secondary grape, easy to confuse with other red grapes if you have not had it before.  They also make some spectacular Tokays, the Hungarian grape often used as a dessert wine.  See me blog entry on “What an Affogado!” for an overview on how special a Rutherglen Tokay can be!

    I have not been there yet myself, but friends tell me it is a very nice region to visit with a lot of good food events and sightseeing outside of just tasting wine.

    Rutherglen Top Wines:  Durif, Muscat, Tokay


    Mudgee is much higher up and inland than a lot of wine regions, making a perfect climate for cold weather grapes.  Robert Oakley has some of his best vineyards in Mudgee.  Mudgee vineyards also ship a lot of grapes to wineries around Australia.

    Some very good Cabernet Sauvignons come from Mudgee and a number of organic wines are made in Mudgee.

    But Mudgee is mostly known for its dessert wines and iced wines.  They have a lot of sweet late harvest and Botrytis Semillon dessert wines.

    While 4 hours outside of Sydney, it can make a nice weekend getaway.

    Mudgee Top Wines:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Botrytis Semillon and other Desert Wines


    Tasmania is a significant newer entrant to Australian wine regions.  With its cooler climate, it produces great Pinot Noir wines.

    Tasmania Top Wines:  Pinot Noir


    Riverina is not known for its great wines, but rather as the largest producer of wines in Australia.  About half of all Australian grapes come from Riverina, and many of them find there way into cask (box) wines.  Decent enough and very cheap, but not the type of thing I like to drink or write about.

    Riverina Top Wines:  Cheap Cask Wines

    This concludes the very short four-part overview of Australia’s wine regions.  I will be following up with several blogs on where and how to buy wines in Australia and also with blogs in more detail on each of the major wine regions, including recommendations on some of the best and best-valued wines on the market.

    Stay tuned and keep drinking smartly and safely!

    What an affogado!

    Last night we made pizza and had the Gabbiano Classico Riserva to go with it.  What I failed to mention was that we made affogados for desert.  They were magnificent!  Using a scoop of vanilla ice cream and shot of espresso plus a shot of liqueur made for a most pleasant way to finish the meal.  Two of us had it with Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur, while two of us had the affogado with the RL Buller & Son Rare Liqueur Tokay.  While Frangelico is the standard liqueur to make a very fine affogado, the Buller Tokay was something special.

    I had a sip of the Buller Tokay about six months ago, thought it was special, and bought three bottles to have on hand with the intent of making an affogado with it some day, and yesterday was that day.  It was incredible.  Previously, I have never found a Tokay I enjoyed as much as a very good Port or good Rutherglen Muscat.  But the Buller Tokay is something else.  Unfortunately, since Robert Parker reviewed it and scored it 100, the price has doubled.  I was able to get a decent deal on it from Nick’s Direct, who are my favorite online wine agent.  If you want to call them, ask for Alex – he has been serving us for over a decade now and provides great service.


    I doubt I will ever have an affogado again with anything other than the Buller Tokay!  Which means I will probably only do so when eating at home.  And that’s not a bad thing – an affogado in a typcial Italian restaurant costs about $10 – $12 to have with the Frangelico.  But since I can make or buy a great vanilla gelato or ice cream, make a great shot of espresso and have a bottle of the Buller Tokay sitting around, I am set!  To do that for four of us, I will be saving $30 or so that I would otherwise be giving some restaurant.

    If you want to step outside the normal boundaries to establish a truly sensual eating and drinking experience, make an affogado with the RL Buller & Son Rare Liqueur Tokay!