First, a handy rule of thumb is to remember that for desserts the wine should be sweeter than the dessert. As ice cream is very sweet you need an extremely sweet wine.
My favorite has to be the unctuous and delicious PX (Pedro Ximénez), a sherry wine produced from the Pedro Ximénez grape and considered to be the sweetest wine in the world. No need even for a glass! Just pour the wine right over your vanilla ice cream and dig in.
To make it even more indulgent soak some golden raisins in the PX over night for an added touch of luxury. Purists may prefer to keep the PX in a proper glass and sip slowly. And that is okay too!
Sweet Muscat wines are also great with ice cream — particularly, peach, nectarine or apricot ice creams. Try a Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Muscat de Rivesaltes or even the Portuguese Moscatel de Sétubal. Another Muscat style is Black Muscat, made from the rare black skinned Muscat grape, which has rich aromas and flavors of roses, cherries, berries. Black Muscat wines are a great contrast to chocolate or coffee flavored ice creams.
Another category of sweet wines to consider are the sweet red wines of Banyuls and Maury, from Roussillon in France. Made predominantly from red Grenache grapes, these wines are heady with aromas and flavors of macerating red fruit. Their richness pairs wonderfully with chocolate and mocha ice-cream as well as dark fruit ice cream such as blackberry, blueberry or fruit of the forest.
And then there is the Ice Wine (or Eiswein, as it is called in Germany), made from grapes frozen on the vine. Luscious, with aromas and flavors of dried stone fruit, honey, orange blossoms, honeysuckle would work well with delicately flavored ice creams such as lavender or elderberry.
Of course after being on Greece, I have to include the delicious Vinsanto wines, which are made from sun-dried Assyrtiko and Aidani grapes. Unctuous, rich and dense, with aromas and flavors of dried apricots, nectarine, golden raisins and tangerine. I’ve served this with a variety of ice creams including chocolate chip, Dulce de Leche and Vanilla Bean.
Below are some suggestions of sweet wines that I really like with ice cream. Sweet wines usually come in half-bottle (37.5 cl). Apart from some very high-end Ice Wine most of them range from $13 to $25 for a half bottle.
Banyuls (Roussillon, South of France)
• Banyuls Clos de Paulilles
• Tour Vieille, Banyuls
Maury (Roussillon, South of France)
• Mas Amiel, Maury
• Domaine de la Coume du Roy Maury
Muscat-de-Beaumes-de-Venise (Rhone Valley)
• Vignerons de Beaumes-de-Venise
• Coyeux, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
Muscat de Rivesaltes (Roussillon, South of France)
• Domaine de la Coume du Roy, Muscat de Rivesaltes
• Chateau de Jau, Muscat de Rivesaltes
Moscatel de Setúbal (Portugal)
• Moscatel de Setúbal, Bacalhoa
• Rosenblum Black Muscat, California ($15)
• Quady Elysium Black Muscat, California ($15)
Ice-Wine/Eiswein (Many producing countries, most famous being Canada, Germany, Austria and now more New World countries.)
• Rudolf Mueller Eiswein, Mosel ($15)
• Inniskillen Vidal Icewine ($50)
• Selaks Ice Wine, Marlborough, New Zealand ($15)
• Chambers Rutherglen Muscat (Victoria)
• Campbells Rutherglen Muscat (Victoria)
Vinsanto, Santorini Greece
• Domaine Sigalas, Santorini ($47)
• Santo Wines, Santorini ($36)
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She hold the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.