Forget the bubbly. The most elegant way to spread holiday cheer this season is with tasty dessert wines. Try a glass of Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, which has been produced in Italy’s Chianti region from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes since the 14th century and has a rich history as the wine of hospitality and friendship. At Osteria in Center City, sommelier Brett Taylor favors Isole e Olena (Sussex Importers; pictured), a Tuscan dessert wine made with grapes harvested and hung on hooks to dry for three to six months, then pressed and aged in small oak and chestnut casks. The result is rich but not too sweet, with a radiant amber color and noble complexity. Dessert wines are also produced by harvesting grapes late, when sugar levels are high (think late-harvest rieslings); letting grapes freeze on the vine so the water is pulled separately from the juice; or allowing fungus to attack the grapes for a concentrated flavor (as with a Sauternes). Though the wines are traditionally served with simple, dry cookies such as biscotti or pizzelles, Taylor also suggests sipping them on their own. For something truly indulgent, he recommends pairing Sauternes with Roquefort or foie gras. “We once poured it over mangoes for a tasting menu—and it was sublime,” he says.
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