Pairing wine with ice cream (gelato) is one of those impossible pairings, according to ‘the rules’. It has even been suggested that people should avoid wine and try another beverage altogether.
But you know me at this stage – I love a wine pairing challenge. For those of you who are like me and love both items, I want to suggest some wine and ice cream pairings that you can try over the summer months.
I mean, I do get that pairing wine with ice cream might not seem intuitive, but it is possible. I have said in previous blog posts that your wine must be sweeter than your dessert, so the most obvious solution to my challenge is to simply suggest a sweet wine and ice cream pairing.
But I want to delve a little bit deeper than that. However, before I start, I want to discuss briefly, the difference between Gelato and Ice Cream.
Gelato and Ice Cream – the Difference
I write this section with respect to the local excellent gelato and ice-cream producers.
Of course, ice cream and gelato appear to be similar—they're cold, sweet, no-bake desserts that taste great whatever flavour you fancy. But once you give each one a try (and I do encourage you to taste both), you'll notice right away that they're actually not the same at all.
Both ice cream and gelato are made with similar ingredients (a custard base that includes milk and sugar), but that's about all they have in common. One isn't necessarily better than the other. When it comes to gelato vs. ice cream, it just depends on your personal preferences.
So, which should you choose?
This is totally up to you! If you prefer something colder and creamier, go for ice cream. If you want to try something rich and silky, try gelato. You can’t go wrong either way!
In this post, for convenience, I’m going to base my suggested pairings on flavours. So, I’ll use the generic term ice cream when referring to pairing either of the above foods with wine.
It’s All About Sugar, Acid, and Tannins
You might be asking why ice cream is difficult to pair with wine. As I alluded to above, it is an accepted norm that wine should be sweeter than your dessert, or else the wine may come across as flat. So, the sweetness is the first ‘difficulty’ to address.
The second challenge is acidity. Most wines are inherently acidic. Which would be akin to squeezing lemon juice on your ice cream.
The third component to think about is tannins. A red wine with high tannins when paired with a sweet food, can result in a bitter taste and a dry mouth. That’s why, sometimes, your best bet is a wine with lower tannins.
Unless you get the low-down from your local wine retailer, you might not know about a wine’s acidity or the intensity of the tannins just by looking at the bottle.
So, feel free to do some delicious experimenting to find a combination that you love or email me for advice.
Green Acres Favourite Pairings
For all of you wine lovers, however, who want to enjoy a scoop of your favourite ice cream alongside your glass of wine, here are some of the Green Acres wine team’s favourite pairings:
CHOCOLATE – pair with a slightly sweet, semi-sparkling dessert wine with floral notes and hints of red berries would be perfect. You could also go with a Syrah with dark fruit notes.
VANILLA - such a simple, classic flavour, but it is also a blank canvas for whatever toppings you fancy. The trick is to pair the wine with the toppings e.g., red berries and Valpolicella or almonds and Tawny Port.
STRAWBERRY – pair with a glass of off-dry rosé. Perfect for cutting the richness of ice cream and the notes of fresh berries complement the flavour.
COFFEE - Coffee and red wine have some similar characteristics so try a Cabernet Sauvignon, which has notes of black cherry and baking spices. These help to bring out the nutty flavours in the ice cream.
COOKIES AND CREAM – cookies (sometimes Oreo) and cream go well with a white wine, like off-dry Riesling or even a sparkling wine like Cava. If it is a cookie dough and vanilla base, a buttery Chardonnay would be nice.
PEACH - opt for an off-dry Riesling to pair with peach sherbet. Riesling is characterised by aromas of stone fruits — think white peaches, apricots, and nectarines.
SALTED CARAMEL - Pair this with the wonderful flavour of a Pedro Ximenez (“PX”) sherry, a Spanish dessert wine with notes of espresso, caramel, and raisin.
MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP – Try an Australian Shiraz with the mint flavour. Its rich, red raspberry fruits, chocolate nuances, and subtle eucalyptus notes are cross-complementary with mint and chocolate.
PISTACHIO - This light and nutty ice cream pairs well with a slightly sweet white wine like an off-dry Riesling or Chardonnay. You could also go with Cava or Prosecco.
Liqueurs and Ice Cream Pairings
I think you get the idea that it’s not impossible to pair wine with ice cream but it’s not easy. In fact, there are other drinks that just might match better.
A lot of the time, liqueurs which are super-sweet and syrupy themselves, provide better pairings e.g.
-Cherry brandy with a cherry (or raspberry) ripple ice cream
-Apricot brandy with apricot or peach ice cream
-Salted caramel liqueur with praline (or other nut) ice cream
-Amaretto with an almond semi-freddo (frozen mousse)
-A coffee liqueur (or an espresso martini) with chocolate ice cream
Sorbets are also an option. They can be served with frozen vodka. Also, think about some fruit flavoured gins (which are essentially liqueurs) with sorbet or ice cream due to their sweetness e.g., a rhubarb gin over a sorbet of rhubarb.
So, What’s the Scoop?
Many wine connoisseurs would argue that pairing ice cream with wine is impossible, given the challenges of matching wine with sweet foods.
The tannins and acidity of the wine are also tricky elements to pair with. Another drawback is the frozen element of ice-cream which tends to take the flavour out of sweet wines.
However, when it’s not frozen, like say ice cream on a warm dessert, it is easier to pair with. But I’d match it to the dessert rather than the ice cream, in this instance.
We delight in pairing wine with our favourite foods – whether they’re super casual or dressed up. Plus, when you know how to pair wine with ice-cream, you’ll end up with something marvellous.
Have fun and don’t be afraid to explore. Talk soon.