These days it seems as though most everyone knows a little something about wine.
You may not be a pro, but you can probably tell the difference between a cabernet sauvignon and a pinot noir, and a port and an ice wine.
At the very least, you know white zinfandel is made for people who don't like wine.
That being said, when it comes to dessert, most of us have not the slightest idea what to do.
At Bank of America Lifestyle Seminar Confections of a Macaron Maker at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, famed pastry chef Francois Payard and well-known sommelier Josh Wesson took guests through the basics of pairing sweet treats with sweet wines.
According to Wesson, falling in love with a food and wine pairing is the same as falling in love with another person: you either want to find a similarity or a contrast.
In other terms, the goal is to match the sugar and acidity or counteract it.
"If you take a bitter food and pair it with a bitter wine," says Wesson. "Both taste less bitter."
Josh Wesson and Francois Payard
The same goes for other properties in food. Wesson had guests pair Payard's Jivara milk & Caraibe dark chocolates with salted caramel with Chapoutier Banyuls 2011, a fortified wine from Southwest France that has stronger tannins than most dessert wines and briny, almost salty notes.
The tannins nicely complimented the dark chocolates while the brine matched the salted caramel, causing the flavors to pop.
Likewise, Wesson asked participants to sample the slightly acidic passion fruit with a sweet Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Riesling (a wine that is made with grapes that essentially turn into raisins on the vine from a fungus called botrytis) to experiment with pairing contrasting elements.
The juxtaposition rounded out both the acid and the sugars in the dessert and wine.
Even though Wesson is a fan of either method of pairing desserts with wines, it's different for everyone.
Payard prefers to stay away from pairing too many sugary elements together -- the attendees were all over the place in terms of taste.
"Dessert wine is too much," says Payard. "I'm always against pairing super sweet wines with dessert. It's too much."
The confections included passion fruit, raspberry lychee, and chocolate with cocoa nibs macarons and 70 percent Guanaja dark chocolate with vanilla bean, Jivara milk & Caraibe dark chocolate with salted caramel, and Jivara milk chocolate with fresh key lime.
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For wines, Wesson picked Ceretto Moscato d'Asti, Marenco Pineto Brachetto d'Acqui, Fior d'Arancio Collu Euganei, Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Riesling, Blandy's Ten Year Malmsey, Lustau Deluxe Cream Sherry "Capataz Andres," Ramos Pino Quinta de Ervamoira Ten Year Tawny Port, and Chapoutier Banyuls.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.