Ina Garten's Favorite Dessert For Very Special Occasions

How does Ina Garten, high priestess of effortless entertaining, like to treat herself after a meal comes to a close? Well, in true "Barefoot Contessa" style, Garten delights in a post-meal tipple of dessert wine paired with a slice of apple tart. Of course, this calls for a special dessert wine of the highest pedigree. When talking to Bon Appétit, Garten claimed, "For special occasions, I love Sauternes — really good Sauternes." 

This fine French dessert wine can be hard to locate and expensive, but those who love it know it's well worth the trouble of tracking it down. Often described as intensely sweet and fruit-forward, Sauternes' flavor notes include honeyed apricot, marmalade, butterscotch, caramel, and ginger. 

As for its pairing with a simple slice of apple tart, Garten is actually breaking with French tradition. According to Fiona Beckett of Matching Food & Wine, the French like to pair Sauternes with savory dishes, like a classic Sauternes-basted roast chicken or wedge of blue-veined Roquefort cheese. Of course, Garten has a method to her madness, as Beckett is quick to assure connoisseurs that a Sauternes goes equally well with a piece of fruit tart as it does with a slice of foie gras. 

A glass of Sauternes and a slice of apple tart

So what makes this pairing so fantastic? Both of the elements have sweet roots in France. Sauternes, a botrytized wine that receives its signature flavor from a fungus called noble rot, hails from a small region in Bordeaux. Meanwhile, though the apple tart can be found in many national cuisines, its French incarnations like tarte Tatin, are some of the most beloved. Garten herself has a fitting recipe on the Food Network for French apple tart that has an easy rough puff pastry base and uses a touch of Calvados, a classic French trick to bring out the aromatic sweetness of the apples. 

Together, the honey and spice notes of the Sauternes add a complicated layer to the simple pleasures of the tart's two main flavors of sweet apple and buttery crust. Plus, if you used tart Granny Smith apples as your fruit of choice, the sweetness of the Sauternes will help balance it out. So, the next time you're looking to close out a special occasion with something sweet, consider doing it the celebrity chef's way, with plenty of apple tart and Sauternes to go around.