|1. Rieussec||2. Château Climens||3. Campbells|
Whether you are inviting friends over for an intimate dinner or planning a big celebration, sweet wines are great for every occasion. Their fruity and nutty flavor pairs elegantly with a variety of fancy snacks and the food you serve.
As you scroll down this guide, you would find all you need to know about sweet wines. We are going to be discussing the different kinds of sweet wines, how sweet wines are made, and the best sweet wines you can get for yourself.
Table of Contents
Sweet Wines: What They Really Are?
Any wine that contains residual sugar after the fermentation process is referred to as sweet wine. The residual sugar in the wine acts as a natural preservative agent that keeps them fresh and great-tasting even after being kept cellared for a few years.
Now, how is the sweetness determined in a wine? Besides the concentration of residual sugar in it, factors like the level of alcohol content, the amount of acidity in it, and even the tannin concentration determine the sweetness of the wine. Let’s see how the level of sweetness of red and white wines is described.
How Is The Sweetness Of The Wine Described?
The wines are termed with various names to describe their dryness or sweetness.
- The bone dry wines are the least sweet ones. They have less than 1g residual sugar and usually have a bitter, mineral taste. The Muscadets is one such wine.
- Dry Wines have a higher amount of residual sugar than Bone dry wines. They have less than 10g of residual wines and have a high concentration of acidity.
- Next comes the Off-dry and Semi-Sweet wines which have residual sugar content ranging from 10-35g. Such wines usually have a mild hint of fruity taste.
- With 35-120g of residual sugar content, the sweet wines are next on the line.
- The wines with the highest amount of sweetness are known as the ‘Dessert Wines’ such as Ice wine and Tawny Ports and Sauternes wines. These wines have about 120-220g of residual sugar.
How Are Sweet Wines Produced?
Ever wondered how the sweet wine in your glass is manufactured? Every sweet wine has a unique manufacturing process. However, the basics remain the same. Let’s explore the art of making sweet wine:
1. Ripe Grapes=More Sweetness
Sweet wines are usually made with overripe grapes having high residual sugar levels. Winemakers usually raise the alcohol content to about 10-16% in such wines which makes the yeasts die down but keeps the natural sweetness intact, giving the wines their amazing flavors.
2. Fermenting With Halts
Sweet wines are produced with a unique process of fermentation. Winemakers halt the fermentation process before all the sugar in the grape juices is converted to alcohol. This process leaves behind a lot of unfermented sugar which makes the wines so incredibly sweet to taste.
3. Evaporation Or Drying Of The Grapes
The rule is: The lesser the water content in any juice, the more concentrated the sugar in them becomes. Thus to concentrate the residual sugar in the grapes, winemakers adapt the same concept. The grapes are left under the sun so that the water content in the dries up leaving behind high amounts of sugar. These grapes are then fermented to produce sweet wines.
4. Noble Rots
Wines like Sauternes and Beerenaulese employ a different technique to concentrate the residual sugar content of the grapes. A type of mold, known as the Noble Rot or the ‘Botrytis’ is allowed to attack the healthy grapes of the vine. The noble rot gradually weakens the skin of the grapes which, in turn, speeds up the process of evaporation.
The grapes get shriveled quickly, concentrating the residual sugar within. The Noble Rot itself adds some vivid flavors to the wine too. However, the grapes needed to produce such wines require special conditions to grow perfectly. Then, the grapes affected by mold are handpicked individually and blended to produce premium quality wines.
5. Freezing The Grapes
This process is used to produce ice wines or Eiswein. The grapes required to make such wines are grown in winter and are left on the vines for a long period so that they freeze as the temperature drops. In extreme weather, these grapes completely freeze. They are picked and crushed. The water in the grapes would have turned into ice crystals that are easy to remove.
After the ice crystals are discarded, only a heavily concentrated sugary grape juice would be left behind. However, this technique uses only healthy grapes, discarding dried up or rot-affected ones. Such wines are produced in Germany, Austria, and Canada.
6. Filtration Of The Yeast
Apart from conserving the sweetness of the grapes before fermentation, another process to make the wine sweet is to add sweetness during the process of fermentation. How do they do that? The grapes are grown, harvested, and crushed in a regular way but they are fermented in an interrupted way so that the sugar in the wine gets preserved.
The yeast in wines helps in converting the residual sugar in the grapes to alcohol and carbon dioxide. But, when the fermentation process is halted and the yeast is filtered out, the sugar is left behind unconverted, which makes the wine sweeter.
Another way to remove yeast from the wine is by fortifying the wine. The grape juice is mixed with some sulfur dioxide or more alcohol to neutralize the yeasts. Also, when the liquid reaches 15% ABV, the yeast in it dies naturally. This is how port wines are made.
What Are The Different Types Of Sweet Wine?
Before you set out to buy a bottle of sweet wine for yourself, you must know what are the different varieties of sweet wines available.
1. Port Wine
The Port wines are sweet, fortified wines that originate from Portugal. They come in four varieties: red, white, rose, and tawny. They can have up to 90-140g of residual sugar content in them. The port wines have a moderate level of tannin with a distinct nutty, caramel taste.
2. White Zinfandel
The renowned White Zinfandel originated from the Trinchero Family Estates of Napa Valley. Made with a unique process of fermentation, this white wine has a light body with a red fruity taste and a pale pink hue. These wines have about 35-120g of residual sugar.
The Moscato wines are made with the Muscat grapes which are grown in Piedmont. The Moscato wines have a citrusy taste with some floral hint. They can be red or white or even have a slight pink tinge in them. They have moderate amounts of residual sugar, usually 90-120g. Moscato wines are a great match with desserts like cake and pies.
If you love sparkling wine, Riesling can be the best sweet wine for you. They are made from white grapes that give the drink a distinct floral aroma. These Riesling grapes are known as terroir-expressive grapes. These grapes when grown in different regions can have different taste and acidity. Riesling grapes can be used to make dry, semi-sweet as well as sweet wines. These kinds of wine have high amounts of residual sugar, usually 90-220g, which allows it to be cleared for a long time.
5. Ice Wine
If you have heard of ice wines, they might have made you think of the movie ‘Frozen’ – and you wouldn’t be wrong.. Ice wines are produced from grapes that are frozen when they are still on the vines. The water inside the grapes gets frozen which gives the wine a more concentrated grape juice with high sweetness.
Ice wines are “dessert wines” with residual sugar of about 110-220g. They can be made from several types of grapes, such as Merlot and Pinot Noir, or Rieslings and Cabernet Franc. These wines are usually made in the Niagara Peninsula of Canada, Germany, Austria, and the United States.
The Sauternes is a sweet wine that hails from the Sauternes region of Bordeaux. What is special about this wine? The grapes used to produce this wine are affected by noble rot i.e. Botrytis cinerea. This is a fungus that makes the residual sugar in the grapes more concentrated which creates the delectable sweetness in the Sauternes wine.
The Sauternes wine usually has residual sugar of about 120-220g with moderate acidity. They have a sweet apricot and honey-like taste with a nutty aftertaste. You may also experience tropical fruity flavors on your palate.
7. Sweet Sherry
The sweet sherry is one of the sweetest wines in the world. With more than 300g of residual sugar, this is one of the most popular dessert wines. These wines usually have a pleasant fruity sweetness that can be perfectly paired with spicy foods or a platter of exotic cheese.
Top 10 Best Sweet Wines 2021
Sauternes are wines that originate from the Sauternes or the Bordeaux region of France. It is produced in the Chateau Rieussec winery by blending the Semillon variety of grapes. This wine has a strong, bold sweet taste with high acidity. It can be perfectly matched with fruity desserts or a platter of blue cheese.
The Château Rieussec Sauternes is counted among the top 1% of all wines produced in the world. Its deep gold hue is an absolute delight to the eyes. With slight citrusy and earthy notes and a wonderful caramel and orange aroma, this is one of the best sweet wines that you can serve your guests.
The Barsacs is a dessert wine that is produced in the Bordeaux region of France. It is made in the Château Climens Wine Estate with 100% pure Sémillon grapes. According to experts, it has been rated among the top 1% of all the wines produced across the world. Its high sugar content enables it to be aged for quite a long time so that you can indulge in its intense aroma and complex flavors.
This wine has a bold, sweet taste with a moderate acidic tang that can be paired perfectly with fruity desserts or even some exotic cheese. This Bordeaux Sauternes has a distinctly fruity and citrusy flavor with a mild earthy note that can elevate any dinner party. With the intense aroma of burnt orange and caramelized marmalade hitting your nose with every sip, this is rightfully one of the best sweet wines you can get!
The Merchant Prince Rare Rutherglen Muscat is a Dessert wine that is produced in the North East Victoria Region of Australia. It is made with Muscat Blanc grapes in the Campbells wine estate. This wine has also been rated among the top 1% wines of the world. It has a wonderful flavor of dried fruits with an oaky aftertaste.
This full-bodied, luscious wine gives an intense and concentrated flavor to your taste buds and a fantastic floral aroma with hints of burnt sugar to your nose. With its beautiful liquid gold hue and thick texture, this Muscat is one of the best sweet tasting wines to serve with fruit cakes or pies.
This Sauternes comes from the Bordeaux region of France. Made with an amazing blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon types of grapes and has about 13.5% alcohol content. This Bordeaux Sauternes wine is produced in the Château De Fargues Winery and is counted among the best wines produced across the globe.
It has a strong sweet taste with moderate acidity that can be a wonderful match with fruit puddings and pies. This mature 1990 Sauternes has a velvety complexity with a ripeness that lingers in your mouth for a long time. Its candied orange and dry fruits flavor with a mild nutty aftertaste rightfully puts it under the list of the best sweet wines.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will probably never get enough of Sauternes. So, here is another one that has gained its place among the best sweet wines. This wine comes from the Bordeaux region of France. It is produced in the Château Guiraud Wine Estate by blending together two different varieties of grapes: Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
This Bordeaux Sauternes had a bold sweetness with a moderately high acidic tang which makes it perfect to be paired with Fruity desserts or a platter of exotic cheeses. Every sip of this wine will give you a blast of mixed flavors like honey, tropical fruits, and caramel with a mild dry fruity note. This sweet wine with a beautiful dark golden hue is also counted among the top 1% wines around the world.
Want some affordable sweet wine for the dinner party you are planning? This Riesling could be one of the best sweet tasting wines for you. It comes from the Columbia Valley of the United States and is produced in the award-winning wine estate of Château Ste. Michelle. This sweet wine is made from Riesling grapes and has 10.5% alcohol content.
This light-bodied wine has moderate sweetness with mild acidity. It is not too sweet which makes it perfect for people who are not a fan of dessert wines. It has a refreshing fruit flavor with mild earthy notes. You can pair this wine with any spicy dish you want to. It’s complex yet perfectly balanced flavors with fruity aroma go well with pork, shellfishes, and cured meat as well.
The Vigna Seré Veneto Passito Rosso is a dessert wine that comes from the Veneto region of Italy. It is made from the Corvina, Rondinella, Croatina, and Oseleta types of grapes in the Dal Forno Romano Winery. This wine has been rated among the top 1% of wines that come from Veneto. According to wine experts, the 2009 vintage of this wine is the best one.
This wine has an intense raspberry flavor with a hint of vanilla and chocolate and a mild oaky aftertaste. You can perfectly pair this wine with spicy dishes or even a platter of hard, mature cheese. Its moderate tannin concentration gives it a smooth leathery finish that your guests will fall in love with.
The Vidal Ice wine is a dessert wine that comes from the Ontario and the Niagara Peninsula of Canada. It is made in the Inniskillin winery from 100% pure Vidal grapes with 9.5% alcohol content. This ice wine had a smooth, golden hue and a lush texture that can adorn any dinner table. This wine is also rated among the top 1% wines that are made in the world.
This full-bodied wine has a bold sweetness with high acidity that is a perfect match with any spicy dish. Each sip of this wine will give your taste buds a complex taste of green tree fruits with a mineral aftertaste and a soothing tropical aroma. However, like many other wines, this wine has traces of sulfur that can cause hypersensitive reactions in certain individuals.
This Ben Ryé is a dessert wine that comes from the Passito di Pantelleria region of Italy. It is also produced in the Terre Siciliane and Moscato di Pantelleria regions. It is made by blending the Zibibbo and Muscat of Alexandria variants of grapes in the Donnafugata winery. This wine is fermented till the residual sugar is converted to about 14.5% alcohol, and the rest is left behind to increase its sweetness.
This wine is counted among the top 1% of all wines across the world. It will give you the fresh, fruity aromas of apricots and peaches. It has a rich, viscous texture and gives you a smooth yet long finish. With mild citrusy and honey notes, this dessert wine is one of the best sweet wines that can be served with fruit custard or puddings.
This is a dessert wine that comes from the Napa Valley or the North Coast of the United States. It is produced in the Dolce winery that is made by blending the late harvest of two different types of grapes: Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. It has about 13.5% alcohol content. It has been counted among the top 8% of wines that come from the renowned Napa Valley.
It has a wonderful blend of flavors of honey, stone fruits, and caramelized apple. According to wine experts, this wine is best served with Créme Brûlée and other desserts. With moderate acidity and creamy sweetness, this soft gold-hued wine is one of the best sweet wines that you can serve your guests.
On a Final Note
Whether it is a rare bottle of Ice wine or the popular Rieslings and Sauternes, sweet wines are always a delight. Best served with desserts or even spicy foods, sweet wines can uplift the ambiance of any dinner party.
If you are not familiar with the different sweet wines that are found across the world, we hope this article was of help to you. Just choose a bottle from the recommended list of the best sweet wines and leave your guests in awe!