Sometimes at the end of a meal, not everyone has room for dessert.
The best way to finish up dinner with something sweet when you could not swallow another bite is to swap out the chocolate cake for a glass of sweet wine instead.
It’s a great way to keep the party going for longer without eating yourself sick - plus there are so many amazing sweet wines to choose from.
But which sweet wine is the best?
Today, we will be looking into sweet wines and choosing the cream of the crop for you to serve at your dinner parties.
The Different Types Of Sweet Wine
Wine is an incredibly versatile beverage that comes in a lot of different tastes and smells, so it should come as no surprise that there are even different types of sweet wines!
Sweet wines are made from sweet grapes and the fermentation process is stopped before the yeast converts all of these sweet grape sugars into alcohol.
This results in a super rich wine that is naturally sweetened by the grape sugars.
There are hundreds of different types of wines that are ideal to serve during dessert, but they can usually be broken down to 5 main categories.
The first category is sparkling dessert wine. Sparking wine is high in acid and is carbonated so it tastes less sweet than it actually is.
Another category is lightly sweet dessert wine. Wines that are classed as lightly sweet dessert wines are refreshing and pair perfectly with spicy foods. They are packed with fruity flavors and work well to compliment other fruit and vanilla desserts.
Unlike other wines, these wines are best enjoyed as soon as possible as they do not age well with time.
We also have richly sweet wines that are made using very high quality grapes. These wines have had over 50 years to age so the sweetness and acidity has matured and thickened to create a very rich and sweet wine.
Another category of sweet wines is sweet reds. Unfortunately, this historically interesting type of wines are on the decline (except for the more affordable commercial options) but there are still some versions that are worth a second glance, particularly the ones made using Italian esoteric grapes.
And finally, we have fortified wines. Fortified wines are dry or sweet wines that have been added with grape brandy.
This not only increases its sweetness, but also the alcohol content and the wine’s shelf life after they are opened. They are incredibly popular. Port, sherry, and Madeira are all kinds of fortified wines.
In our list, we have striven to include all different types of sweet wine so there is bound to be a few that will match your tastes, or offer to you something unusual that you would like to try.
As for alcohol content, the levels of each wine can vary between 5% to as high as 20% (especially with the fortified wines that have been added to grape brandies).
Because everyone has different levels of alcohol tolerance, we have also made sure to include sweet wines that range from low to high alcohol content so there is sure to be one here that is suitable for you and your dinner guests’ needs.
So take a look at the 15 best sweet wines on offer and choose one to serve as an after dinner treat.
OUR TOP PICK
If you have never tried sweet wine before and are cautious about tasting some for the first time, then we recommend you start out with this semi-sweet wine from Peter Lauer.
Made from one of Germany’s most highly regarded wine producers, this sweet wine offers notes of citrus and lime that are balanced with just a touch of honey.
It is refreshing with just one sip and will not overpower your taste buds with too much sweetness.
Its acidity is contrasted with the sweetness, but not so much that you are left without a healthy taste of both.
Because of this, the Barrel X Riesling from Peter Lauer makes for a great choice to introduce new drinkers to the wonders of sweet wines.
For a rose wine that comes from one of the major wine producing countries in the world, we recommend that you try Domaine des Nouelles’ Rosé d’Anjou.
Unlike other dry roses from other French regions, the roses produced from Anjou are only slightly sweet and are off-dry.
Paired with these notes of rose petals, Domaine des Nouelles’ Rosé d’Anjou also is loaded with sweet cherries and red currants.
It is a bright wine that is sure to perk you back up from the fullness that often follows consuming a large meal, and is delicious enough to drink solo. It can also be paired with sweet and fruity desserts to make an amazing dessert wine.
If you are looking for something richer and darker, then here is a port that features strong sweet notes that are the product of many years of crafting and effort.
Niepoort’s Ruby Port is a very strong wine that is as red as its name suggests.
When it comes to taste, it sports all the sweetness that you require in a dessert drink while bringing a touch of sophistication thanks to its darker and deeper tones.
It is flavored with plums, cherries, and dried fig to give it a unique sweet taste unlike any other.
This port is made from a process that has been perfected over many years.
The wine is produced from old vines from the region of the Douro in Portugal, and left to age in wooden vats for three years.
It is best enjoyed when consumed young as its flavors are stronger and more rich when opened early on.
With Patrick Bottex’s Bugey-Cerdon La Cueille, you can serve up bubbles and sweetness after your dinner party.
This sparkling wine is perfect for those who have an incredibly sweet tooth but enjoy something lighter than a port or sherry.
It is produced by halting the fermentation process within the bottle and trapping the residual sugars in the wine - allowing this wine to be light yet sweet at the same time.
It tastes particularly fruity, with notes of strawberry and raspberry that stick out, and can be paired amazingly with sweet desserts like cookies and fruit.
It is a great choice of sparkling wine to serve at dessert, and its low alcohol content allows it to be enjoyed by those who cannot stomach a heavy drink so soon after eating.
Sweet does not always have to be overly fruity. Although some of these sweet wines use ingredients like cherries and currants to really hit home the fruity notes, there are sweet wines available that use more unusual and drier ingredients that still offer a unique sweet flavor.
Lauren-Perrier has made a sweet champagne that boasts rich flavors from some more unconventional ingredients including dried fruits, honeyed stone fruit, and drilled almonds.
It provides a more mature flavor for a bubbled champagne, bringing a touch of sophistication to a refreshing beverage.
It’s unique flavor and notes make it perfect to serve alongside more savory dishes and desserts like pastries or Caprese salads. Thus, you can serve up an unorthodox mixture of sweet and savory at the dinner table.
When an event calls for a sweet wine that is out of this world, then we recommend you serve this incredibly rich and delicious bottle of sauternes.
It’s flavors are renowned for its strong tasting notes of honey and orange marmalade, merging together to create a more tropical sweet wine that is sure to blow the minds of your guests.
This liquid gold has also been known to withstand the test of time as it tastes amazing whether it is young or cold.
Its lower alcohol level paired with high acidity makes it a great accompanying drink to a fruit dessert, or it can even be added to cocktails for a healthy dose of sweetness.
Chateau d’Yquem does come with a hefty price tag but the strong flavors and richness makes it worth it. It is an ideal sweet wine to serve at special occasions to truly make the time more unforgettable.
This sweet wine is incredibly bold and acidic, making it a perfect choice for those looking for a sweet wine that can be enjoyed with more savory dishes.
To produce this special kind of wine, sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes are left on the vine to be infected by a rot known as botrytis (also known as noble rot).
Although this idea may sound repulsive at first, the noble rot actually helps create a richer wine.
The noble rot sucks out the moisture in the grapes to concentrate its flavors, making the wine richer and sweeter than most dessert wines.
The Chateau Coutet Barsac boasts strong flavors of apricot, honey, and ginger that combine sweet and earthy notes to create a well balanced wine that pairs well with pastries and cheeses.
Another strong yet dark and richly sweet wine, the Toro Albala Don PX Gran Reserva 1994 is a wine that is sure to spark a conversation at the dinner table.
It is very strong with an alcohol level of 17%, but it is not just the alcohol that will cause your guests to pause before taking another sip.
This sweet wine tastes like a rich dark chocolate and molasses, a flavor that has deepened over many years of age.
It is the perfect indulgent sweet wine to pair with ice creams, cakes or brownies thanks to its chocolatey notes.
It also features flavors of black walnut and dried fig to cement those oaky notes that practically explode from the bottle once you open it up.
Nutty and delicious, this is the perfect sweet wine to drizzle over your desserts or to serve alongside them.
A Hungarian speciality, you have probably been waiting for this sweet wine to appear on this list.
This white wine is made from a rare white grape that, like with the Chateau Coutet Barsac, has been infected with noble rot to create a rich and sweet golden wine.
It boasts earthy flavors like ginger and saffron that bring a sweet aroma to this wine along with a spicy taste.
Oremus’ Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos is still very sweet to taste, and pairs well with softer dishes like cheesecakes and cheeses. This is because the flavor of a tokaji aszu is very distinct and will overpower the flavors or more stronger dishes.
This does not mean that this white wine is overpowering on its own, but it will certainly leave you with a delicious sweet taste in your mouth.
For a more affordable sweet wine, you should try Stella Rosa’s red wine.
You will not be cutting any corners by bringing this sweet wine to your table. It is bold and sweet with a far softer taste than most wines.
It features strong fruity notes of strawberry and raspberry, but also of tree fruits like pear and peach.
This makes it an ideal sweet wine to serve at dessert thanks to its fruitiness, but it also pairs well with cheeses for a small snack or after dinner treat.
Sparkling and candied, this red wine makes for a pleasant addition to any sweet meal.
It’s affordable price means that you will get a lot more for money, and you can constantly invite this sweet wine back to your table for a very low price.
This Canadian ice wine is an absolute syrupy and viscous treat.
Ice wines are certainly something very special, as the grapes are left on the vine to freeze during winter.
Once the grapes are frozen, they are pressed so only the sugar oozes out to be fermented into wine. Of course, you can’t get any better than a Canadian ice wine - and Vidal’s is one of the best.
It is noticeable sweet from the moment you open the bottle as it has a honey and pear aroma that you will catch immediately. As for taste, this ice wine continues with the tree fruit notes with flavors of pear and apricot.
There is also a touch of honey and lychee that compliments the tree fruit notes perfectly, making this ice wine a wonderful match with cold sweet desserts.
This amazing sherry has aged for many years just to appear at your dinner table and serve you and your guests with delicious sweet and oaky notes.
It is very bold and sweet, with flavors of dried fruits like raisins and figs for a more natural sweetness that some may find less sickly than other fruity flavors.
This sherry also brings some richness through its caramel and chocolate flavors, accompanied with flavors of molasses and almond that are the result of many years of aging.
This indulgent sherry from Osborne produced from Pedro Ximenez grapes is sweet but in an unconventional sense that is sure to delight those who do not like candied and fruity wines.
This sherry is far more down to earth and serves as a wonderful dessert alternative.
For a balanced and refreshing Riesling, we recommend you try this sweet wine right from the United States.
Pacific Rim’s Sweet Riesling 2019 offers an array of citrus and fruit flavors - apple, pear, leamon, melon, pineapple, you name it!
This sweet wine is like a light cocktail of a multitude of fruits that washes over your taste buds and awakens them after a long and heavy meal. It is also very sweet, but pairs well with a lot of dishes other than just desserts.
Its sweet citrus notes make it an ideal drink to have with meats and shellfish as it balances out the saltiness with a refreshing dose of fruit.
So, if you decide to skip dessert and have a meat platter a little later on in the evening, you will also have the perfect sweet wine to accompany it.
A perfect Italian dessert wine, this wine from Castello di Meleto is deliciously smooth and sweet.
It practically glides down your throat and leaves a delicious mixture of flavors in your mouth. You may initially taste notes of dried fruit like apricot, dates and raisins before a more nuttier taste creeps in.
The Vin Santo del Chianti Classico is a great sweet wine to choose if you want each sip to be an unforgettable adventure where a bunch of different sweet tastes linger on your taste buds.
Made from the ever popular trebbiano wine grape, this sweet wine allows you to taste the sweetness from earthy ingredients with just a hint of coconut and honey to hit that sweet spot.
It works great as an after dinner drink as it allows you to taste all the indulgence of dessert without the bloatedness or lethargic.
And finally, we have this beautiful sauvignon blanc from New Zealand - Jules Taylor’s Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.
This is an amazing dessert wine that is thick and delicious thanks to the tropical flavors it allows to wash over your taste buds.
Due to the producer’s decision to leave the sauvignon blanc grapes on the vine for longer into the season, this wine is far sweeter than some more conventional and drier forms.
It is packed with flavors that will make you feel warm and summery even in the dead of winter.
This wine tastes of tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, along with other fruits like apricot and peach. This gives this late harvest wine an exotic flavor that is both sweet and delicious.
It is a very candied wine that also features a mildly musky smell, making its flavor an initial mystery when you open up the bottle.
All in all, this dessert wine is ideal to have with soft after dinner cheeses or a light dessert like a cheesecake or vanilla ice cream so you get to fully appreciate the flavors on offer in this sweet wine.
Best Sweet Wines - Frequently Asked Questions
Are There Certain Grapes That Are Used To Make Sweet Wines?
There is no specific grape that is key to making sweet wines. In fact, lots of different kinds of grapes can be used to make wines of various sweetness - sauvignon blanc, trebbiano, and semillon just to name a few.
What makes a wine sweet is usually down to various methods that can take place before, during or after fermentation.
Methods that take place before fermentation includes freezing, drying, or using noble rot to help shrivel up the grapes and reduce the moisture within. This leaves behind a very concentrated grape filled with sugars.
Methods that take place during fermentation aim to remove the yeast within the wine, either by fortifying the wine or filtering out the yeast.
Methods that take place after fermentation includes blending the wine with a sweet liquid such as unfermented grape juice or sweet alcohol like PX Sherry.
And so, no one grape creates a sweet wine - it is down to the production process if a wine will turn out sweet or dry.
How Should I Store My Sweet Wine After Opening The Bottle?
Fortified and unfortified sweet wines require different conditions in order to last longer once they have been opened. Unfortified wines need to be stored in a refrigerator as they enjoy slightly chilled environments.
As for fortified wines, they are kept in or out of the refrigerator. While they do enjoy a slight chill too, they can survive in slightly warmer temperatures than unfortified wines.
Of course, if your sweet wine is unopened, then you should store the bottle ideally in a cellar. If you do not have a cellar, then you will need to find a dark, humid place that is generally a little chilly.
This is the ideal place to store your sweet wines until you are ready to pop open the bottle and enjoy its delicious wonders.
Do Sweet Wines Last Longer Than Dry Wines?
In short, yes.
Wines with residual sugar generally have a longer lifespan than drier wines. This is because once the wine is opened, the sugar helps preserve the wine.
Dry wines that do not have much sugar in them deteriorate at a quicker pace, thus sweet wines last longer than dry wines.
This difference is very small and sweet wines will only last slightly longer than dry wine. However, with fortified wines, their lifespan can be significantly longer - sometimes up to four weeks!
And so, the more sugar in a wine, the longer it will last once it has been opened.
Will Drinking Sweet Wine Mean I Am More Likely To Suffer A Hangover?
No - hangovers are the result of irresponsible drinking and dehydration.
This means that any alcoholic drink you consume will likely give you a hangover if you are drinking too much too quickly and not hydrating your body with water.
Drinking a sweet wine instead of a dry wine will not make you more likely to suffer a hangover the next day.
If you drink irresponsibly, then both wines will give you a hangover as they both contain ethanol.
When drinking alcohol, it is important to know your limits and be aware of the alcohol content of the wine you are drinking.
Wine is one of the most consumed beverages in the world and it comes in all different kinds of flavors and acidities. So, it makes perfect sense that there are so many that are perfect to drink either with a dessert or as a substitute for a dessert.
We hope that our list above of our favorite sweet wines has helped you find the perfect dessert wine for you to serve after your dinner party.
After all, sweet wines come in all kinds of ‘sweet’ - you can have fruity or nutty, rich or light, indulgent or only slightly sweetened.
You may prefer a deep and rich port like the Niepoort Ruby Port, or something on the complete opposite of the scale such as a Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling.
But whichever sweet wine you choose, you are sure to satisfy your and all your guests’ palettes with a delicious sweet treat after dinner that will not leave you feeling overstuffed.
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