The best sweet wine
What is the sweetest wine?
A good glass of wine should be savored, whether with a meal, some cheese, or all on its own. While dry wines like merlot or cabernet sauvignon are held in high esteem, sweet wines are often an afterthought, or even seen as an “introduction” for new wine drinkers.
But for those with a sweet tooth, there are endless sweet wines to choose from. Sweet wines, like other wines, can be enjoyed on their own or with a light, sweet dish. So if you’re hoping to expand your sweet wine palate, take a look at the suggestions below.
How wine is made
Wine is made by crushing grapes and extracting the juice, leaving the skin and pulp behind. The remaining juice is then filtered to remove sediment and impurities. Then, to turn the sugar in the grapes into alcohol, the juice must ferment. This process varies, depending on the kind of wine being manufactured, but generally speaking, yeast is added to red or white wine. Red wine may be aged in wooden barrels for an additional several months or more. But as you can see, wine already includes sugar. So what makes a wine a sweet wine?
What makes wine sweet?
The sweetness in wine refers to “residual sugar,” or the sugar that’s left once fermentation is complete. Wine is usually classified on a dry to sweet spectrum. Dry wine has nearly all of the sugar fermented out of it, while sweet wine doesn’t ferment it out 100 percent, hence noticeable sweetness. Other factors such as tannins, acidity, and personal taste perception will also impact a wine’s sweetness. But residual sugar, which is measured by grams per liter, is the biggest factor. So a wine that is high on the “dry” spectrum could have a sweetness level of 0.3 percent. This is roughly 3 grams of residual sugar per liter. On the other hand, a sweet wine may have as much as 100 grams per liter, measured at 10 percent sweetness.
Sweet wines are sometimes known as dessert wines because they are typically enjoyed after dinner, or during dessert.
Sweet wines types
While there’s not a wine that can be deemed the world’s sweetest, here are a few that are high on the sweetness spectrum.
If you’ve had a sweet wine before, there’s a good chance it was Moscato. Originating from Italy, Moscato is derived from Muscat grapes, which has over 200 varieties. The majority of Moscato wines are from Muscat Blanc, or white Moscato grapes. Moscato is fragrant, sweet, and bubbly, and can be still or sparkling. The sparkling kind, Moscato D’Asti, is very popular. There is a specific dessert variant of Moscato as well, which is sweeter, with floral notes and a lower ABV than other versions. Moscato is a low-acidity wine with citrus notes, making it quite versatile. This pairs well with cheeses and a number of other foods. It’s best enjoyed chilled, as the cold tempers the sweetness and allows the fruity notes to come through clearly. Here are a few notable Moscatos:
Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti Nivole, available at Drizly
Michele Chiarlo’s Moscato is light and sweet without being cloying. It’s the perfect post-dinner drink to go with dessert. It is versatile and contains notes of peach and apricot.
Barefoot Bubbly Moscato Spumante Champagne, available at Drizly
The fizziness makes Barefoot’s Bubbly Moscato an excellent choice for special occasions, or just because. Flavorful and sweet, it can be drunk on its own or mixed with juice.
Jam Jar Moscato, available at Drizly
Notes of peach, apricot and orange blossom balance out with crisp acidity and mild fizziness, making for a fun and light Moscato.
Risata Moscato d'Asti, available at Drizly
An ultra-sweet Moscato, this bottle pairs quite well with game birds and other savory dishes.
Port wine is exclusively made in Portugal from red and white wine grapes around the Douro Valley. Port wine is usually fortified with brandy, which not only gives port a higher ABV (around 20 percent), but also allows for better capture of the wine’s flavors while trapping more residual sugar. Port wine contains notes of berry, cinnamon, chocolate and caramel. It’s no wonder that it is a popular cooking wine for desserts, namely chocolate cakes, chocolate sauces or chocolate reductions to accompany savory dishes.
Port wine can be classified into four categories: ruby, tawny, white and rosé. Ruby port comes from red wine grapes that are indigenous to Portugal. Bright and fruity in flavoring, ruby is the least expensive port and doesn’t benefit from aging. Tawny port is aged, however, lending it a more intricate flavor profile. White port, also aged, comes from indigenous white grapes and can range from dry to sweet. And rosé port is really a ruby port made with less skin contact than is typical, lending it a lighter flavor like a rosé.
Taylor Port, available at Drizly
Some compare this ruby port’s taste to a sangria. It is a dessert wine in the truest sense, pairing best with chocolate and other sweets, and can also be an excellent choice for baking.
Taylor Fladgate Porto 10 Year Old Tawny, available at Drizly
A sweet but balanced tawny that’s aged 10 years, this rich taste is just as satisfying by the glass as it is in a chocolate sauce.
Sandeman Founder's Reserve Ruby Port, available at Drizly
A full-bodied ruby with notes of raisin, cocoa and tobacco, Sandeman’s port will warm you after a chilly night.
Fonseca Bin #27 Porto, available at Drizly
With heavy chocolate and berries undertones, this ruby port gives off a sweet and luxurious mouth feel.
This German wine is harvested from white Riesling grapes, which are native to Germany but can also be found in parts of Austria, France, Australia and the United States, too. Riesling’s flavoring largely depends on where the grapes are grown. Not all Rieslings are sweet, but those that are balanced out by Riesling’s acidity. They’re typically not as sweet as a Moscato, but a sweet Riesling will include similar fruity notes of peach, nectarine, apple and pear. Rieslings have a complex classification system based on grape ripeness and sweetness or dryness.
Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling, available at Drizly
This moderately sweet Riesling is temperate enough to appeal to a variety of palates. Great for a dinner party or a party of one.
2020 Grosset Wines Alea Riesling Clare Valley Australia 750 ml, available at WineAccess
Fruit lovers, rejoice: this Australian Riesling blends ripe citrus and pear notes with sweetness and acidity.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, available at Drizly
A solid, easily palatable Riesling with a hint of dryness, this Riesling pairs well with a variety of foods, including seafood and cheeses of all kinds.
Cupcake Vineyards Riesling White Wine, available at Drizly
Cupcake makes a fun dessert wine with hints of oak. As the name suggests, you’ll want to pair this one with something sweet.
Ola Faleti is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.