Dessert - Sweet Wines
Exactly which wines are considered dessert - sweet wines varies from country to
country. Some countries break the classification into two categories, one for dessert
wines and one for sweet wines. Others combine them into a single
dessert - sweet wines category. The differences have more to do with individual
countries' taxation laws than with how the wines are used.
The name, dessert wines, comes from the specific usage of sweet wines as an accompaniment
to desserts, and by extension, the entire meal. While there are other sweet wines,
such as the Sherry or other aperitif that is drunk before a meal, or the Port that
is drunk on its own after a meal, the dessert - sweet wines are consumed in partnership
with the meal.
The United States regulates the naming of dessert wines, limiting the usage of the
term "dessert wine" to sweet wines of more than 14% alcohol content, although this
is an arbitrary figure. Since the sugar in grapes provides both the wine's sweetness
and its alcohol content, it is quite possible for naturally sweet wines to have
an alcohol content well below 14%. At the time the regulation was enacted, dessert
wines commonly had an alcohol content higher than 14%, but as the methods and processes
of winemaking have improved with greater technological advances, that is no longer
Where to buy dessert wines and where they come from?
The grapes from which wine are made contain varying amounts of
sugar. When the grapes are fermented to produce wine, most of the sugar is converted
into alcohol. Therefore, to make the dessert - sweet wines sweet, vintners must
add more sugar or alcohol to the wine, or ensure that the grapes have higher-than-usual
sugar content before fermentation begins.
Dessert wines you can buy in our wine store fall into four different types, based
upon how they are made. The wines can be made with naturally sweet grape varietals.
The grapes can have the ratio of sugar to water increased by air-drying (producing
raisin wine), freezing (producing ice wine), or through the means of specific fungal
infection (producing noble rot wine). The wines can have additional alcohol added
before fermentation, often in the form of Brandy. Or the wines can have additional
sweeteners, usually sugar, honey, or grape juice, added either before or after fermentation.
Naturally sweet grape varietals used in dessert wines include the Huxelrebe, Muscat,
and Ortega grapes. Grown according to standard practice, these grapes are naturally
sweeter. However, to make them sweeter still, they can be grown by leaving them
on the vine longer, or by harvesting some of the grapes very early in the season
so that the remaining grapes have higher sugar content (a practice known as green
harvesting). The historic Vin de Constance or Constantia wine from South Africa
was a blended wine created from Muscat grapes sweetened in this way, until the vines
were destroyed in the late 1800s. Currently, some of the German Auslese wines are
the only ones sweetened in this manner.
Air-dried dessert - sweet wines tend to come from warm, arid climates such as the
Mediterranean. Ice wines come from extremely cold climates, in some cases from grapes
that have been specifically bred to thrive in the cold weather, since their defining
characteristic is that the grapes must have been frozen while still on the vine.
And in humid, temperate climes, leaving the grapes on the vine longer exposes them
to noble rot, although if they get too wet, they suffer from grey rot instead, destroying
Adding additional alcohol before or after fermentation is known as fortifying the
wine. Common fortified wines are Sherry (to which alcohol is added after fermentation)
and Port (to which alcohol is added before fermentation), as well as the wines made
with the Vin Doux Naturel process, which adds alcohol during fermentation to stop
it. Adding sugar or honey before fermentation is known as chaptalization, and most
countries do not allow wines with chaptalization to be ranked as superior or quality
wines, instead relegating them to the table wine category. Adding grape juice after
fermentation is known as süssreserve (or "reserve of sweetness"), and allows
wine to be made with extremely low sulfites, since sulfites do not need to be added
to stop the fermentation and preserve the wine's sweetness.
Buying dessert - sweet wines
The main consideration when you buy sweet wines is that the wine
you choose needs to be sweeter than the dessert it will be paired with. Therefore,
the wine that would be a good choice for a light and flaky pastry confection would
not be a good choice for a much sweeter fruit-based dessert. Heavy chocolate desserts
call for even stronger dessert - sweet wines, most likely red wines.
Aside from sweetness, you want to try and match the flavors of the dessert - sweet
wines with the flavors of the dessert pairings. For example, the peach and apricot
flavors of a white Vin Doux Naturel pairs well with a fruit-based dessert, while
the honey and honeysuckle flavors of an Icewine pairs well with a sponge cake. Golden
raisins soaked in PX, which has a raisin flavor, make a simple yet elegant dessert
Don't feel as if you have to taste the sweet wines to try and uncover their subtle
flavors before deciding which to pair with what desserts! You can find extensive
lists of wine and dessert pairings online.
Dessert - sweet wines are available at a wide range of prices. You can buy the best wine online
for your next desert at our wine shop. While you can buy a bottle of Chateau d'Yquem,
considered to be the world's best dessert wine, will set you back by about $800,
you can have a light and slightly fizzy bottle of Moscato d'Asti for as little as
$10. Most common dessert - sweet wines run in the $20 - $50 range per bottle.
Popular dessert - sweet wines
Known as one of the sweetest wines in the world, PX (named for the Pedro Ximenez
grapes from which it is produced) is a Spanish wine. It is a raisin wine, made by
drying the Pedro Ximenez grapes under the hot Spanish sun. The wine tastes of raisins
and molasses. Because it is so sweet, it can be used as a dessert topping and poured
directly onto vanilla ice cream.
Another of the popular dessert - sweet wines is Vin Santo, an Italian wine. An entire
culture and legend has grown up around the harvest of these grapes, their drying,
and even their drinking. Because the wine is so sweet, it is served with special
crostini (a specific type of biscotti) that you dip into the wine, and then eat.
When the crostini is gone, you drink the remaining wine.
One of the most famous dessert - sweet wines is the Sauternes from the Bordeaux
region. This is the standard by which the noble rot wines are judged. Other popular
noble rot wines are the Quarts de Chaume from the Loire region, the Hungarian Tokaji
Aszu, and the rare but impressive German and Austrian Beerenauslese and Trockenneerenauslese.
Lacking the pedigree of the older noble rot wines but still of very good or excellent
quality are Australian or Californian Semillon and Riesling, or Coteaux du Layon
from the Loire Valley.
There are a number of good white Muscat dessert - sweet wines being produced by
the Vin Doux Naturel method in California, as well as the Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise,
Frontignan, Lunel, Mireval, Rivesaltes, and Minervois dessert - sweet wines of the
Languedoc-Roussillon region of France where the method was first invented in the
The most popular red dessert - sweet wines produced by the Vin Doux Naturel method
come from Banyuls and Maury, both in the Roussillon region of France, and are made
from the Grenache grape.
The two most popular ice wines are the German Eiswein and the Canadian Icewine.
Popular sparkling dessert - sweet wines include what is considered Italy's most
famous dessert wine, the Moscato d'Asti.
One of the classic dessert - sweet wines that can be served either on its own or
with a rich dessert is Port. Ports are available in a number of different grades
such as tawny or ruby, as well as a designation of how many years the dessert -
sweet wines aged.
Serving dessert wines
White dessert - sweet wines should be served chilled, but not cold. Start out by
totally chilling the bottle, putting it into the refrigerator at least an hour and
half before you intend to serve it. Then, you can take it out and let it start warming
up about 20 minutes before serving. A good guideline is to take out the sweet white wines
when you serve the first course.
Red dessert - sweet wines, on the other hand, should be served only slightly cooler
than room temperature, or about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. A good guideline is to put
the sweet red wines
into the refrigerator to cool at the same time as you serve the first course.
Dessert - sweet wines are often served in smaller glasses than regular wine glasses,
although you can use regular wine glasses and simply not fill them as much. Instead,
the size of each serving of dessert - sweet wines should be about 2-3 ounces.
If you are serving sparkling varieties of dessert - sweet wines, you should serve
the dessert - sweet wines in fluted glasses. Again, the serving size should be about