A sweet wine (also known as dessert wine) is a type of alcoholic beverage made from grapes that are naturally very sweet, or which have been artificially made sweeter through fermentation or aging. Sweet wines are typically lower in alcohol content and higher in sugar content than dry wines, making them lighter in style and taste than the latter. To make sweet wine, winemakers can turn to either red or white grapes—the latter often result in sweet whites, while the former tend to create sweet reds (or rosés). Below are some of the top ten sweet wine types that you’ll find around the world. If you want to discover more about Sweet Wine Types keep reading.
No need to get fancy with your spelling—this is a sweet wine type that Americans know best as moscato d’Asti, a sparkling Italian drink made from Muscat grapes. Also called mossy, it often contains residual sugar. Moscato typically comes in a green bottle, though some versions come in glass or plastic and can range from very dry to very sweet. Moscato is a good choice for inexpensive and simple gatherings with friends or family members. It pairs well with desserts and can be enjoyed either chilled or at room temperature.
The grape variety used to make moscato is called Muscat. It grows in a Mediterranean climate and yields a sweet, floral wine with low tannin levels that are easy to drink with or without food. Muscat grapes have thick skins and produce dark juice with high acidity levels. This grape is often used for sweet wines because it has a natural propensity for adding sweetness without any additives.
Unlike some sweet wine types, which are high in alcohol, moscato is typically low in alcohol at about nine percent by volume. It has a high amount of residual sugar and ranges from bone dry to sweet.
One of Argentina’s most popular wines, Malbec originated in France in 1850, but it wasn’t until a hundred years later that Argentina started producing its own wine. Malbec is made from red grapes and is a light, sweet type of wine with good alcohol content. Its popularity has spread to other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. This particular wine is perfect for sipping during cool summer nights. People who enjoy drinking it claim that it has a rich texture and tastes like fruit with a hint of spice—sort of like pears and berries! If you haven’t tried sweet wine yet or don’t know much about them, start off slow with something like Malbec.
The grape variety is known for its bold flavors and deep color.
(Greece, Italy) Muscat is a sweet wine grape that can be used to make wines in many countries. In Greece, it’s best known as Moscato (but some producers also call it Muscat). In France and California, it’s known as Muscat Canelli. The term Muscat itself refers to any sweet white or amber colored wine made from grapes of that name.
No sweet wine list would be complete without including Sauternes. Located in Bordeaux, France, Sauternes are produced by chardonnay grapes in vineyards near Begue. The area’s unique limestone soil allows for a thin layer of flor yeast to develop during fermentation and make its way into each bottle. As a result, Sauternes have incredible flavors of honey and fruits like apricot, peach and quince. This creamy white wine is best served with foie gras or fruit desserts like apple pie à la mode (like I did here!). It is also delicious with creamy foods like mushroom risotto or chicken pot pie; both get very creamy when cooked down, perfect for complementing smooth Sauternes’ flavor profile.
With notes of green apple, honeydew and pear, Riesling is also one of most widely planted grape varieties in Germany. The wine is produced in many different styles and sweetness levels. Most wines are off-dry to sweet (called Halbtrocken or Hf on German labels), but there are some dry (called Trocken or T) versions that pair well with light meat dishes. A great sweet Riesling for dinner might be a Kabinett level wine from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer with low residual sugar at 2.5 g/L.
Vineyards are planted mostly in Germany, France, and Austria, but there are some growing regions in other countries such as Canada and Australia. The grape produces extremely light wines with a high acidity level. This is for sure one of the top sweet wine types.
This sweet wine tastes like lychee and ginger and originated in Germany. It’s a mid-weight wine that’s perfect for spring and early summer drinking. The grape is rare, meaning you might have to drive quite a bit to find it, but it’s worth it. Gewürztraminer has been cultivated since ancient times, but due to changing trade routes, new vineyards have popped up throughout France (where they grow Riesling grapes), Italy (where they grow Pinot Grigio grapes), and even Australia (where they grow Shiraz grapes). This grape is known for its versatility; no matter where it’s grown, people make great wines with it.
Sweet wine types aren’t traditionally thought of as being great with cheeses and desserts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be. Port is a good choice for cheeses because it has tannins and acidity that are able to stand up to fatty foods like cheese. It’s also very good in sweet dishes, such as flan or fruit crumble. Port typically comes from Portugal, where it is made using aging techniques similar to those used in making red wine.
The most widely grown grape for port is Tinta Barroca, or tinta velha in Portuguese.
There’s a reason so many chefs choose to incorporate Madeira into their cooking—it’s one of the most versatile wine types. Not only does it complement dishes of all flavors, but Madeira can also be sipped on its own; consider trying Sercial or Verdelho with dessert or Manzanilla with seafood. For a sweeter style that pairs particularly well with pork and other meats, try Bual or Malmsey. The big surprise when pairing sweet wines: They don’t have to be consumed exclusively in conjunction with savory dishes.
Most often labeled with a DOCG seal, vin santo is a particularly rare example of dessert wine from Italy’s Tuscany region. Created from white Trebbiano grapes that are dried out in straw or oak-wooden casks for at least six months, it is sweet and full-bodied. The top producers include Boscarelli and Caprai; however, there are many more wines produced outside these recognized names. Vin santo pairs well with desserts like panna cotta (sweet custard) or Sienese cake as well as hard cheese like Pecorino Toscano or Manchego.
Recioto della Valpolicella
There are actually a few varieties of Recioto, but Valpolicella is most commonly associated with it. In general, though, Recioto is a sweet dessert wine made from dried grapes that are then rehydrated and fermented; the result is a full-bodied wine that’s typically enjoyed by itself or with some sort of dessert. Although there aren’t many classifications for Recioto, ones like Amarone and Ripasso use different techniques to create slightly different products, depending on which type of grape they start with. However you choose to enjoy your Recioto della Valpolicella though, just be sure to chill it before serving! All sweet wines taste better when they’re served at cooler temperatures.
Italy is known for their sweet wine types and Valpolicella is a perfect example of just that.
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