Sweet wines are produced with sweet wine grapes, which are created by stopping the fermentation before all of the sugar is turned into alcohol. This is done by super-cooling or adding brandy to the wine, both involving creating an environment that kills the yeast. There are ultimately five different styles of sweet wine, though you’ll find many dessert wines on the market today.
Sparkling Dessert Wine
Sparkling dessert wine has a high acidity and a lot of bubbles, earning it the “sparkling” moniker. You’ll want to keep a lookout for certain words when you’re looking for a sparkling dessert wine, such as demi-sec, doux, dolce, and moelleux. Consider a Schramsberg sweet sparkling wine, for example – it has been served at the White House since Ronald Reagan.
Lightly Sweet Dessert Wine
This type wine is perfect for a hot day, and pairs well with spicy cuisine such as Indian or Southeast Asian. They’re meant to be enjoyed when at their freshest, but there are a few different lightly sweet dessert wines that age well, like a Riesling. These wines are known for fruity flavors, and are best suited for desserts that have a heavy fruit or vanilla taste. The Gewurztraminer, for example, is known for lychee and rose petal aroma, and would pair well with a tart.
Richly Sweet Dessert Wines
Richly sweet dessert wines come in a variety of different productions, including late harvest, noble rot, straw mat, and ice wine. Ice wine is rare and expensive as it only occurs when a vineyard freezes and must be harvested and pressed while the grapes are still frozen. Straw mat wine is laid out to raisinate before it is pressed into wine, such as the Italian Vin Santo or the French Vin de Paille. Noble rot, though it sounds gross, has a unique honey and ginger flavor, such as Tokaji wine.
Sweet Red Wines
Sweet red wines are in an era of decline, unless you’re after a cheap commercially produced wine. The majority of sweet reds that are worth your time are from Italy and use esoteric grapes, such as the Lambrusco wine and Bachaetto d’Acqui from the Piedmont region. Sweet versions of these wines include berry flavors, such as strawberry and blueberry, as well as floral aromas.
Created when brandy is added to a wine, fortified wines can be dry or they can be sweet, and typically have a higher alcohol content and longer shelf life than other wines. Port fortified wines are made in the Northern part of Portugal, such as the Ruby & Crusted Port. Sherry comes from Andalusia, Spain, such as the Cream or Moscatel. Finally, Madeira uses four different grapes and undergoes a heating and oxidation process, such as the Bual and the Malmsey.