All About Dessert Wine: 10 Best Bottles, Wine Styles, How Its Made (2024)

by Hunter Robillard

Looking for the perfect wine to satisfy your sweet tooth

A delicious dessert wine has got to be on your shopping list! 

So, what is dessert wine?

Dessert wine is a broad category that includes any sweet wine drunk after a meal or with the dessert course. They’re usually sweeter, more acidic, and have a higher alcohol content than other wines.

Dessert wines come in a wide range of styles - from sweet red and white to fortified and sparkling. 

This article explores 10 exceptional dessert wines to buy in 2024 and whether they’re good for long-term investing. We’ll also look at the different styles of sweet dessert wine, food pairings, and how these wines are made.

Further reading

10 Exceptional Dessert Wines You Should Buy In 2024

Here are some exceptional dessert wines you should experience:

1. 2018 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Mosel, Germany ($19,231)


This Egon Muller wine comes with citrus aromas and a funky lemon zest. It has a palate of peach and apricot with edgy acidity. It scored a near-perfect 99 from Robert Parker.

2. 1812 J. S. Terrantez Madeira, Portugal ($13,199)


This fortified wine has floral and balsamic aromas followed by an intense palate of dried fruit, dried apricot, and clove.

3. 1989 Joh.Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese ($5,087)


This outstanding late-harvest Joh.Jos. Prum vintage received 92 points from The Wine Spectator. It has an elegant bouquet of honey, herb, apple, and citrus notes.

4. 1896 Taylor Fladgate Limited Editions 1863 Single Harvest Port Portugal ($5,036)


This rich red port blend has a high alcohol content and will remind you of black fruit and hazelnuts with a touch of dark chocolate and dried fruit. 

5. 2006 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Beerenauslese Goldkapsel ($3,256)


This lush and balanced dessert wine is made from the Riesling grape varietal. It has a rich palate of marmalade, chocolate, spice, honey, and caramel.

6. 2007 Royal Tokaji Essencia Tokaj, Hungary ($1,508)


This is a caramelized dessert wine that received a perfect 100 from Robert Parker. It comes with a drinking window from 2015 to 2199. 

7. 1999 Disznoko Eszencia Tokaj, Hungary ($1,446)


Another Tokaji blend with a palate of rich caramel, butter, chocolate, and hazelnut. This vintage received an impressive 96 from The Wine Spectator.  

8. 1990 Henriques & Henriques Century Solera Malmsey Madeira, Portugal ($1,334)


Made from the Malvasia grape varietal, this wine has a spectacular salty, sweet, and nutty palate. The finish is gripping and exciting with hints of citrus and orange zest.

9. 2009 Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes, France ($629)


Made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes, this Sauternes vintage scored a perfect 100 from Robert Parker and strikes the perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. It has a rich palate of dried apricot and orange blossom.

10. Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades Demi-Sec Champagne, France ($398)


This sweet sparkling wine is a Champagne blend with mesmerizing floral aromas of strawberry, candy, and ripe apricot. 

Let’s see if these wines make for a worthwhile investment.

Should You Invest In Sweet Dessert Wine?


The high sugar content and complex acidity of dessert wines make them a safe bet for long-term aging.

Sweet white wines like Tokaji, late-harvest Rieslings, and Sauternes can be aged for decades. Fortified wines such as Sherry, Port, and Madeira are praised for their longevity and the best of them can easily age 100 years or more! 

These wines are highly sought after at auctions and demand a hefty price tag. For example, in 2011, the 200-year old 1811 vintage of Chateau d’Yquem became the most expensive bottle of white dessert wine sold at a London auction for a whopping $117,000.

The value of some dessert wines has shown a steady increase over time. For instance, the auction-only Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese surged from $9,900 to $14,000 between 2017 and 2019.

Now, you may be keen to know more about how these wines are made and the various wine styles.

Read on.

How Is Dessert Wine Made?


The winemaking process involves the fermentation of sugars into alcohol. The higher the residual sugar left over after fermentation, the sweeter the wine. 

Dessert wine makers produce a wide array of sweet wines by influencing the fermentation process:

  • Fortification: Alcohol such as Brandy or grape spirit is added to the wine during or after the fermentation in oak barrels. This breaks down the yeast and makes the wine sweeter.
  • Late Harvest: Grapes are left on vines for a longer time (1-2 months) to let them over-ripen and increase their natural sugar content.
  • Noble Rot: This method is used in damp climates to increase the sugar concentration in the grape by removing all the water. This is done by using a fungal infection called Botrytis Cinerea (noble rot) that grows on the outsides of grape clusters.
  • Ice Wine: Ice wines are made in frosty climates by freezing out the water in the grape. The frozen grapes are harvested at night and are pressed and left to ferment for 2-6 months in oak barrels.
  • Passito: Grapes are dried out completely to increase their sugar content. They’re dried further by hanging them from ceilings in warm rooms or laying them on straw mats to produce raisin wine.
  • Natural Sweetness: Winemakers rely on the natural sweetness of certain higher sugar content grape varieties like Muscat, Ortega, and Huxelrebe.

Let’s look at some wine styles produced using these methods. 

The Unique Dessert Wine Styles

Dessert wines are available in hundreds of different styles. They typically have a distinct fruit aroma with candied flavors ranging from slightly sweet to a complete sugar-bomb. 

They can broadly be divided into four major categories: Fortified Wine, Sweet Red Wine, Sparkling Dessert Wine, and Sweet White Wine.

1. Fortified Wine


Fortified wines range from dry to sweet:

  • Sherry: A versatile dessert wine made mainly in the Jerez region of Spain. Sherry is made using the Palomino Fino, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel grape varieties.
  • Port Wine: A cellar-worthy sweet red wine made in Portugal’s Duero river valley. The main grape varietal for Port wine is Touriga Nacional. 
  • Madeira: Made mainly off the coast of Morocco near Portugal. Four major grape varieties used are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malmsey.
  • Marsala: Typically, this white wine is used in cooking. It’s made in the city of Marsala on the island of Sicily using the Grillo grape varietal.
  • Banyuls: A sweet fruit driven red wine made from Grenache grapes in the southernmost wine appellation of Roussillon in France. 

2. Sweet Red Wine


Sweet red wine is the perfect option for beginners to enter the incredible world of red wine. 

  • Brachetto d’Acqui & Freisa: These wines come from the Piedmont region in Italy. Brachetto d’Acqui, a still red or rosé wine, is made from the Brachetto grapes, while Freisa is made from the Nebbiolo grape variety.
  • Lambrusco: A sparkling dessert wine made from the Lambrusco grape varietal in both dry and sweet styles.
  • Schiava: This sweet red wine tastes like cotton candy. It is made from the Trollinger grape varietal in Germany and Italy.
  • Vin Santo del Chianti: Alsoknown as the ‘Holy Wine’ - Vin Santo Del Chianti is grown in several regions of Italy. Core grape varietals are Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia.
  • Recioto della Valpolicella: A red wine made using the passito method in the Veneto region of Italy. The grapes used are Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. 

3. Sparkling Dessert Wine


The major grape varieties used in sweet sparkling wine are Muscat, Brachetto, Riesling, or Torrontes. 

The fizz and high acidity make sparkling wines taste less sweet than other styles of dessert wines. But they generally have the same amount of sugar, if not more.

A quick and easy way to identify different types of sparkling wines is to understand the labels.

  • Sweet sparkling dessert wines can be identified by terms such as Dolce, Dulce, Doux, and Moelleux.
  • Lightly sweet dessert wines can be identified by terms such as Amabile, Semi-Dry, Demi-Sec, and Semi Secco.

4. Sweet White Wines


Lighter-bodied with higher alcohol content, sweet white wines have tantalizing aromas that are refreshing and subtle. 

These are the varietals used to make sweet white wines:

  • Gewürztraminer: A pink-skinned grape variety found mainly in Alsace, Germany, and the USA.
  • Riesling: Originally from Germany, it is famous for its floral bouquet and crisp flavor. It’s natural acidity balances out its sweetness.
  • Müller-Thurgau or Rivaner: This dry wine grape from Germany has a peachy aroma and low acidity. The wine is best consumed when young.
  • Viognier: This full-bodied, fruity wine is mildly sweet. Viognier is the only permitted grape varietal for the Condrieu wine of Rhone Valley.
  • Late Harvest wine or Noble Rot: Made from super-ripe grapes that are ‘attacked’ by the Botrytis cinerea fungus. Two popular Late-Harvest or Noble Rot wines are Sauternesand Tokaji Aszu

Sauternes is a sweet wine with an elegant balance of sweetness and acidity made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle. Tokaji Aszu is a very sweet wine made from furmint grapes in Hungary.

  • Late Harvest Chenin Blanc: This sweet wine is produced widely in the Loire Valley. It is found in various styles like full-bodied, still, and sparkling.
  • Straw Mat: The different Straw mat or raisin wine styles include Italian Vin Santo, German Strohwein, and French Vin de Paille.
  • Ice Wine (Eiswein):  A sweet dessert wine made with frozen grapes like Riesling or Vidal, especially in Canada, Germany and Austria. 
  • Moscato: Moscato is a fizzy white or Rosé wine made from the Muscat grape. These grapes are also known as Moscatel in Spain and Muscat in France. The Italian varietal wine of Muscat grape is known as Moscato d’asti. Moscato d’asti wines have a low alcohol content and are loved for their fruit flavors and sweet character. 

Sweet Dessert Wines: Serving And Food Pairing Tips


Serve your favorite red dessert wine at room temperature or slightly chilled. White dessert wines are best served chilled or even cold. 

Dessert wine should always be sweeter than the food they’re paired with. Here are a few pairing tips:

  • Fortified wine: Fortified wine and a sweet dessert is a match made in heaven. Different kinds of nuts, fruit tarts, dark chocolate desserts, and blue cheese bring out this wine's delicious taste!
  • Sweet red wine: The perfect wine to pair with your favorite savory delights like potato wafers, fries, pretzels, chocolate, and delicate foie gras.
  • Sweet Sparkling Wine: With its fizz and high acidity, this wine pairs beautifully with chocolate, sweet dessert, and fruits like peaches and strawberries.
  • Sweet White Wine: Sweet white wine, with its high alcohol and sugar content, goes well with Indian or Southeast Asian cuisine.

Add a Delightful Dessert Wine to Your Cellar!

An everyday dessert wine is easy to find in wine stores and can brighten up any gala event.

If you’re looking for the exquisite, age-worthy dessert wines, you should invest in them through a trusted online wine investment company like Vinovest.


Visit the Vinovest website and start your rewarding wine investment journey today.

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