Want to know the different types of sweet red wine and the best ones to buy?
Sweet red wine is a great option for beginners, and for a white wine drinker who wants to try red wine. Most red wines may fall on the dry side of the flavor spectrum, but there’s an incredible variety of sweet red wine (apart from Port wines) that will appeal to your palate!
What are the different types of sweet red wine? How is it made?
Which are the most delectable bottles you should have in your wine cellar?
We’ll also show you the easiest way to buy sweet red wines.
Know all about Red Wines and the best ones to buy in this ultimate guide.
This article contains:
(Click on the links below to go to a specific section)
- What is sweet red wine?
- Where are sweet red wines made?
- How is sweet red wine made?
- Different types of sweet red wine
- How to buy sweet red wine (labeling)
- Best Sweet Red Wines 2020
- Giuseppe Quintarelli Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOCG
- D'Oliveiras Bastardo Reserva
- L'Etoile Banyuls Grand Cru
- Cossart Gordon Centenary Bual
- Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port
- Avignonesi Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano
- Thomas Hardys & Sons Vintage Port
- W & J Graham's 'Ne Oublie' Tawny Port
- Massandra Livadia Red Port
- Taylor Fladgate Limited Editions 1863 Single Harvest Port
- Real Companhia Velha Quinta das Carvalhas 'Memories' Very Old Tawny Port
- NV Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927
- Barbeito 'Avo Mario' 50 Year Old Bastardo, Madeira
All About Sweet Red Wine
What sets sweet red wine apart from the usual dry red wine is the residual sugar (RS) level or the amount of sugar left after fermentation is done.
A wine that contains less than 10g per liter falls under the dry category, but if a wine has more than 30g per liter it is considered sweet.
While people often confuse a red wine's fruity flavor with it being sweet, a true mark of sweet red wine is its residual sugar.
Sweet red wine can be classified into sparkling, still, or fortified, but more about that later.
What are the characteristics of sweet red wine?
Apart from being higher in residual sugar content, sweet red wines usually have lower alcohol content. These bottles are flavourful and complex.
Also, sweet red wines unlike their dry counterparts don’t have the full tannic flavors of traditional red wines like Cabernet Franc or Merlot.
Where are sweet red wines made?
Some of the most popular sweet red wines come from Italian wine regions like Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy.
(Discover all about the popular Piedmont wine Asti Spumante.)
The ever-popular Port Wine comes from the Douro region in Northern Portugal, and Donfelder is made in Rheinhessen and Pfalz, Germany.
Sweet red wines made in Australia are called “stickies”, and California produces fortified sweet red wine with non-Port influences.
How is sweet red wine made?
Here are a few methods used in producing sweet red wine:
A. Interrupting the fermentation
One of the methods used to add sweetness to wine is to interrupt the fermentation process by getting rid of the yeast. A fine filter is used to ensure that no yeast remains and there is a little grape sugar left behind.
In some cases (like Port wine) with over 17-18% alcohol) the wine is fortified with a spirit like brandy to stop fermentation early. The spirit kills the yeast, leaving behind residual sugar.
B. Freezing the Grapes
This method is commonly used to make ice wine like Inniskillin. The grape is frozen while still on the vine so that the sugars in the fruit do not freeze. They’re then pressed while frozen, after which the stems and seeds are removed, and then fermentation begins.
C. Adding a sweet component to the blend
This technique is common in Germany, and relies on adding a sweet component like unfermented grape juice to the wine.
Want to know more about French wine regions and French wines as well? Check out these articles:
Different Types of Sweet Red Wine
Let's explore the different types of sweet red wines (sparkling, still, fortified, and dry).
1. Sparkling red wine
If you’re in the mood for a bottle of red bubbly, try these:
Made in Piedmont, Italy this wine has floral aromatics, and goes best with chocolate. Relish the cherry, strawberry, cotton candy, and berry flavor in this delicious sweet wine.
This wine made from the muscat grape is known for its sweet flavor of peaches, honeysuckle, and orange blossom.
Sparkling Shiraz is made using the Shiraz (Syrah in France) grape variety in Australia. Wine lovers will love its black pepper and chocolate flavors.
Still wine is a non-sparkling wine with no carbon dioxide or bubbles.
This rich wine has strong fruit flavors, is typically low in alcohol and has an intense, sharp taste with the sweetness of flowers.
Schiava is a fruity wine made in the Trentino-Alto Adige in Italy. It can veer slightly to the dry side, but the bold sweet cherry sauce and cinnamon flavors are delectable on the palate.
3. Fortified red wine
Fortified wines have a higher alcohol level and sugar content than other wines.
A. Lambrusco Rosso & Lambrusco Rosato
Lambrusco Rosso (red) and Rosato (rose) are primarily made in the Italian wine region of Emilia-Romagna. There are over 60 known variants of the Lambrusco grape. The flavor of Lambrusco ranges from rhubarb to raspberry, and even pink grapefruit.
B. Brachetto d’Acqui
The Brachetto d’Acqui is made from the Brachetto grape, native to Piedmont. The aroma of this wine consists of red rose, raspberry, and black clove.
Cherries, plums, chocolate, and cinnamon make up the body of this wine. It is a gracefully aged wine that comes in various styles like Ruby and Tawny.
This French fortified dessert wine is made from old vines in the Roussillon county of France. The primary flavors of this wine are dark chocolate, baked prunes, and mint.
E. Black Muscat
This grape variety with candied apple, strawberry, violet, and cinnamon flavors is derived from a cross between the Schiava Grossa and Muscat of Alexandria.
Madeira Dessert wine is named after the island it hails from on Portugal’s coast. The wine tastes of burnt caramel, walnut oil, and orange peel.
This gorgeous wine is made mostly with Palomino grapes in Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain. With the taste of saline, preserved lemon, brazil nut, and jackfruit, Sherry goes well with grilled meat.
The rich Marsala wine is produced in Sicily, Italy. The taste bounces along the line of vanilla, stewed apricot, brown sugar, and tobacco.
4. Dry red wines with a sweetness
The word dry may be the antithesis of sweet, but some dry wine falls on the sweeter side of the spectrum as well.
The fermentation period for this Italian wine takes more than 45 days. A bottle is well worth it with the taste of cherry liqueur, black fig, and traces of green peppercorn.
B. Barbera d’Asti
Barbera grapes are grown almost all over the world, including Italy, United States, Australia, and Argentina. The complex Barbera wine has traces of nutmeg, boysenberry, raspberry, and clove.
Piedmont is the home of the Dolcetto grape, which means, “little sweet one.” You’ll love the taste of licorice, blackberry, and almond in a Dolcetto wine.
D. Beaujolais Nouveau
This light wine is made with Gamay Noir grapes. With its flavor of mushroom, forest floor, smoke, dried fruit, and bubble-gum, the Beaujolais is a sweet wine with an extra pop to it.
How to buy sweet red wine
You could buy sweet reds from a wine store or an online wine portal. However, the labels on the wine bottles can be confusing.
Here are a few things you should look for when you pick up a sweet red wine bottle:
Sec (Dry): A dry wine with very little residual sugar
Off-dry: Has residual sugar levels in the 0.6% to 1.4% range
Demi-sec (Half dry): Medium-sweet wines with medium to high acidity, like a Zinfandel
Late Harvest: Made from grapes that are harvested later than usual (the grape becomes sweeter due to the longer vine hanging time)
Dessert: Sweet wines with around 14% alcohol, and 5-15% residual sugar
Doux: Sweetest of Champagnes or sparkling wines, with over 50g of residual sugar per liter
2. Fruity or sweet?
When it comes to sweet red wine it is easy to confuse fruitiness with sweetness. Sweetness is more reliant on your sense of taste, whereas you can sense fruitiness by smelling the wine.
If a wine is highly tannic it tends to hide the fruit in a wine, but if a wine is low in tannin, you’ll notice its fruitiness even more.
3. Alcohol Content
If a bottle of table wine has lower alcohol content this is a strong indication that it falls on the sweeter side. But, there are exceptions - a German Riesling can have alcohol levels up to 12% and still be incredibly sweet.
Now, for the most important part:
Best Sweet Red Wines to Buy in 2020
1. Giuseppe Quintarelli Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOCG
The famous Valpolicella blend is made of Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes grown in the Veneto region in Italy. This wine has woody notes, and hints of black cherry.
Price of Giuseppe Quintarelli Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOCG: $368+
2. D'Oliveiras Bastardo Reserva
This wine is made in Madeira, Portugal. It has a great fruity flavor, with the taste of almond and citrus peel.
Price of D'Oliveiras Bastardo Reserva: $691+
3. L'Etoile Banyuls Grand Cru
The L’Etoile Banyuls Grand Cru is a rare red blend created in the Banyuls Grand Cru region in Languedoc-Roussillon France. It has the flavor of honey and crystallized fruits.
Price of L'Etoile Banyuls Grand Cru: $279+
4. Cossart Gordon Centenary Bual
This lush dessert wine is made from the Bual grape in Madeira, Portugal. Molasses, caramel, toffee all intermingle to create a velvet smooth wine that is vibrant and striking.
Price of Cossart Gordon Centenary Bual: $1,350+
5. Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port
This sweet red wine is the highest priced Port blend red wine. It has Maraschino cherry flavors, with nuanced tobacco accents and a chocolatey richness that will envelop your taste buds.
Price of Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port: $1,101+
6. Avignonesi Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano
This Vin Santo wine is made from the Sangiovese grapes indigenous to Tuscany in Italy. It has chocolate accents with molasses, brown sugar, and dry fruit notes, and a hint of toasted nuts.
Price of Avignonesi Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano: $483+
7. Thomas Hardys & Sons Vintage Port
This rare red blend is crafted in the Thomas Hardys winery in McLaren Vale, Australia. The flavors of this wine are bountiful, and the taste is bold with hints of blackcurrant and cherries.
Price of Thomas Hardys & Sons Vintage Port: $567+
8. W & J Graham's 'Ne Oublie' Tawny Port
This bottle of Aged Tawny Port is a red blend made in the prestigious W&J Graham’s winery in Portugal. It’s a beautifully complex one with notes of marzipan and brown sugar.
Price of W & J Graham's 'Ne Oublie' Tawny Port: $7,400+
9. Massandra Livadia Red Port
This sweet red wine is made mainly from the Mourvedre grape in Crimea. It is slightly dry but has an intense fruity character - perfect for any avid sweet wine drinker.
Price of Massandra Livadia Red Port: $1,625
10. Taylor Fladgate Limited Editions 1863 Single Harvest Port
With the deep mahogany core, sumptuous aroma, and extraordinary depth the Taylor Fladgate Limited Edition 1863 Single Harvest Port deserves the credit, as one of the finest wines of the 19th century.
Price of Taylor Fladgate Limited Editions 1863 Single Harvest Port: $3,788
11. Real Companhia Velha Quinta das Carvalhas 'Memories' Very Old Tawny Port
This Aged Tawny is a Port Blend Red whose fruity aroma and smoky undertones are utterly divine. It is loved by wine connoisseurs, wine critics, and wine investors alike!
Price of Real Companhia Velha Quinta das Carvalhas 'Memories' Very Old Tawny Port: $2,500+
12. NV Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927
A full-bodied dessert wine, the NV Alvear Pedro Ximenez Soleramade is made in the Montilla-Moriles region in Spain. The blend used to craft this buttery, oaky intense cocoa-flavored wine is referred to as Pedro Ximenez.
Price of NV Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927: $53+
13. Barbeito 'Avo Mario' 50 Year Old Bastardo, Madeira
Made using Trousseau grapes, this is another impressive sweet red wine from the Madeira region in Portugal. The exciting blends of butterscotch and passion fruit create a sophisticated taste that will go smoothly down your throat.
Price of Barbeito 'Avo Mario' 50 Year Old Bastardo, Madeira: $650+
How can you get your hands on some of these amazing bottles of sweet red wine?
What’s much simpler than figuring out the complicated world of wine auctions, wine stores, and wine exchanges yourself is to buy wines through a trusted wine investment company like Vinovest.
And, this is how it works.
Buy the Best Sweet red wine through Vinovest
Vinovest has a world-class team of wine experts who will help you buy the world’s best wines at the best prices, store them, and even sell them if you wish to!
How does it work?
It’s incredibly simple. Just follow these steps:
- Sign up on the Vinovest website with your email and password.
- Answer a questionnaire for Vinovest to assess your risk appetite and investment preferences.
- Add funds to your account (minimum of $1000).
- Pick and choose your wines suggested by the algorithm.
- Watch your portfolio grow over time, as you sit back and sip your glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Cristal Champagne!
Benefits of buying wines through Vinovest
1. Easy buying
You can easily buy wines from any other part of the world using Vinovest’s intelligent AI-driven online wine investing platform.
2. Best Prices
Vinovest buys wines directly from a wide network of winemakers, wine exchanges, and wine merchants. So, rest assured that you’ll get your sweet red wine at the best possible wholesale prices.
3. Tracing provenance and authenticity
No more fretting about counterfeit sweet red wine bottles! Vinovest will authenticate your bottles and trace their provenance before you buy them.
4. Portfolio curated by wine experts
Vinovest lets you create a high-performing investment portfolio of wines, including sweet red wines. This portfolio will be curated by an Advanced Sommelier, three Master Sommeliers, and a team of data scientists.
5. Storage under perfect conditions
Vinovest will store your bottles under optimal conditions in world-class bonded warehouses that are located near some of the world’s best wine regions.
Vinovest is insured with an FDIC equivalent for wine protecting each bottle against breakage and loss.
7. Access to a global network
Through Vinovest’s global wine network, you’ll enjoy access to upcoming vineyards, private wine sales, and limited releases.
8. Low overall costs
Fund your account with a minimum of $1000, and pay a 2.85% annual fee (2.5% for a portfolio over $50,000).
This will cover the following:
- Buying your wines
- Authenticating them
- A full insurance policy (at market value)
- Managing your portfolio
- Selling your wine
You’ll also get tax advantages as bonded warehouses don’t charge VAT and excise duty.
9. Full ownership
Needless to say, you get full ownership of your wines.
10. Easy selling of wines
The wine experts at Vinovest know exactly which wines command the biggest price tags. They’ll help you easily sell your wines if you wish to make an attractive profit.
11. Easy delivery
Want to open your wine bottle on a special occasion instead? You can have them delivered to your home easily. And if you end up selling your wine, Vinovest will have the bottle delivered to the buyer.
Sweet red wines would make an incredible new addition to your wine collection - whether you want to enjoy a drink with friends or make a neat profit by storing it for the long term!
The wine experts at Vinovest can ensure you buy the best Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc or Garnacha wine bottles, store them perfectly, and even sell them if you want.
So, sign-up to Vinovest now, and start building your wine collection right away!