Want to know all about sweet wine and how to buy the best ones for your collection?
With their fruity and nutty flavors, sweet wines are an excellent choice to celebrate a joyous occasion or enjoy a casual brunch. At the same time, some sweet wines like Madeira are favorites among wine collectors because of the great aging potential as well!
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about sweet wines - how they’re made, the various types, the best sweet wine bottles to buy in 2020, and the easiest way to buy them.
This Article Contains
- 2018 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Mosel, Germany
- 1850 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira CVM Malmsey Vintage, Madeira, Portugal
- 2008 Royal Tokaji Essencia, Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary
- 1882 Graham Port ‘Ne Oublie’ Tawny, Portugal
- 2019 Avignonesi Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy
- 2006 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Canada
- 1971 Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, France
- 2013 Markus Molitor Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Mosel, Germany
- 2004 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Natural Sweet Wine, Constantia, South Africa
- 1990 Henriques & Henriques Century Solera Malmsey, Madeira, Portugal
All About Sweet Wine
Wines like Port, Moscato, some Riesling and Lambrusco wines, and Sauternes that contain residual sugar after fermentation are referred to as sweet wine.
The residual sugar in sweet wines acts as a natural preservative - which is why they’re perfect for cellaring as well!
Apart from sugar, a wine’s sweetness is also determined by the levels of alcohol, acids, and tannins. Sugar and alcohol enhance it’s sweetness, while acids and tannins counteract it.
Levels of Wine Sweetness in Red and White Wines
Wine producers describe the dryness or sweetness of wine with a range of terms.
- Bone Dry wines like Muscadet have less than 1g of residual sugar and often have a bitter mineral taste.
- Dry Wines have residual sugars less than 10 grams and high acidity.
- Off-Dry and Semi-Sweet wines are wines with a hint of sweet fruit flavors. They have sugar content ranging from 10 to 35 grams.
- Sweet wines like Moscato wines (for example, Moscato d’Asti and Asti Spumante) have a fair amount of residual sugar (35g - 120g).
- Very Sweet or ‘Dessert Wine’ has 120 to 220 grams of sugar, for examples Ice wine, Tawny Port, and Sauternes.
How are Sweet Wines made?
There are several methods that wine producers use to make sweet wines.
1. Halting fermentation: In this process, the winemaker halts the fermentation process before all the sugar is converted to alcohol. The wine is left with a good amount of residual sugar.
2. Using very ripe grapes: Here, the winemaker uses riper grapes for wine production. When the alcohol level reaches 10-16%, the yeast dies down. Since ripe grapes have a high sugar level, the wine is left with the sweetness of residual sugar.
3. Evaporating water: Another method to concentrate the sugar in grapes is by drying them in the sun. Since the water evaporates, grapes are left with a high sugar level that gives the wine a sweet taste after fermentation.
4. Filtration: In this method, the wine is filtered after the desired level of sweetness is reached. Filtering the wine removes the yeast, and it doesn’t ferment anymore.
Discover all about the prestigious French wine regions and the best French wines you should have in your wine cellar in 2020!
Types of Sweet Wines
Here are some of the most popular sweet wines:
1. Port Wine
Port wines are sweet, fortified wines made in Portugal. They come in four styles - Red wines, White, Rose, and Tawny. Old Tawny Ports are some of the sweetest Port wines with a sweetness level of up to 150 grams.
Port wines have medium tannins and are known for their nutty and caramel taste with bitter chocolate notes.
Sweetness Level: 90-140g residual sugar
2. White Zinfandel
The White Zinfandel was discovered by accident. Bob Trinchero of Napa Valley’s Trinchero Family Estates used some grape juice to ferment his Amador County Zinfandel white wine hoping to make it more ‘robust’. The resulting ‘sweet white wine’ was almost clear with a pale pink hue to it.
Sweet Zinfandel wines have a light body and a sweet taste of red fruit flavors, including cherries and peaches.
Sweetness Level: 35-120g residual sugar
Moscato is the Italian name for the Muscat grape - one of the oldest grape varieties in the world. Predominantly grown in Piedmont, the sweet Moscato sparkling wine is rich in citrus and floral flavors.
Moscato is used to make red wine, white wine, and even pink Moscato. Moscato d’Asti and Asti Spumante (sparkling wine) are some of the world’s best Moscato wines.
Moscato wine has fruity hints that make it a great wine option when paired with creme desserts like cakes and pies.
Sweetness Level: 90-120g residual sugar
Often compared to Chenin Blanc, Riesling is a white grape that gives off strong floral aroma and high acidity. That’s why it is used to produce sparkling wine.
It is a terroir-expressive grape variety - the taste (including sweetness) of the wine is affected by a change in terroir. It’s also versatile enough to produce dry, semi-sweet, and sweet wines.
Sweet Riesling wines have high amounts of residual sugar, making it a perfect investment-wine for long-term cellaring.
Sweetness Level: 90-220g residual sugar
Sauternes is primarily made in the Sauternes region of Bordeaux. It is made using grapes affected by noble rot (Botrytis cinerea), which is a fungus that helps in concentrating sugar in the grape, thereby increasing the wine’s sweetness.
(Other famous Noble Rot wines include the late harvest wine Spatlese made from German Riesling grapes and the Noble Rot Dolce wine from Napa Valley.)
This wine has a sweet apricot and honey taste that is balanced by medium-high acidity and nutty notes. On the palate, Sauternes also offers a taste of butterscotch and peaches with a hint of coconut and tropical fruit.
Sweetness Level: 120-220g residual sugar
6. Ice Wine
Ice Wine (‘Eiswein’ in German) is a very sweet dessert wine. The wine grapes used to make Ice Wine include Riesling, Vidal, and Cabernet Franc.
Red wine grapes like Merlot and Pinot Noir are also used to make sweet ice wines. Other examples are Furano (a tannin rich sweet red ice wine), and other ice wines made in the Niagara Peninsula of Canada, Germany, Austria, and the US.
Sweetness Level: 110-200g residual sugar
7. Tokaji Aszu
Tokaji Aszu, a very sweet wine, comes from the world’s first demarcated wine region, Tokaj located in eastern Hungary.
This wine can age beautifully from 20 to 40 years. It has dominant tangy fruit flavors, including tangerine and ginger with hints of honey, apricots, and marzipan. If you are a sweet wine lover, then this is a must-try!
Sweetness Level: 60-450g residual sugar
8. Recioto Della Valpolicella
Valpolicella is famous for its Amarone wines, but it also produces some of the best sweet wines.
Recioto Della Valpolicella is a full-bodied sweet wine made from the traditional wine making method. The grapes are dried on the mat to concentrate the sugar giving it the sweet taste.
On the palate, it gives off a sweet cherry flavor balanced by fresh and zesty flavors of oranges and lemons.
Sweetness Level: 110-200g residual sugar
9. Sweet Sherry
While dry Sherry is often used in cooking, its counterpart Sweet Sherry is a common dessert wine because of its fruit flavors and pleasant sweetness.
Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez are two of the most popular sweet Sherry wines.
Sweetness Level: 300+g residual sugar
Want to check out the best wine brands in the world in 2020? This informative guide has it all!
Best Sweet Wines 2020 from Across the Globe (Including Prices, Taste)
Here are some of the best sweet wines that you should look for.
1. 2018 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Mosel, Germany
The lush and balanced 2018 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger is made from the Riesling grape. It comes from the Scharzhofberger vineyard of the Wiltingen appellation in Mosel.
Its dominant flavors of pineapple and mango are balanced with its high acidity. It is best served with pork, shellfish, poultry, and cheese.
Average price of 2018 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Mosel, Germany: $16,824
2. 1850 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira CVM Malmsey Vintage, Madeira, Portugal
This vintage Madeira is made from the ancient grape variety of Malvasia. It is one of the sweetest wines produced in the Madeira Malvasia appellation of Portugal.
This semi-sweet dessert wine is known for its caramelized, sticky texture. On the palate, you get the classic sweet and savory flavor of the Malvasia grape.
Average price of 1850 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira CVM Malmsey Vintage, Madeira, Portugal: $4,620
3. 2008 Royal Tokaji Essencia, Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary
The 2008 Royal Tokaji Essencia is made in the Royal Tokaji winery in Hungary.
This wine has dominant honey, apricot, and peach flavors with aromas of tea and blossoms. It has high residual sugar levels, making it a perfect wine to store in your cellar.
Average price of 2008 Royal Tokaji Essencia, Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary: $1,160
4. 1882 Graham Port ‘Ne Oublie’ Tawny, Portugal
The 1882 Graham Port ‘Ne Oublie’ Tawny is a fortified wine made from a red blend of native red wine grapes. This red wine is one of the most expensive sweet wines made in Portugal.
Only 656 bottles of this red port were produced in 1882. That’s why this vintage port is one of the most difficult to find wines in the world.
Good aging has given this red wine a fresh orange zesty note. It has also developed notes of spices and herbs that contrast the natural sweetness of the wine.
Average price of 1882 Graham Port ‘Ne Oublie’ Tawny, Portugal: $7,899
5. 2019 Avignonesi Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy
This Montepulciano red wine is produced by Avignonesi, a well-known Sangiovese wine producer in Italy. Avignonesi is famous for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano dry red wine, but the sweet red wines have recently gained huge popularity as well.
The 2019 sweet red vintage has a caramelized and sticky texture that stays on the palate. The oak barrel aging adds subtle earthy flavors that develop well with age.
Average price of 2019 Avignonesi Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy: $601
Meanwhile, check out this article on the delicious Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine.
6. 2006 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Niagara Peninsula is a wine region in Canada famous for producing some of the world’s best Ice wines.
This red wine has Muscat grape flavors, and the smooth texture stays on the palate.
The Cabernet Franc grape gives this sweet red wine a lush and balanced texture. Cinnamon, spice, and earth with intense fruit flavors of cherry, redcurrant, and marmalade dominate the palate.
Average price of 2006 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Canada: $236
7. 1971 Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, France
Château d’Yquem, located in the Sauternes district of Bordeaux is famous for making expensive Sauvignon Blanc - Semillon varietals.
A vibrant and balanced French white wine, the 1971 Chateau d'Yquem is often consumed with blue cheese. It has sweet honey notes with soil and earthy texture. This sweet white wine has a bitter finish that balances the sweetness perfectly.
Average price of 1971 Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, France: $2,236
8. 2013 Markus Molitor Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Mosel, Germany
It is a lush and balanced wine that showcases classic Riesling flavors. The ripe grapes give the wine dominant fruity flavors of pineapple and apricots with subtle hints of lime.
Average price of 2013 Markus Molitor Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Mosel, Germany: $5,081
9. 2004 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Natural Sweet Wine, Constantia, South Africa
This sweet wine is made by Klein Constantiain in the Constantia appellation of South Africa.
The Muscat Blanc a Petits grains gives it a beautiful golden color with a light body and balanced acidity. The aroma of tropical fruit, dried pineapple and other fresh fruit, and raisins take over the nose.
Average price of 2004 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Natural Sweet Wine, Constantia, South Africa: $209
10. 1990 Henriques & Henriques Century Solera Malmsey, Madeira, Portugal
Produced by Henriques & Henriques in the Madeira Malmsey appellation, this Madeira is a bold and very sweet wine with medium-high acidity.
This sweet wine’s caramelized texture stays on the palate and the saline note adds a beautiful contrast to the sweetness. It is made from Malvasia grapes that lend tropical notes of tamarind and honey to the wine.
Average price of 1990 Henriques & Henriques Century Solera Malmsey, Madeira, Portugal: $1,314
Now, are sweet wines meant to be stored for the long term?
Let’s take a look at their aging potential.
Does Sweet Wine Age Well?
Since sweet wines like Sauternes and Tokaji Aszu have high amounts of residual sugar (unlike dry wine), they can age comfortably for more than 50 years. Sugar acts as a preservative for wine. Even a semi-sweet wine can easily age for more than 20 years.
So, how do you buy the best sweet wines from the various types you’ve seen?
Choosing the best sweet wine to buy is a complicated task. You’ll have to find an authentic bottle at the right prices from the world of wine merchants, wine auctions, or wine exchanges.
Easier said than done, right?
Don’t worry. Vinovest offers the easiest way to buy any kind of wine from anywhere in the world!
Here’s how it works.
Buy the Best Sweet Wine Bottles through Vinovest
Vinovest is an online wine investment company that helps you buy fine wines from around the world.
Vinovest will also authenticate your wines, store them safely for the long term, and even sell your wine when the time is right!
How Does it Work?
Investing with Vinovest is easy and takes only a few steps to get started.
1. Sign up on the Vinovest website.
2. Answer a set of questions on your risk appetite and investment preferences.
3. Make your first deposit of a minimum of $1000.
4. Start building your fine wine portfolio and watch it grow!
Here are a few reasons why you should invest through Vinovest.
1. Easy Buying and Selling
Vinovest has an AI-driven wine investing platform that makes it easy to buy and sell wine bottles with just a few clicks.
2. Best Prices
Vinovest buys wine directly from the wine merchants, wineries, and wine exchanges around the world. That’s why you get the best below-retail prices for your wines.
3. Curated Portfolio
Their Master Sommeliers, data scientists use proprietary financial models to create a high-performing portfolio for you.
4. Optimal Storage
Vinovest’s warehouses are monitored 24/7 to maintain optimal temperature control, the right light, and humidity. The warehouses also have a back-up power supply in case of power cuts.
5. Hassle-free Delivery
If you want to open your Cabernet Sauvignon bottle for a special occasion with your wine drinker buddies, Vinovest will get your bottle delivered to you.
And, if you want to sell the wine, Vinovest will have it delivered to your buyer.
6. Provenance and Authenticity
Vinovest’s wine experts ensure the Provenance of the wine bottle and its authenticity. So, you don’t have to worry about counterfeit bottles ever again.
Every wine bottle you buy through Vinovest comes with comprehensive insurance that covers breakage and loss.
8. Access to a Deep Network
With Vinovest, you get access to a deep wine network, limited releases of wines, and private winery sales.
You own each bottle that you have in your portfolio. At any time, you can choose to sell your bottles or open one for drinking.
Besides being the perfect drink for a celebration, some sweet wines also have great aging potential. It is not uncommon to find a 100-year-old Madeira on sale!
However, with an endless variety of sweet wines to choose from, it becomes challenging to find the best bottles.
Vinovest’s expert team can help you find the best Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, sweet red wines or sweet whites at the best prices from across the globe.
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