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Dessert Wine

Once in a while, we all love a little something sweet. Wine is no exception. After a big meal, there’s nothing better than a little dessert wine to wash down your dinner and end the meal on a high note. 

Dessert wines, sometimes called pudding wines, are sweet wines typically served with dessert.

There is no simple definition of a dessert wine. In the UK, a dessert wine is considered to be any sweet wine drunk with a meal, as opposed to the white fortified wines (fino and amontillado sherry) drunk before the meal, and the red fortified wines (port and madeira) drunk after it. Thus, most fortified wines are regarded as distinct from dessert wines, but some of the less strong fortified white wines, such as Pedro Ximénez sherry and Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, are regarded as honorary dessert wines. In the United States, by contrast, a dessert wine is legally defined as any wine over 14% alcohol by volume, which includes all fortified wines - and is taxed more highly as a result. 

The 5 types of Dessert wine are:

  • Sparkling Dessert Wine
  • Lightly Sweet Dessert Wine
  • Richly Sweet Dessert Wine
  • Sweet Red Wine
  • Fortified Wine

Sparkling Dessert Wine

The sensation of bubbles and high acidity in most sparkling wine makes them taste less sweet than they actually are. When you taste more of the different varieties, you’ll notice certain grape varieties smell sweeter (and thus taste sweeter) than others.

Lightly Sweet Dessert Wine

Lightly sweet wines are refreshingly sweet; perfect for a hot day. Many of these sweet wines pair well with spicy foods like Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Light sweet wines are meant to be enjoyed at their freshest although some examples, such as Riesling, age well.

Expect these wines to be exploding with fruit flavors and well suited for fruit-based and vanilla-driven desserts.

Richly Sweet Dessert Wine

Richly sweet wines are made with the highest quality grapes in an unfortified style. Many of these wines can age 50+ years because sweetness and acidity preserve their fresh flavor. Some of these wines are historically important including Hungarian Tokaji (‘toe-kye’) which was loved by the Tzars of Russia; South African Constantia which was an obsession of the Dutch and English; and French Sauternes which was loved by Americans in the early 1800’s.

Sweet Red Wine

Sweet reds are on decline except for cheap commercial production. However, there are still a few well-made historically interesting sweet reds worth trying. The majority of these awesome sweet red wines are from Italy using esoteric grapes.

Fortified Wine

Fortified wines are made when grape brandy is added to a wine and can either be dry or sweet. Most fortified wines are higher in alcohol content (about 17-20% ABV) and have a longer shelf life after they are opened.

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