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    Sweet White Wines (What Is The Sweetest & Best Top 10 Varieties)

    Sweet White Wines

    Got a sweet tooth but not the room required to eat a dessert?

    Fear not! Dessert wine is here to save the day.

    A glass of deliciously sweet wine doesn't just make a replacement for dessert though, it can make a wonderful accompaniment to food through the entirety of the meal when paired correctly.

    Here are some dessert wines you should look out for:

    5 Sweet White Wines to Try in 2023 

    Heres a list of 13 sweet white wines for you to try (you can find more about each variety below the table):

    Wine Taste Summary
    1. Riesling Floral and fruity with green apple, citrus, and honey notes. Sweetness varies from dry to very sweet.
    2. Moscato Highly floral and fruity, featuring peach, apricot, and orange blossom flavors. Light and sweet.
    3. Sauternes Rich and honeyed with apricot and botrytis-induced sweetness. A French Bordeaux classic.
    4. Ice Wine Intensely sweet with tropical fruit, honey, and candied citrus notes. Produced from frozen grapes.
    5. Tokaji Complex with apricot, honey, and caramel flavors. Labeled by sweetness level (e.g., 3 Puttonyos, 4 Puttonyos).
    6. Late Harvest Gewürztraminer Sweet and aromatic, featuring lychee, rose petal, and spice notes. Late harvest version.
    7. Chenin Blanc Sweet Chenin Blanc wines, often labeled as "Coteaux du Layon" or "Vouvray Moelleux" from France's Loire Valley, can have flavors of honey, quince, and pear.
    8. Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives These are late-harvest Gewürztraminer wines from Alsace, France. They are rich, sweet, and intensely aromatic.
    9. Muscat Muscat wines, like Muscat de Beaumes de Venise from France or Muscat of Alexandria, are known for their sweet, grapey, and floral characteristics.
    10. Lambrusco Dolce Lambrusco is an Italian sparkling wine, and the Dolce (sweet) version offers fruity sweetness with a bit of effervescence.
    11. Banyuls Banyuls is a sweet fortified wine from the Roussillon region of France. It has flavors of dark fruits, chocolate, and spices.
    12. Port While Port wine encompasses various styles, the sweet styles like Ruby Port and Tawny Port offer sweetness with flavors of dark fruits, caramel, and nuts.
    13. Vin Santo A sweet Italian dessert wine often served with biscotti, Vin Santo is made from dried grapes and has flavors of dried fruits, nuts, and honey.

    1. Sauternes

    SauternesA dessert wine made in the French region of Bordeaux using Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

    This is a wine with a global reputation and is a must try for all interested in sweet white wines. 

    2. Riesling

    RieslingThis iconic grape makes sensational dessert wines, look for German wines labelled as Trockenbeerenauslese for sumptuously sweet examples of the style.

    3. Vin Santo

    Vin SantoA sweet style of Italian wine made using Trebbiano and Malvasio white grapes. 

    4. Tokaji Aszú

    TokajiA golden hued, honey drenched sweet white wine made in Hungary.

    5. Ice Wine

    Ice WineSweet wine doesn’t get more exciting than this.

    Grapes are frozen on the vine in order to intensify the sugar content resulting in wines oozing with rich and sweet flavours. 

    So what actually is sweetness in wine and how do you measure a wine's sweetness?

    What is Wine Sweetness and How is it Determined?

    Simply put, a white wine’s sweetness is dictated by how much sugar is left over after the fermentation process.

    This sugar is referred to as residual sugar.

    The more residual sugar a wine has the sweeter it is!

    Dry wines will have the lowest possible amount of residual sugar and sweet wines will have lots more detectable sweetness to them.

    So what affects the level of sweetness in a wine?

    Factors Affecting the Sweetness and Taste of White Wine

    The more sugar a grape has the sweeter the wine will be.

    However, if fermentation allows the yeast to eat all of the sugar then you’ll still have a dry wine on your hands (and an alcoholic one at that!)

    So some fermentation processes are halted before all the sugar can be consumed and some winemakers use methods to encourage a higher amount of sugar in the grapes.

    These all result in sweet wines that have rich bodies and sumptuous flavours such as candied citrus, stone fruit in syrup and ripe berries. 

    Sweet wines will have low levels of tannins, good levels of acidity and lots of beautiful aromas that contribute to their sweetness. 

    Related guides: Low Acid White Wines

    So how does sweetness compare between red and white wines?

    Levels of Sweetness in White Wine and Red Wine

    Levels of sweetness in a wine is dictated by method, climate and the grape variety involved.

    Both red and white grapes are capable of producing sweet wines.

    Sweet examples of white wine may be more common but sweet styles of red wine include:

    • Lambrusco
    • Tawny Port
    • and Vin Santo Ross

    Sweet red wines tend to go deliciously with any dish featuring notes of chocolate. 

    So what is the difference between sweetness and fruitiness in a wine?

    The Difference Between Sweetness and Fruitiness in White Wine

    It’s very easy to confuse a fruity wine with a sweet wine, especially when our brains associate fruit with sugar. 

    Some wines will have lots of vibrant fruit aromas and flavours - think of the zesty passionfruit of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - but will have little to no residual sugar. 

    If you’re unsure as to whether your glass of wine is fruity or sweet try pinching your nose when you take a sip, if you can still taste the sugar then that's definitely a sweet wine in your glass!

    So how is sweet wine made?

    Sweet White Wine Styles and How They’re Made

    There are lots of different methods of making sweet white wine and they will vary depending on climate conditions, grape variety and the type of sweet wine the maker desires to make.

    Ice wine, for example, is a sweet wine made with grapes that have been left on the vine until frozen.

    This helps to remove any excess water from the grapes, concentrating the grapes sugars and flavours in the process.

    Straw mats are used in styles such as our Italian Vin Santo.

    The aim here is to ry the grapes out in the sun until they have become raisin-like. Again this will concentrate the grapes sugars and flavours in the process, resulting in a deliciously sweet wine.

    So what about food pairings?

    What foods go best with sweeter styles of wine?

    Food Pairings for Sweet White Wine

    It may seem a tricky wine to pair at first but sweet wine goes with lots of things.

    Why not try a dessert wine with your next cheese course, or a glass of Sauternes with a pate as an appetiser?

    Sweet wine can also go well with spicier dishes such as:

    • Thai cuisine
    • Korean food
    • And of course, sweet wine goes unbelievably well with dessert, too

    Before You Go...

    White Wine BarrelsSo there we have it.

    A guide to all you need to know about sweet styles of wine.

    There’s only one thing left now, you’re going to have to start working your way through the vast array of sweet white wines the world has to offer.

    It's a hard life!

    Related Guides

    If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, or email us at info@expertwinestorage.co.uk

    Learn more about other Wine Types here.

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    philip thompson Author: Philip Thompson
    Philip is the General Manager at Expert Wine Storage, and is very knowledgable about all things relating to wine and wine storage, including wine fridges. He is regularly featured in media outlets sharing his knowledge on wine. Connect on Linkedin