White Wine Sweetness Chart & Guide
Sweet white wine is great for bringing a refreshing element to your dinner or afternoon relaxation session. It’s no wonder that people gravitate toward the sweet white wines on the shelves – they are light, fresh, and sweet!
Sweetness Levels of Sweet White Wine
When searching for a sweet white wine, you may come across a few words on the labels that you are unfamiliar with (in relation to wine). Let’s break down what those labels mean:
- Bone Dry – Lemony Flavors
- Dry – Savory and Fruity Flavors
- Off-Dry – Honeycomb and Lemon Flavor
- Semi-Sweet – Tropical Fruit Flavors
- Sweet – Lemon and Honey Flavors
- Very Sweet – Raisin and Fig Flavors
When you start scanning the shelves for the perfect sweet white wine, make sure to note the sweetness level. Choosing the perfect sweetness level of your sweet white wine will be imperative for finding the right pairing for your food and/or occasion.
Different Types of Sweet White Wines
Maybe you’ve tried a sweet white wine here or there, but you’re ready to try something new!
Let’s break down the different types of sweet white wines that allow you to experience new and exciting tastes.
I. Bold & Sweet White Wines
If you want a sweet white wine that is perfect for desserts and other sweet dishes, these are the sweet white wines for you:
1. Ice Wine-
Food Pairing Suggestions: Cheesecake, coconut ice cream, softer cheeses.
Wine Suggestion: Inniskillin Gold Vidal Ice Wine Oak Aged.
2. White Port-
Food Pairing Suggestions: Sweet desserts such as chocolate cake or ice cream.
Wine Suggestion: Ramos Pinto Fine White Port.
II. Light & Sweet White Wines
Slightly sweet white wines such as these have a hint of sugar still left from the grapes (called residual sugar) that allows you to taste sweetness without an overwhelming kick!
Fоod Pairing Suggestions: Middle Eastern Cuisine, Roasted Meats, Soft Cow’s Milk Cheese.
Wine Suggestion: Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer.
2. Sweet Riesling-
Food Pairing Suggestions: Spicy foods such as Indian or Asian Cuisines, Duck, Soft Cow’s Milk Cheese.
Wine Suggestion: California Riesling.
III. Herbaceous Sweet White Wines
Light bodied sweet white wines such as these are full of herbal flavors such as bell peppers and jalapenos (unexpected yet delicious).
1. Sauvignon Blanc
Food Pairing Suggestions: Herbs like parsley, mint, basil, and meat like pork or turkey.
Wine Suggestion: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
Food Pairing Suggestions: Fish Tacos, Clams, Goat Cheese, Green Beans.
Wine Suggestion: Banfi La Pettegola Vermentino.
IV. Bold & Dry Sweet White Wines
If you want something that will simply knock your socks off, bold and dry sweet white wines are exactly what you need. These sweet white wines will give you a flavor explosion that comes from their oak barrel aging process.
Food Pairing Suggestions: Chicken breasts, Parsley, Yellow Squash, Soft Cheeses.
Wine Suggestion: Stags’ Leap Chardonnay.
2. White Rioja-
Food Pairing Suggestions: Fish, Garlic, Codfish, Stewed Chicken.
Wine Suggestion: Vina Zaco Albarino.
V. Light & Zesty Sweet White Wines
Looking for a fresh and light taste? These light and zesty sweet white wines are great for bringing your taste buds the light and airiness you want.
1. Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris-
Food Pairing Suggestions: Scallops, Oysters, Sheep’s Milk Cheese, Cinnamon
Wine Suggestion: Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio
2. Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne)-
Food Pairing Suggestions: Mussels, Pan-roasted Chicken, Gouda, Zucchini
Wine Suggestion: Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2016 – Domaine Bel Air
Take Your Food to a Whole New Level
Many wine goers and sommeliers agree that the theory of tasting the food and pairing it with wine is simple: take a bite of your food and chew it for a bit then take a sip of your chosen wine. If the white wine adds a nice complimentary punch to the food you just ate, it is a pair!
Here are some great pairings for sweet white wines that you may have never thought of before:
- Sour Food: If you pair sour food with sweet white wine, you will find that the high acidity in the wine can combat the sourness.
- Salty Food: Salty foods are great for pairing with sweet white wines, especially if you’re looking for the sweet and salty combination so many people desire.
- Spicy Foods: Sweet white wines are perfect for spicy foods. When you find one with low alcohol levels, they make a great match for the hotness of the food (especially when served chilled).
- Middle Eastern/Asian Cuisine: Many of these cuisines are packed with spices, sauces, and sugar that match extremely well with sweet white wines. The acidity does a great job at breaking down the spiciness of the food and sauces.
One No-No: It is not recommended to pair sweet white wines with chocolate. This may seem surprising, but if you want to pair a sweet white wine with dessert, look for something that has caramel, butterscotch, or even coconut to match the sweetness. Otherwise, you may have sugar overload.
The Popularity of Sweet White Wine
For many wine lovers, a sweet white wine has been a go-to for the perfect kick of sweetness or the perfect tool to combat spiciness. However, many cuisines were untouched when it came to pairing sweet white wines with the food. That all changed not too long ago when people started pairing Southern Asian and Indian foods with sweet white wine.
What they found was a surprising pairing that offered a refreshing take on the spicy food. Spices and sauces are known for being tangy and overpowering in many Middle Eastern dishes.
However, when you pour a glass of sweet white wine to go with your spicier dishes, you will find that the overpowering tastes dissipate into something even more delicious. As to make the best possible combo, you should select a relatively wide glass that will allow the tannin to mellow out a bit and to achieve that perfect taste.
Glasses shaped like port glasses but considerably larger, like the ones shown here, are on the market and this is what you should be focused on finding.
For years, people have seen sweet white wine as the “dessert” wine– one that couldn’t be matched with much else. But, as the popularity of sweet white wine has grown, so has the realization that this wine is meant for so much more. You can enjoy a nice glass of sweet white wine on a daily basis, after dinner with a not-so-sweet dessert, or when you’re feeling like tasting something sweet (and no candy is around to satisfy your craving).
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