It’s not uncommon to find it difficult to find a wine that meets your sweetness standards. In fact, it becomes increasingly difficult when you don’t fully understand the sweetness levels that sweet wines have. Red and white wines both have sweet wines that will give you the tasting experience you desire. You must first know what you’re looking for in the sweet wine before making a decision between sweetness level and type of wine.
What is Sweet Wine?
Sweet wine, also called dessert wine or sometimes pudding wine, is the opposite of dry wine, where the production method gives the bottle higher sugar levels. Some wines may taste sweet due to fruity and candy-like notes in the flavor. However, they are still technically dry. So to be classified as a sweet wine, it all comes down to sugar.
Generally, wines with around 30 grams per liter are considered sweet, wines with 10-30 are considered medium-dry, and wines with under 10 grams of sugar are considered dry.
To produce sweet wine, the fermentation process of the grape has to be changed. During standard fermentation, the yeast consumes sugar from the grapes and turns it into alcohol. Although some residual sugar is common, levels are usually fairly low.
While some winemakers are able to grow especially sweet grapes to produce sweet wine, many choose to add additional sugar either before or during the fermentation process, so that both sugar and alcohol levels remain high. In the US, alcohol levels in sweet wines are 14% and above.
Many sweet wines are fortified, which means that a distilled liquor, often brandy, is added before, during or after the fermentation process. By adding the liquor before, the additional alcohol kills the yeast and leaves higher levels of residual sugar in the wine as well as raising the alcohol level to around 20%. Fortified wines such as sherry involve the liquor being added once fermentation process is complete.
Although it may sound undesirable, noble rot is anything but. In the right conditions and geography, noble rot can occur when the mist falls on the grapes in the morning, encouraging grey rot to grow and shrivel the grapes. Far from destroying their winemaking potential, noble rot increases the sugar by reducing water levels and even adds highly desirable flavor notes such as honey and ginger.
It may seem like rudimentary information that grapes need sunshine and warmth to produce great wine, but at the other end of the spectrum, Icewine produces some of the best sweet wines available. The grapes are harvested and pressed while frozen, and with the water content still in the form of ice, only the sugar oozes out, creating a perfectly sweet wine.
When Should You Drink Sweet Wine?
Sweet wine is usually enjoyed after a meal, accompanying dessert. However, when pairing sweet wine with your food, you should try to choose treats that are less sweet than the wine in order to enjoy it at its best. Dishes to avoid are chocolate and toffee while medium sweetness fruits and biscuits are a perfect match. Port varieties are an excellent accompaniment for fine cheese.
You can also enjoy sweet wine as a dessert in itself and savor every last drop.
Contributions to the Sweetness Factors
Many wines have different levels of sweetness due to the presence of tannin, acidity, and aroma. Some wines are dryer than others due to the high levels of tannin, which makes the wine taste drier than it really it is. The acidity of the wine also plays an important factor in the dryness or sweetness factor. The more acidic the wine is, the less sweet it will taste.
The most interesting thing about sweet wines is that different people taste different levels of sweetness depending on their sensitivity to tannin, acidity, and aromas. Some people may be more sensitive to tannin than others, which will make wine taste less sweet to them. Keep this in mind if you find yourself sipping on a glass of “sweet wine” that doesn’t taste so sweet to you.
How to Reduce Tannin Effects
Some people may claim that a particular sweet wine is delicious but you find it hard to handle, you may be able to reduce the effect tannin has on your taste buds. This will help create a sweeter effect of the sweet wine everyone raves about. If you pair your sweet wines that contain higher levels of tannin than others with salty foods like nuts and some fatty foods, you may be able to reduce the effect tannin has on your taste buds. Usually, it is not appropriate to drink white wine from wide glasses, but in this case what you should be looking for is a large port-like glass that will decant the sweet wine, letting the tannin to mellow out a bit. Something like the Elixir Glassware wine glass, shown here, would be perfect, as it is both stylish and will bring out the best taste in wines with high tannin concentration.
Acidity and Sweet Wines
Sweet wines can come in red or white. Depending on which type of wine you choose, the acidity may be a factor in the sweetness level you experience. Due to the high acidity of some red wines, the sweet wines that come in red variations are often perceived as less sweet by some. Why is this? A wine that has a higher level of acidity (like red wines) are often more dry than others, which means they are less sweet. So while some red wines may have residual sugars left in them from the fermentation process, the acid may counterbalance and mask the sweetness.
Recommendations for White Sweet Wines
Looking for a white sweet wine? Here are our top choices for you.
- Floral Aroma – Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling
This incredibly versatile white sweet wine is perfect for bringing a refreshing taste to your palate. With a fruity flavor that also has a crisp acidity, your tongue will surely thank you. The citrusy aroma compliments the sweet apple blossom aroma that many wine goers report tasting. Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling is perfect for giving you the sweetness you’re looking for without overwhelming you from the start.
- Fruity Aroma – Risata Moscato d’Asti
This fresh and vibrant Moscato hails from Piedmont, Italy. It brings a fullness of flavor with hints of fruit, tangerines, and even honey. Unlike many Moscatos, Risata Moscato d’Asti will not overpower you with sweetness. It is well-balanced and great for bringing you the sweetness you desire with the refreshing effects, as well.
When you think of sweet wines, you may automatically think of white wines. You would not be entirely incorrect in your thinking, but you must also be careful! Some white wines are very sweet while others are dry.
In order to pick the best sweet wines in the white wine family, you must know what you’re looking for.
White wine is made either using white or red grapes (surprising, right). White wine is made through fermentation without the grape skins. When the skin is kept in the juices for a certain amount of time, the color of the skin bleeds into the juice and creates the darker colors you find in red and pink wine.
Some of the most popular white sweet wines are Moscato and Riesling. These sweet wines are great for giving you the refreshing, sweet taste that will kick your taste buds into action.
Moscato is a sweet wine that is also known as a sparkling wine that comes from Italy. It is very light and refreshing, which makes it the perfect blend for the summer. Moscato is actually low in alcohol content and is great for an after dinner beverage with dessert. You may even enjoy some Moscato with spicier foods or chicken and seafood! It really is a versatile wine.
Riesling is one of the most common white wines that many people turn to for the sweet wine flavor. This wine is made in Germany and ranges from floral to fruity perfumes and flavors. One of the most interesting facts about Riesling is that it is easily influenced by the soil it is grown in. The soil can actually influence the flavor of the wine itself.
These sweet wines are great with Asian dishes as well as other spicy foods. It cleanses the palate and gives you a refresher during bites.
Here are our top choices for Moscato and Riesling sweet wines we recommend you try!
Recommendations for Red Sweet Wines
Not all red wines are known for being dry and tart. Here are some of the top recommendations for red sweet wines that will give you a tasting experience like no other.
- Fruity – Sunstruck Sweet Red Wine
Sweet wines such as Sunstruck Sweet Red Wine are great for everyday occasions. This sweet red wine will give you the perfect combination of cherries and spices that make it the perfect red wine for barbeques and desserts all at the same time. It hails from California and promises a tasting experiencing you’ve never had with a red sweet wine.
- Chocolaty – Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz
Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz is a South African sweet red wine. It is lighter on the flavor side with fresh and fruity flavors mixed with a dark chocolate undertone. This mixture creates a refreshing blend that will surely leave you with the sweetness factor of a red sweet wine you were looking for. You cannot go wrong with sweet wines like Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz.
Food Pairings with Sweet Wines
Food pairing with sweet wines can be very easy if you know what you’re looking for. The sweetness of many sweet wines can often make an already sweet dish taste unappetizing. This is why it is so important to know the flavors and aromas of the sweet wine before pairing it with a food dish. Many sweet wines are actually great for savory dishes like meat or pasta as they balance out the savoriness with their sweetness.
Sweet wines come in many different types ranging from red to white (and in-between). Knowing the flavors and tasting experience you’re after before you shop can help you cut down on the confusion and enjoy the taste of your next sweet wine.