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Dessert & Fortified Wine

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Late-harvest wines
  • Ice wine / Eiswein
  • Sauternes
  • Moscato
  • Port
  • Tokaji
  • Sherry
  • Vin Santo
  • and chocolate wine.
  • How are dessert wines made?

    With so many styles of delicious dessert wines available from around the world, it is probably not surprising that they are made in many different ways. However, with any dessert winemaking method, some sugar is allowed to remain at the end of the winemaking process, so the wine tastes sweet.

    • All wine starts with ripe grapes that are full of sugar and natural acidity. During the winemaking process, yeast is added, and the yeast eats the sugar in the grape juice, converting it into alcohol in a process called fermentation.
    • With most wines, the yeast eats all the sugar in the grape juice, so the final wine tastes dry, and it has a moderate amount of alcohol, usually 10 to 16 percent. With dessert wines such as Moscato or Brachetto, the winemaker stops the fermentation early, so the wine tastes sweet. These sparkling Italian dessert wines also have a lower amount of alcohol, closer to 8 to 11 percent.
    • In other parts of the world, such as Italy, where Vin Santo and Passito di Pantelleria are ripe grapes are laid out on straw mats or hung on special racks to dry out. These wines are also called passito, which means raisin wines or straw wines, a reference to the straw mats they were traditionally dried on.

    It takes many, many of these raisin grapes to make a bottle of wine, so dessert wines like Sauternes, Barsac, Tokaji, and Vin Santo can be pricey. However, late harvest dessert wines are so thrilling to drink because they have gloriously intense aromas and flavors of peaches, apricots, honey, and nuts along with lush sweetness and bright acidity that will not be found in any other wine.

    Sherry is a unique Spanish dessert wine that is aged a very long time. When looking for a sweet style of sherry, look for Moscatel, Pedro Ximenez, and cream sherry.

    What do you call a dessert wine?

    Dessert wines have many different names since there are many different styles of dessert wines. Some of the best and most popular dessert wines include Moscato, late-harvest Riesling, Sauternes, Vin Santo, Port, Sherry, and Tokaji (pronounced toe-KAI). Experiment through trying these different styles to find the right bottle, and it will be delicious.

    Do you refrigerate dessert wine?

    When it comes to refrigerating dessert wines, the answer is it depends. Sparkling dessert wines should be chilled before serving. Other dessert wines such as Sauternes, Port, and Tokaji are often served slightly chilled, just like red wines. After they are opened, dessert wines can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Stronger dessert wines such as Port and Madeira, which are fortified with brandy to raise the alcohol level, can be stored in the refrigerator for about a month.

    Do you drink dessert wine with dessert?

    Dessert wines are a broad category of wines, and their sweet flavors make them very desirable and versatile. A dessert wine can be enjoyed on its own at the end of a meal, with cheese, and with dessert. When pairing dessert wine with something sweet like chocolate, make sure the wine is sweeter than the food, otherwise, it will taste thin and slightly tart.

    Is Moscato wine a dessert wine?

    Moscato wine can be considered a dessert wine since it has a noticeable level of sugar. However, Moscato is also delicious with cheese, fruit salads, spicy Indian dishes, and Jamaican jerk chicken or with a pizza with salty toppings like ham and blue cheese.

    Is Rosé a dessert wine?

    Not all rosés are dessert wines, but there are some rare and exceptional rosé and red dessert wines. Some sweet rosé dessert wines to look for include rosé Moscato, Brachetto d’Acqui, and Lambrusco from Italy; Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Ice Wine from Canada; and White Zinfandel Moscato from California.

    Is Chardonnay a dessert wine?

    Most Chardonnay is not a dessert wine, but it is possible to make a dessert wine from Chardonnay grapes. In the Champagne region, they make a sweet demi-sec champagne from a blend of grapes that includes Chardonnay.

    Is Port a dessert wine?

    Yes, Port is a classic dessert wine that’s perfect for pairing with a range of desserts and cheeses. Port comes in several styles, with the sweeter ones being a Ruby Port and Tawny Port, which is aged.

    What is a good sweet wine for beginners?

    Many people who are new to drinking wine tend to like light and fruity wines that are sweeter. Wines like Moscato d’Asti, Moscato, demi-sec Champagne, Brachetto d’Acqui, and Barsac are good sweet wines for beginners.

    What are the best dessert wines?

    Total Wine & More offers a wide variety of the best dessert wines sourced from around the world. Some of the most popular dessert wines include:

    Browse our full selection of sweet wines and pick up a few bottles of the best dessert wines from around the world!

    Want to know more about Sherry, Port, Sauternes, Moscato, and other sweet wines? Explore our Guide to Dessert Wine and learn all about these stunning dessert wines.