Many people enjoy sweeter wines. Fortunately, a number of white wines ranging from semi-sweet to sweet are available, many made from the same varietals used to make dry white wine. In fact, some of the most famous wines in the world are sweet whites.
Sauternes and Barsac
Sauternes and Barsac wines comes from the Bordeaux region of France. Sauternes is one of the world's most famous sweet whites, while Barsac is a little lesser known. True dessert wines, Sauternes and Barsac are quite sweet with tropical notes on the palate. Sauternes and Barsac wines range in color from light straw to a deep gold. The wines tend to be fairly viscous because of the high sugar content. The high sugar content also allows the wines to age very well. Some of these wines remain drinkable after many decades. The aging of the wine intensifies flavors and darkens the color of the wine.
Surprising Source of Sweetness
The Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes in the wines have been affected by botrytis, a fungus also known as noble rot. While a fungus in grapes may not sound that appetizing, in truth it adds sweetness and complexity to juice from the grapes it affects, which leads to a complex and flavorful sweet wine.
Sauterns and Barsac Wines to Try
If you'd like to try these sweet Bordeaux wines, you can find many examples in varying price ranges in wine shops. Some to try include:
- Chateau d'Yquem: This is the most famous Sauternes wine of all, which is often reflected in the price which can start around $350 and up. Collectors seek Chateau d'Yquem wines from good years, which may raise the price even more.
- Chateau Doisy Däene: This Sauternes wine maintains a lot of consistency from vintage to vintage and is a top rated dessert wine.
- Chateau Grillion: This is an affordable Sauternes that is typically quite well rated by experts.
- Chateau Climens: This sweet wine comes from Barsac, and it is quite affordable compared to similar wines that may cost several times more. It was also featured in Vivino's 2019 Wine Style Awards.
Riesling wines range from dry to very sweet. The sweet and dessert Riesling wines have a wonderful combination of sweetness and acidity, which gives the wine excellent balance without being overly cloying. Rieslings are also well-known for mineral flavors that give the drinker a sense of terroir (the earth in which the wine was grown). Fruit flavors in the wine include apples and apricots.
Where Riselings Are Found
Some of the best sweet Rieslings in the world come from Germany, as well as from France's Alsace region. In Germany, Riesling wines receive a classification that communicates how dry or sweet it is. Sweet Rieslings in order from least sweet to the sweetest include Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA), and Eiswein. The Riesling Eisweins are harvested late in the season, after frost has allowed the sugars in the grapes to concentrate. You can also find sweet Rieslings from other regions, as well, including Australia, Washington State, New York, and Oregon.
Riesling Wines to Try
Rieslings to try include:
- Horse Heaven Hills Eroica Ice Wine Riesling: This late harvest Riesling from Washington State's Chateau Ste. Michelle winery has flavors of honey and apricots in a sweet nectar. The Chateau collaborates with a well-known German winemaker to make this delicious dessert wine.
- Eroica Riseling: This Riesling has an average rating of 91 on Wine.com. It has sweet lime and mandarin orange flavors and a crisp, fruity acidity. It's also affordable at around $20 a bottle.
- Fritz Haag Brauneberg Juffer Spätlese Riesling: This sweet yet acidic Riesling hails from Mosel-Saar-Ruwr in Germany, with flavors of apples and oranges with a mineral balance.
- Dr. Loosen Riesling Eiswein: This wine from the Mosel region of Germany is very sweet with peach, orange, and pear flavors balanced with high acidity.
- Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile: A Riesling from France's Alsace region, this wine has flavors of peaches, stone fruits, and honey.
This sweet white comes from Italy. The most common white varieties of Vin Santo are made from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. Vin Santo wines often are called straw wines, because winemakers lay the harvested grapes on straw mats, where the grapes have time for the water to evaporate and the sugars to concentrate. Vin Santo styles range from dry to very sweet. The sweeter wines have higher viscosity. With the high sugar content in sweet Vin Santo, the wines age well.
Wines to Try
If you'd like to try Vin Santo, consider the following options.
- San Giusto a Rentennano Vin Santo: Spicy and sweet, this wine is equal parts acidic, sweet, and smoky with flavors of apricots and honey.
- Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santo: This tasty golden amber wine has flavors of honey, toasted almond, and vanilla.
- Fèlsina Vin Santo del Chianti Classico: Tropical fruit flavors such as orange and sweet notes such as honey and butterscotch with some hints of nuttiness and acidity make this a well balanced wine.
- SantoWines Vinsanto: This wine has a dark amber color and hails from Santorini, Greece. It has flavors of cloves, apricots, vanilla, dates and nutty, spicy notes.
Tokaji Aszú (Tokay)
Also known as Tokay, this Hungarian sweet wine comes in varying levels of sweetness. Noble rot affects these grapes, adding additional depth and concentration of flavors. In this type of wine, the winemaker uses Puttonyos to measure the sweetness of wine. Lower Puttonyos ratings are less sweet wines, with three being the minimum and six being the maximum in Tokaji Aszú. However, the three and four ratings have recently been abolished.
Wines to Try
Consider trying one of these Tokay wines:
- Chateau Megyer Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos: This is a lightly sweet wine with flavors of peaches and apricots.
- The Royal Tokaji Wine Company Red Label 5 Puttonyos: Nice acid balances this very sweet wine, which has tropical fruit flavors.
- Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos: This wine has an average 93 rating on Wine.com. It has strong citrus and apricot aromas with some spicy notes and acidity.
Any white wine grape can be turned into an Ice Wine. Ice Wines are made from grapes that remain on the vine after the first frost. As they sit with frost on them, the grapes concentrate their juices and sweetness, and the wines have a much higher residual sugar level than those harvested before the frost.
Wines to Try
Many winemakers offer ice wines. Some to try include:
- Inskillin Vidal Ice Wine: This tasty ice wine from the Niagara Peninsula in Canada has delicious flavors of brown sugar and peaches, plus a nice balance between sweetness and acidity.
- Jackson Triggs Vidal Icewine: Papaya and mango flavors give this ice wine a tropical flare.
- Kiona Ice Wine: This Washington State ice wine offers sweet flavors of pineapple and honeysuckle.
- Inniskillin Riseling Icewine: Another ice wine from Inniskillin, this one has a syrupy viscosity with notes of honey, pineapple, peaches, apricots, and apples.
Late Harvest Wine
Late harvest wines are sweet because the grapes remain on the vine after the traditional harvest. This allows the sugars in the grapes to reach higher concentrations, adding sweetness to the resulting wine. While not as sweet as ice wines, late harvest wines are still deliciously sweet.
Wines to Try
These late harvest wines are ones to try:
- Hogue Cellars Riesling Late Harvest: This affordable late harvest wine has flavors of apricots and pears, as well as a crisp acidity to balance the high residual sugar.
- Far Niente Dolce Late Harvest: This well-known late-harvest wine from California offers flavors of spiced pears and tangerines.
- Husch Late Harvest Gewurztraminer: Gewurztraminer is known for its spicy flavor profiles. In a late harvest wine such as this, it creates a lovely spice and sweet fruit flavors, like clove and apricot.
- Jules Taylor Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc: This pale colored wine has notes of passionfruit, mango, citrus and pineapple with a hint of lemongrass. It's a dry, sweet dessert wine from Marlborough, New Zealand.
Enjoy Sweet Wines
Whether you are enjoying one of the wines above or a sweet red wine, sweet wines make the perfect finish to a meal. Try some of these sweet whites, and you're sure to be hooked.