Last Updated on November 26, 2023 by Lydia Martin
When it comes to sweet red wines, types, ABVs, and flavor profiles should be considered. Unfortunately, they’re often overlooked by their white wine counterparts or are misjudged for lacking complex flavors.
But based on my wine journey and blind tastings, sweet red wines provide a spectrum of flavors that can sway even the most skeptical palate.
So, if you’re open to exploring these spirit delights, here are the best sweet red wines that will surely surprise your palate.
Top 16 Sweet Red Wine Types To Sip
1. Chocolate Wine
With varying sweetness levels, these wines range from light cocoa to a full-on chocolate flavor. My personal take? It’s dessert turned drinkable and an absolute joy to sip on a cozy night in.
Sweet wines are like the happy endings of a story—promised but often surprising in their arrival.” – Kevin Zraly, Wine Educator & Author
If you ask me the best chocolate wine, I would recommend The Chocolate Shop’s chocolate wine. It harmonizes the rich red wine with the juicy tastes of red berries and ripe Bing cherries.
2. Rosso Dolce
Rosso Dolce, or “sweet red” in Italian, is a delightful introduction to sweet reds. Typically lighter in body with a gentle sparkle, its sweetness doesn’t overpower the berry notes that make it so approachable.
With its pleasant tasting notes, a glass of Rosso Dolce can be the perfect companion, whether you’re hosting an event or enjoying a quiet evening.
3. Recioto della Valpolicella
Recioto della Valpolicella is a sumptuous medium-bodied wine crafted from partially dried wine grapes. The result? A concentrated dessert wine that’s rich and balanced by a strong structure.
Recioto della Valpolicella dazzles with its richness, harboring over 50g of residual sugar per liter. Its charm lies in the blend of dried fruit flavors with blackberry jam, like vanilla, clove, and nutmeg notes.
4. Vin Santo
Vin Santo carries the legacy of Italian dessert wines. It’s not just sweet; it’s a tapestry of flavors—dried fruit, nuts, and caramel that come alive on the tongue.
With a name meaning “holy wine,” it’s a divine end to any meal, best enjoyed with cantucci biscuits as the Italians do, or any savory dishes like pork ribs and grilled salmon.
5. Mavrodaphne of Pátras
Mavrodaphne of Pátras is a dessert wine with a pronounced sweetness yet carries a certain elegance that makes it an impressive sweet red wine to explore.
The wine’s aging process, which spans several years in oak casks post-fortification, imparts a medley of caramel, toasted spice, black pepper, and dark chocolate nuances to the intense fried fruit flavors.
6. Brachetto d’Acqui
Brachetto d’Acqui is a sparkling red wine that graces the tongue with its light effervescence and notes of strawberries and floral notes. It’s a medium-sweet red wine that’s also refreshing.
I like the sweet cherry sauce, strawberry, and rose candy aromas, leading to ripe red fruit and candied apple flavors.
On a warm afternoon or paired with a fruit tart, the Brachetto d’Acqui wine shines as a versatile delight that wine lovers will surely love!
Bugey-Cerdon sweet wine is a little secret from France – one of the light sparkling sweet red wines I’ve had.
I like the natural sweetness that comes from its unique winemaking winemaking method, where the winemakers add yeast or sugar during fermentation.
Bursting with flavors of fresh berries and a touch of earthiness, it’s a sparkling wine that feels like a countryside escape in each sip.
8. Beaujolais Nouveau
Beaujolais Nouveau is one of the types of sweet red wine often made with Gamay grapes. It’s grape juice-like with a youthful burst of fruity flavors, a tad sweet and light, perfect to be enjoyed fresh.
It has similarities with other wines, particularly Pinot Noir, in terms of subtle tannins and a lively acidity.
You’ll find a variety in their styles – wines range from the youthful and zesty to those with a bit more depth that gracefully mature over time.
Muscadine wines are a sweet retreat straight from the southern United States. These native grapes create wines sweet with a hearty character that can range from dessert-like to slightly tart.
The grape skins are thick, covering the sweet and pungent flavor, making for delicious sweet reds.
But if you want to explore Muscadine , there are also dry wines (with very little residual sugar), perfect for those not into sweet wines.
Lambrusco has shrugged off its once-questionable reputation and emerged as a sweet, fizzy delight with serious charm.
Coming from Italy, it balances sweetness with acidity, making it a food-friendly option, primarily paired with charcuterie and barbecue. Also, I find Lambrusco a perfect wine for fruity desserts or meat dishes.
Madeira wine is sweet, yes, but also complex, with notes of nuts, stewed fruit, and caramel. It’s a fortified wine from Portugal and one of the fortified red wines with a rich history.
This fortified red wine can range from expensive to budget-friendly ones, with the least expensive styles made from red grapes (also called tinta negra).
For me, it’s a fruity wine, oozing with black cherry, black currant, and dried cherry flavors.
Marsala is a fortified wine with a balance of sweetness and a backbone of acidity. It’s a versatile wine, excellent for sipping or as an accent to a rich dessert.
In fact, Marsala can range from a dry wine to a very sweet wine. But since we’re talking about sweet wines here, I will focus on Rubino, a red Marsala.
It’s a fruity wine boasting fresh tannins, intertwining with the red berry and ripe plum flavor, leading to a slightly salty finish. Actually, Rubino is one of the best fortified sweet red wines I’ve tried.
13. Ruby Port
Ruby Port is the youthful, vibrant cousin in the Port wine family, boasting bold berry flavors and a sweetness that comes from its fortified nature – aged in used Ruby and Tawny port barrels.
It matures for at least three years, intensifying its fruity, chocolate, and black cherry notes, with an alcohol content between 18%-21%.
It’s a fortified Port wine  that doesn’t shy away from making a statement and is best enjoyed with decadent chocolate desserts.
14. Tawny Port
Tawnies is where the sweetness meets sophistication. Aged in barrels, it provides a complexity that exudes dried fruits, nuts, and caramel flavors, making this wine sweet.
Aged tawny comes in five distinct styles—reserve, colheita, 10, 20, 30, and 40-year fortified wines . In fact, its oak aging demands expertise akin to refining scotch.
Younger tawnies exude freshness, while those matured for 30-40 years give off deep, nutty, caramelized essences.
15. Ice Wine
Ice Wine is like nature’s sweet miracle, made from grapes frozen on the vine. This process concentrates the grape sugar, producing a sweet wine balanced by acidity.
During fermentation, the grape juice develops rich tastes of ripe morello cherry, black currant, and quince, leaving a smooth, lingering finish on the palate, typical on ice wine.
For me, this is a rare treat that encapsulates the boldness of nature in a delectably sweet sip.
16. Black Muscat
This is a rare grape, a hybrid of Muscat of Alexandria and Schiava. It produces a fortified wine with notes of candied apple, rose, violet, cotton candy, aromatic perfume, and warm cinnamon.
It has a shimmering, deep, radiant hue akin to Ruby, which makes this wine visually appealing. On the nose, it exudes a bouquet of rich lychee and floral aromas.
“In the world of wines, sweetness lingers where fermentation’s rush is gently stilled.” – Liquor Laboratory
On the palate, it gives the sweetness of ripe berries with a subtle, tannic depth, creating a harmonious balance. The finish lingers, leaving a memorable trail of velvety fruitiness.
Note: This ranking is based on a combination of measurable criteria and subjective factors, including residual sugar content, perceived sweetness, wine style, sweetness designation, the winemaking process, alcohol content, and winemaker’s notes.
Which red wine is sweet for beginners?
The red wine sweet for beginners could be the Brachetto d’Acqui or Lambrusco. These sweet reds make a delightful entry into sweet red wines for their light effervescence and bright berry flavors.
What is the best smooth sweet red wine?
The best smooth sweet red wine is often subjective, but many find Ruby Ports leaving a satisfying smoothness coupled with its sweet profile. This is a beloved wine choice for those who enjoy a richer wine experience.
What causes sweet red wine to be sweet?
Sweet red wine becomes sweet because as the grape juice ferments into wine, grape sugar is converted into alcohol. Sweet wines are produced by stopping the fermentation a little early, leaving the residual sugar behind in the wine .
Exploring sweet red wines is like diving into a box of assorted chocolates—you never know which flavor will capture your heart.
From the chocolate-infused wonders to the sparkle of a Brachetto d’Acqui and the revered complexity of a Tawny Port, there’s something for everyone.
These sweet red wine types are more than just a residual sugar rush; they’re a journey through culture, tradition, and the boundless creativity of winemakers.
So, whichever your palate leads you, all these wine delights will surely make your sweet tooth dance!