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16 Best Sweet Red Wines Types: Explore the Varieties (2024)

Sweet Red Wines Types

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 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

Woman Holding Bottle of Chocolate Flavored Wine

Picture a chocolate bar melting into a glass of velvety wine—that’s chocolate wine. It’s a playful blend, often a mix of red wine and dark chocolate flavor.

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

Bottle of Roscato 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

Man Holding Bottle of Brigaldara Recioto della Valpolicella 2016

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

Vinsanto wine by Argyros estate

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

Borgo Maragliano 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!

7. Bugey-Cerdon

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

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.

9. Muscadine

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 [1], there are also dry wines (with very little residual sugar), perfect for those not into sweet wines.

10. Lambrusco

Three Bottles of Lambrusco Wine

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.

11. Madeira

Bottles of Madeira Wine

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.

12. Marsala

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

Dows Fine 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 [2] that doesn’t shy away from making a statement and is best enjoyed with decadent chocolate desserts.

14. Tawny Port

W&J Graham's Fine Tawny Porto

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 [3]. 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

Quady Winery Elysium Black Muscat 2018

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.

FAQs Related to Sweet Red Wines types

What are sweet red wines?

Sweet red wines are wines that have a higher residual sugar content, resulting in a sweeter taste profile compared to dry red wines. They often feature fruity flavors and can range from lightly sweet to intensely rich and syrupy.

What are some popular types of sweet red wines?

Some popular types of sweet red wines include Lambrusco, Brachetto d’Acqui, Ruby Port, Tawny Port, Banyuls, Recioto della Valpolicella, and some styles of late-harvest Zinfandel or Shiraz.

What grape varieties are commonly used in making sweet red wines?

Grape varieties commonly used in making sweet red wines include Lambrusco, Brachetto, Grenache (used in Banyuls), Corvina (used in Recioto della Valpolicella), Zinfandel, and Shiraz/Syrah.

How are sweet red wines made?

Sweet red wines are made by either halting the fermentation process before all the grape sugars are converted into alcohol, leaving residual sugar in the wine, or by blending a dry red wine with a sweet wine or grape juice.

Are all sweet red wines considered dessert wines?

While many sweet red wines are enjoyed as dessert wines due to their sweetness, not all sweet red wines are classified as dessert wines. Some sweet red wines are versatile enough to pair with a variety of dishes, including savory ones.

What are the flavor profiles of sweet red wines?

Sweet red wines typically have fruity flavor profiles, with notes of ripe berries, cherries, plums, and sometimes floral or spice undertones. They can range from light and refreshing to rich and velvety, depending on the grape variety and winemaking techniques.

In Summary

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!

References:

  1. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/HS100
  2. https://www.britannica.com/topic/port-wine
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/fortified-wines#
  4. https://www.britannica.com/topic/wine
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