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What is a Sweet Wine & What Makes It Special? Solved (2023)

What is a Sweet Wine

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

If you’re a wine lover, you’ve probably heard of sweet wines. But what is a sweet wine exactly, and how does it differ from other types of wine?

For a start, sweet wines have a reputation for being overly sugary and unsophisticated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We will delve into the world of sweet wines and explore everything about them. So, pour yourself a glass of your favorite sweet wine, and let’s get started. 

Understanding The Definition Of A Sweet Wine

two glasses of wine

Sweet wine is a type of wine that contains a significant amount of residual sugar, which is unfermented grape sugar retained in the wine after the fermentation process is complete [1].

This residual sugar gives the wine a sweet taste and a higher level of perceived sweetness compared to other types of wine.

Sweet wines can be made from different grape varieties, and the level of sweetness can range from mildly sweet to very sweet, depending on the amount of residual sugar or the ripeness of the grapes.

What Does Sweet Wine Taste Like?

Sweet wines, as the name suggests, taste unsurprisingly sweet. They have a notable sweetness on the palate due to the higher residual sugar content.

Some sweet wines can have a fruity or floral aroma and flavor, with notes of honey, apricot, peach, or tropical fruit, while others may have a nutty or caramel-like flavor.

How Is It Made?

top view shot of a wine on a glass

Sweet wines can be made in different winemaking techniques, divided into three stages—before, during, and after fermentation.

First, the Before Fermentation stage uses three different methods: Late Harvest, Noble Rot or Botrytis, and Ice Wine.

Next, the During Fermentation stage uses two different methods: Fortifying and Filtering.

Finally, the After Fermentation stage uses only one method: Blending.

In terms of alcohol content, sweet wines tend to have a lower alcohol content than other wines, which typically range from 5 to 20% ABV [2].

In any case, sweet wines can be considered as such based on their residual sugar level, and exceeding 30 grams per liter can only be labeled as sweet wines. 

6 Types Of Sweet Wines

1. Moscato

pouring Bottle of Wine on a Glass

Moscato is a sweet white wine made from the Muscat grape variety, known for its fruity flavor profile and slightly effervescent quality.

“A meal without wine is like a day without sun”

— Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, French Lawyer, and Politician

It has a low alcohol content, ranging from 5 to 8% ABV, and tastes sweet with notes of peach, apricot, orange blossom, and honey.

2. White Zinfandel

White Zinfandel is a sweet, blush pink wine made from the red Zinfandel grape using a process called “Saignée.” 

It has a low alcohol content, ranging from 9 to 10% ABV, and delivers a light, refreshing taste with notes of strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon and a slightly tart finish.

3. Sauternes 

Sauternes is a sweet white wine from the Sauternes region of Bordeaux, France, made from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grape varieties.

This wine typically has a higher alcohol content than other sweet wines, ranging from 12 to 14% ABV. It has a deep golden color, thick, syrupy consistency, and a rich, complex taste with notes of apricot, honey, orange peel, and caramel.

4. Port

Glasses of Wine

Port is a fortified wine from the Douro Valley region of Portugal, available in various styles, from dry to very sweet.

It typically has an alcohol content of about 18 to 20% ABV. It has a full-bodied mouthfeel and rich, complex flavors and aromas, including notes of blackberry, black cherry, plum, fig, chocolate, and spice.

5. Riesling

Riesling wine is a white grape variety and comes in various styles, from bone-dry to sweet. 

It has a low alcohol content, ranging from 8 to 13% ABV, and has a bright acidity, floral and fruity aroma with hints of peach, apricot, honey, and citrus.

6. Mead

Glasses of Mead Wine

Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and water. It can be still, carbonated, or sparkling and range from dry to sweet.

It typically has an alcohol content of about 8 to 14% ABV.

It has a unique flavor profile that can be floral, fruity, spicy, or earthy, depending on the type of honey and additional ingredients used.


What is the sweetest wine type?

The sweetest wine type is generally considered a dessert wine since it is often made from grapes high in natural sugar. It can be concentrated through various winemaking techniques, producing a very sweet, rich, and flavorful wine.

What is an excellent sweet wine for beginners?

The excellent sweet wine for beginners would be Moscato d’Asti since it is a sweet, sparkling wine and is light and fruity with low alcohol content. It has a refreshing taste with notes of peach, apricots, and honey.

Should sweet wine be refrigerated?

Sweet wines can be refrigerated, but whether or not to refrigerate them largely depends on the type of wine.

As a general guideline, white and rose sweet wines should be refrigerated for a few hours before serving, while sweet red wines can be served at slightly cooler than room temperature.  

In Summary

Sweet wine has an appreciable amount of residual sugar, the natural sugar remaining in the wine after fermentation.

They can taste sweet and fruity and sometimes have a syrupy texture, while some may have a nutty or caramel-like flavor, depending on their varying winemaking techniques.

Finally, their alcohol content typically ranges from 5 to 14% ABV, and they must have a residual sugar level of more than 30 grams per liter to be considered sweet wines.


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