What makes a good sweet white wine? Sweet wines often get a bad rap as they’re not the manliest of drinks. Some sweet white wine brands that produce candy-like liquids are sickeningly sweet and are just not favorable to a man’s palate. However, when done right, a glass of the best sweet wines can be just as good as your favorite scotch or bourbon. Even Louis XIV of France was said to favor the sweetness of the Hungarian Tokaji wine! Using our guide, find out everything you need to know about sweet white wines and the best foods to pair them with.
What Is a Good Sweet White Wine?
Before we go into all the nitty-gritty details, what is a sweet white wine, anyway? White wines are primarily made from white grapes, with the skins, seeds, and stems removed before the fermentation process. But what makes them sweet? Sweet white wines get their sweetness from the residual sugar left from the winemaking process. The way regular wines are made starts with adding yeast to crushed grapes, which converts the sugar in the grapes to alcohol. The longer the fermentation process, the less sugar the wine will have but also the higher the alcohol content. In order to create sweet wines, manufacturers interrupt the fermentation process to keep yeast from consuming all the sugar. This yields wines that are not only sweeter but also with lower alcohol content. Sweet and off-dry wines, on the other hand, are added with sweet components. Others are actually made of dried or frozen grapes with concentrated sugars.
Sweet White Wine Types
Wines range from dry to sweet, and we can categorize sweet wines based on the amount of residual sugar they have. To distinguish the different sweet wine types from one another, the best thing to do is read the label. We know that may sound tedious. After all, not everyone wants to spend time inspecting bottles of wine for their sweetness but trust us. It’s one of the best ways to find the best bottle of sweet white wine for you.
- Semi-Sweet Wines — Any bottle labeled with 3% residual sugar is considered a semi-sweet or off-dry wine. They are best paired with spicy food to soften the bold flavors.
- Sweet Wines — Wines with 5% sweetness and above are noticeably sweet and pair well with smoky dishes with intense flavor profiles, such as cured meats. They also go well with hard and soft cheese and sweets.
- Very Sweet/ Dessert Wines — The dessert wines often range from 7% to 9% in sweetness levels. As the name suggests, they are often paired with sweet desserts.
Best Semi-Sweet White Wines
1. Peter Lauer Barrel X Riesling
Peter Lauer is among the top producers of the best Riesling in the business and offers some of the best sweet wines for beginners. If you’re skeptical about sweet wines, try a semi-sweet bottle of the Peter Lauer Barrel X Riesling, which has the perfect balance of acidity, fruitiness, and sweetness. It has bright notes of green apples and apricots with hints of sweet citrus and lime juice. The complex flavors of it pair well with spicy cuisine featuring fatty pork cuts.
2. Stella Rosa Moscato d’Asti
A semi-sweet, semi-sparkling Italian white wine, Stella Rosa’s Moscato d’Asti is smooth and buttery. It’s a light-bodied wine that’s crisp and refreshing, making it the perfect bottle to cap off the week with or start off guys-nights. You can also enjoy it with a meal since its alcohol content is lower than other white wines. This Stella Rosa wine has sweet and fruity notes reminiscent of peaches, apricots, and honey. You can easily pair it with meals like Pad Thai, chicken Alfredo pizza, and even fondue.
3. Vincent Careme Terre Brûlée ‘Le Blanc
Chenin Blanc may originate from France, but this one from South Africa is certainly among the most noteworthy ones out there. It’s a semi-sweet white wine leaning towards the drier end of the wine sweetness chart, but its sweet flavors of melon and pear give it a refreshing taste that sits well on the palate. It also comes with noticeable aromas of spices such as ginger and jasmine. This Chenin Blanc wine has bright, seamless acidity with a hint of oakiness best paired with dishes abundant in peppers and spice.
4. Dreamlet Gewürztraminer
Dreamlet‘s Gewurztraminer wine is another great semi-sweet wine for beginners. It has a bold, rich, and creamy mouthfeel to it, similar to tannic red wines. However, it’s bursting with flavors of peach, lychee, and lime zest giving it a tropical vibe. While you can certainly taste the acidity, it’s perfectly balanced with a natural sweetness. Try having a glass next time you’re having salmon or tuna for dinner. A fruity wine, it also pairs well with charcuterie boards with mild and soft cheeses.
5. Decoy Sonoma County Chardonnay
If vanilla, oak, and caramel notes of bourbon sound like an interesting combination, then the Decoy Chardonnay is the best semi-sweet white wine for you. Another wine that has a bold, rounded, and creamy mouthfeel, and a tinge of vanilla and caramel flavors. Accompanying these sweet notes are the aromas of fresh lemon zest, Mandarin orange, and honeysuckle. Similar to other Decoy wines, the Sonoma County chardonnay is aged in oak barrels, which gives it its robust body. The finish is bright and refreshing, but with a hint of acidity and spice. This Decoy wine is best paired with savory meals or vegetarian dishes.
6. Le Petit Chavin Chardonnay Non-Alcoholic White Wine
Any drink with alcohol can hinder you from achieving your fitness goals. Fortunately, there are some non-alcoholic sweet white wines that you can indulge in from time to time. Le Petit Chavin’s Chardonnay tickles your palate with flavors of lychee, peach, and flowers. It’s the perfect drink to sip while you’re enjoying fresh garden salads.
Best Sweet White Wines
7. Château d’Yquem Sauternes
For those who want to try a sweet French wine, look no further than the Chateau d Yquem Sauternes. Admittedly, it’s certainly one of the more expensive bottles of wine out there, but the exotic and divine flavors of tangerine, pineapple, and mango make up for it. On the palate, it boasts dynamic acidity with a smooth and creamy texture. Moreover, it has a long, intense finish that marries well with blue cheese as well as seafood dishes like oyster, crab, and shellfish.
8. Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santo
Badia a Coltibuono’s Vin Santo wine originates from the vineyards in Tuscany and is bursting with flavors of honey, toasted almond, and vanilla. Its sweet and rich taste delightfully balances the vibrant acidity. Its long persistent finish leaves you with notes of candied fruit, citrus, apricot, and dried figs. The Italians typically serve it after meals and it’s one of the best sweet white wines to pair with the often dry and not-too-sweet cookie called biscotti. The sweetness of it also goes extremely well with blue cheese and high-quality dark chocolate.
9. Royal Tokaji Essencia 2007
Made from a rare white grape called Furmint, Royal Tokaji’s Essencia 2007 hails from the northeastern regions of Hungary. Fermented half the time in Hungarian oak barrels and the other half in stainless steel tanks, it has a round and creamy consistency. On the palate, it boasts a combination of sweet honey and fresh apricot. A full-bodied Tokaji wine, it has an exquisite balance between bright acidity and sweetness. It has an aromatic complexity of dried figs and plum jam. One sip and you are left with a long and strong spicy finish reminiscent of ginger and saffron. With only a 2% alcohol level, it’s the perfect white wine to drink during brunch or lunch. It goes well with a wide variety of dishes, although it’s traditionally paired with Foie Gras.
10. Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile
Riesling is among those sweet white wines that are considered too sweet for many modern wine drinkers. However, this one from France’s Alsace region is certainly an exception. The Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile is a pale golden wine that has intense flavors of peaches, lemon, pear, and honeysuckle. It’s a high acidity and high alcohol white wine with a medium body. Similar to other Riesling wines, you get a whiff of petrol and kerosene, which comes from the wine’s aging process. You can drink Trimbach Riesling on its own or enjoy it throughout a meal with quality fish, caviar, or fine white meats.
11. Château Climens Barsac
Chateau Climens is one of the sweet white wine brands that have a long-standing history of producing some of the finest liquors in the Barsac region. The brand’s Barsac wine has a flavor profile of pineapples, white peaches, nectarines, and mangoes. With a touch of citrus, honey, vanilla, and flower aromas. While all of these make it a rather sweet wine, the intense acidity perfectly balances it. You are left with a refreshingly zesty aftertaste with a crisp finish. The flavors and acidity of it perfectly pair with meats such as chicken, veal, and pork in savory and spicy dishes. Moreover, the fruity flavors of it also make one of the best sweet white wines that you can mix in classic cocktails.
12. Princess Bollicine Bianco Sweet Non-Alcoholic Sparkling White Wine
Looking for the best sweet wine without the alcohol? If that’s the case, look no further than the Princess Bollicine Bianco sparkling Italian wine. It boasts a complex combination of floral aromas with hints of cut-grass and honey. It leaves a light and clean mouthfeel. As such, it’s a great beverage to drink after a meal to cleanse the palate. On top of that, its bubbly acidity makes it the perfect drink worth toasting to.
13. Fre Moscato Non-Alcoholic Wine
Another great non-alcoholic option is Moscato from Fre Wines—a decadent California white wine bursting with rose and peach aromas and flavors. It leaves a lingering finish on the mouth and its creaminess is a perfect match for spicy dishes. Its sweetness also pairs well with light and mild cheeses and fruit-based desserts.
Best White Dessert Wines
14. Château Doisy Däene Sauternes
Made from Semillon grapes, Château Doisy Däene’s Bordeaux Sauternes wine is incredibly bold and sweet. The mild acidity settles over the sweetness, balancing it and leaving an aftertaste that’s rich in earthy and oaky notes from honey and caramel. It’s best served after meals while enjoying sweet and fruity desserts such as parfait.
15. Eroica Riesling Ice Wine
If you’re looking for something truly sweet, ice wine is as sweet as wine can get. By using frozen grapes, the juice extracted is more concentrated, has less water, and contains more sugar. This particular dessert wine is a collaboration between the world’s great Riesling producers in Germany and Washington state. It boasts intense aromas and flavors of apricot and honey. Due to its high residual sugar, it’s best to serve it alongside equally sweet, yet fatty desserts, such as crème brûlée or custards. On the other hand, you can also pair it with rich and fatty foods like Foie Gras and soft cheeses. Its sweetness works well with dishes prepared with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.
16. Jules Taylor Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc
The majority of Sauvignon Blanc wines are dry white wines, but Jules Taylor’s version is not only sweet but also one of the best, especially if you’re just starting with dessert wines. Made from grapes harvested from the Marlborough Region of New Zealand, it’s one of the sweet wines for beginners who are looking for fruity flavors. One sip of this late harvest wine and your palate will experience an outstanding blend of passionfruit, lychee, and apricot, with a hint of grapefruit pith. Meanwhile, on the nose, it’s bursting with aromas of caramelized figs with notes of honey and white floral fragrance. The soft acidity it has delightfully cut through the sweetness of the rich flavors. Order a glass or bottle of light-bodied white on your next date night and pair it with aphrodisiac foods like oysters or caramelized figs.
17. Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine
Another ice wine on the list is from Inniskillin. A full-bodied Canadian artisanal icewine, it has a syrupy-like viscosity and striking tropical and citrus aromas. It’s bursting with flavors of honey, pineapple, peaches, apricots, and apples. While it is a dessert wine, its naturally high acidity cuts through the sweetness, leaving you with a tart and zesty aftertaste. Enjoy a glass of Inniskillin ice wine with cheesecake as your dessert during your next date night.
18. Lakewood Glaciovinum Ice Wine
If you’re looking for a dessert wine that you can enjoy on its own, look no further than the ice wines from Lakewood Vineyards. Crafted from Delaware grapes, Lakewood Glaciovinum Ice Wine delivers aromas of tropical fruits and earthy spices. One sip and you instantly taste the blend of sour apple, tangerine, almond, and honey on your palate. You can readily enjoy it on its own or pair it with sweet and creamy desserts like vanilla ice cream. On the other hand, you can also have a glass during meals with hearty dishes or spicy foods.
Indulging in the Sweetest White Wines Out There
There’s no denying that red wines often get more spotlight than white wines. But don’t let that finder you from indulging in a versatile beverage, especially the ones that boast sweetness like no other. The best sweet white wine will match the flavors of dishes that some red wines or even dry white wines, like Pinot Grigio or Viognier, have a hard time achieving. Regardless of whether you’re a devotee of sweet white wines or a rookie trying to expand your palate to different types of wine, pick up any of the bottles mentioned above during your next trip to the liquor store. They deserve a spot in your collection.