Don’t know your riesling from your rosé? Keep reading to learn the 8 best sweet wines for beginners!
Do you love wine but don’t have a clue what the fancy-sounding names mean? It turns out you’re not alone. Wine is a complex topic that can be confusing!
Let’s change that…
If you’re interested in exploring the complex and delicious world of wine, sweet wines are a great place to start. These rich, indulgent, and often celebratory types of wine brim with flavor and dessert-like decadence. Every sip will take you on a wine journey of all things sweet and fresh.
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What Is Sweet Wine?
Before we look at some of the best sweet wines to try for beginners, let’s take a moment to address what characteristics differentiate a bottle of regular wine from a bottle of sweet wine.
Sweet wines are usually defined by the amount of residual sugar left over after the fermentation process. Dry wines have from 1 to 4% residual sugar, while wines with around 5% residual sugar will start to taste noticeably sweet, but only those with a percentage of 7-9% (or higher) are considered sweet wines.
Winemakers influence the sweetness of wines by using two types of sugar: glucose and fructose. Glucose is regular, granulated sugar, and fructose is a type of sugar derived from fruit—and in this case, specifically grapes. The sweeter the type of grape, the faster and easier it is to produce sweet wine.
Some winemakers will even add noble rot to the fermentation process, which, unlike the dreaded grape-obliterating botrytis cinerea, is a type of safe fungi that concentrates fructose levels and produces an even sweeter wine. There are dozens of different sweet wines available, all of which have unique flavor profiles, aromas, and alcoholic contents.
The 8 Best Sweet Wines For Beginners
To get you started, we’ve compiled this list of some of the best sweet wines to try. As you make your foray into the magical world of wine and start to understand grape variety and what makes a great wine, keep this list handy so that you can work your way through it one by one. By the end of it, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a bona fide oenophile.
Riesling is a German wine that, like the ever-popular Chenin blanc, is also found in varying degrees of dry, sweet, and semi-sweet. These days, this type of wine is produced all over the world, from South Africa to the United States.
Considered one of the lightest and fruitiest sweet white wines, Riesling has a bright, citrusy flavor that tastes like summer and stone fruit. Ice wine made from Riesling is even sweeter than the traditional version and has an enhanced flavor profile.
Some of the other flavor and aromatic notes you might find in this classic sweet white wine include apricot, apples, nectarines, pears, peaches, and elderflowers.
If you want a particularly sweet Riesling, opt for the late-harvest wines as they’re a great option. It’s the sweetest and juiciest of the lot and is a bottle of wine that pairs brilliantly with seafood.
More commonly known as Moscato, this Italian wine is renowned for its honeyed flavor and gentle fizz. Made using the muscat grape, this wine has a parallel history to that of Pinot Grigio.
Often accompanied by dessert, Moscato wine boasts sweet and fruity flavors of sweet almond, marzipan, apricots, and peach blossom.
Undoubtedly one of the sweetest wines on this list, Moscato is definitely a good option to try at home or at a wine tasting. It’s best served chilled rather than at room temperature, as it has the slight bubbly sensation of a lighter white wine.
This kind of wine is a good option for celebrations if you don’t want to serve champagne but still want that sweet taste and festive fizzy feeling.
Another classic German sweet wine, Dornfelder, is deep red and bursting with rich, fruity flavors. Essentially, it’s the Deutsche version of France’s Beaujolais Nouveau, only a bit more complex on the palate, which is part of what makes it one of the best sweet red wines.
With tantalizing notes that range from wild floral aromas to sumptuous tropical fruits, Dornfelder is a deeply enriched wine that is often consumed in winter for its warming qualities.
While not as sweet as some of the others on this list, but not as dry as pinot noir, Dornfelder still has a natural pleasantness from the juicy, fruity wine aromas and flavor profiles.
When drinking it, you might taste blackberries, clove, passion fruit, and a deep earthiness. The perfect food pairing for Dornfelder is roasted meats and vegetables.
Hailing from Northern Italy, Lambrusco is one of the most beloved, often underrated sweet wines around. Produced from ancient grape varieties, this is one of those semi-sweet wines that are bright and sparkling, full of natural fruity flavor.
Some of the flavors you can expect from a glass of rosy Lambrusco are cherries, candied violets, and blackcurrant.
If you prefer a sweeter taste with your alcoholic drinks, opt for Lambrusco Salamino. This is also an excellent choice as it’s a little lighter on the palette and counterbalances the rich high tannin content found in the original variety.
This zesty, bright, semi-sweet wine is perfect for hot summer days and sipping on while snacking on olives and other tapas.
Originating in Italy, Brachetto D’Acqui is refreshing and light, with a gentle fizz that makes your mouth water.
Relatively low in alcohol content, this beautiful semi-sweet wine contains a variety of exciting flavors, such as candied strawberries, fresh fruit like apricots, orange zest, and berries and cream. However, many people report strawberry being the most prominent flavor.
Even new wine drinkers should be able to identify these flavor profiles as they’re very prominent.
With its cotton candy taste that appeals to anyone with a sweet tooth, Schiava is an extremely popular sweet wine made from wine grapes of the same name.
The grape skins are on the thinner side and this makes for a lower alcohol wine with fewer tannins. However, despite its sweet taste, it actually doesn’t have a markedly higher sugar content.
Originally produced in Germany and Alpine Italy wine regions, Schiava is considered a rare but highly sought-after sparkling wine with flavor notes of lemon candy, bubblegum, and fresh, macerated berries.
It’s the perfect wine for those who love the sweeter side of life and who find drier wines like white zinfandel and sauvignon blanc too dry for their taste buds.
Grenache is a term that describes a wide variety of sweet wines that originate from Spain, where they are known as “Garnacha”.
These bold, juicy, luscious sweet wines are for beginners who want to really expand their wine flavor experiences.
You can expect a few powerful and memorable sweet flavors from this medium-bodied rosé wine or red dessert wine, including dark chocolate and cherry, liquorice, cinnamon, raspberry, and tobacco.
Sweet but earthy, Grenache is one of the best wines to pair with a variety of foods. You can enjoy it with everything from foie gras to herbaceous dishes or spicy food.
Port is a Portuguese sweet, rich red wine with high sugar, high alcohol, and low acidity levels.
Often consumed during winter to warm the body up from the inside, Port wine is beloved and hearty and features flavors and aromas of butterscotch, red berries, caramel, and macadamia nuts.
People around the world like to drink small glasses of white, red, rosé, ruby, and tawny Port with smoky cheeses, rich meats, and pecan pie.
Port is largely considered one of the most popular sweet dessert wines to aid digestion and add a decadent post-meal endnote.
It also comes in varying price points, with some ports priced extremely high as they’re greatly sought after. Just be aware that most other wines tend to have a lower alcohol content than Port.
Port’s higher alcohol content dictates that it’s served slightly differently, in small glasses for a start!
The Best Sweet Wines for Beginners – I’ll Drink To That!
There are dozens of high-quality wines worth trying. From light and sparkling Riesling to the syrupy Port that many consider an acquired taste, good sweet wines come in all shapes, sizes, and flavor profiles.
All of which are equally delicious and enjoyable in their own way. There really is something for everyone who enjoys a glass of wine.
If you are looking to broaden your horizons and explore the wine world, this selection of the best sweet wines for beginners can act as your comprehensive guide.
Whether it’s your first wine or your first of many, join wine lovers everywhere in raising your glass to say cheers!
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