What Is A Dessert Wine?

I can’t think of a better way to end a meal than dessert.

Weirdly enough, some people don’t like desserts or sweets, but I like to think that everyone can behind a dessert wine. I mean, if you can tell me what’s better than eating a brownie sundae with a glass of Lambrusco I’ll pay you $50. I’m personally a fan of sparkling dessert wines (which tend to be the most common among my millennial comrades) because who doesn’t love some bubbly. But let us waste no more time – grab yourself some wine (it’s Friday so it does not matter what time it is) and start educating yourself on dessert wines. 

There are many different styles in which dessert wines are made. Here are the main four and which wine you should give a shot after your next dinner party (aka you alone finishing off that whole pizza pie. No judgement here.)

Fortified Wine  – Plain and simple this just means that when the wine is being made, a spirit (usually clear, grape brandy) is added to the wine. The alcohol in the brandy not only raises the overall alcohol content but it also stops the grapes from fermenting, which allows the natural sugars to remain. This is why dessert wines can stay so sweet! 

Wine to try: Tawny Port – a very sweet wine that the longer it ages, the more nutty and figgy tasting it becomes. 30-40 years aged will give you the best Tawny Port. 

Late Harvest Wine – There are different types of late harvest wine, but the overall concept it that these grapes are left out to dry longer, which increases the sweetness. 

  • Dried Grape Wine (Straw Mat) – Grapes are harvested and then laid out to dry in specially designed drying rooms before they are pressed.
    Wine to try: Italian Vin Santo – This wine is made with Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes and has a rich nutty flavor and is made in Central Italy.
  • Ice Wine/ Eiswein – When grapes freeze on the vine and then are picked and pressed while they are still frozen is how only the sugars get released from the grape, which in turns makes a sweet wine. These wines tend to be very expensive because they’re rare due to this process only being able to happen in random blizzards or when the vineyards freeze. 
    Wine to try: Riesling Eiswein – Super sweet and so delicious. Ice wines can only be produced in cold regions like Germany, so Riesling is a natural choice. 
  • “Noble Rot” Wine – This sounds gross but a special fungus grows on the grapes when they are in foggy regions and it causes the wine to develop a sweetness that has ginger and honey notes. Fungus for the win!
    Wine to try: Sauternes – made in Bordeaux, France and have a beautiful golden color which turns darker as the wine ages in its bottle. 

Oxidized – Dessert wines that are oxidized are usually aged long term in oak barrels. During this time they lose some of their fruitiness and develop a rich nutty flavor. Wine Folly gives us a fun tip that when looking at a dessert wine and they label contains a date (e.g. 5 years) or has a very old date on it, it was most likely made in an oxidative style. 

Wine to try: Fino (Sherry) – This is the driest of all Sherry but its alcohol content is usually between 15%-16% and is served best chilled. It also pairs amazingly with salty foods like potato chips and olives!! 

Sparkling – Sparkling wine is fermented twice, which makes the wine become naturally carbonated. These include are normal baes like Prosecco and Moscato. YUM.

Wine to try: Demi-Sec Sparkling Moscato – Demi – Sec means “off-dry” in French. This is a sweeter tasting wine and is definitely a winner for those of you who don’t love dry wines.


For more info check out this great info graph from Wine Folly!


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  1. My husband loves port with stilton after dinner. I prefer sherry before dinner. And I have a sparkling wine that is sweet enough you cannot take the alcohol and I have to be careful with that one. hehe

  2. Agreed! All meals should end with wine 😉 There is a local blueberry dessert wine (if you like blueberries) then you would die in heaven!

  3. I drink a lot of sparkling wine! they’re sooo good and so easy to drink, sometimes I’ll add a little juice to give it a little color.