Contrary to some beliefs, sweet wine is not only for dessert but can be appreciated on their own, or enjoyed with some savory dishes. Some of those wines are as elegant and complex as prominent wines such as the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, white Burgundy, or white Bordeaux. Under all that residual sugar, there is an abundance of layers of various flavors, which means sweet wines are rarely only sweet.
Traits of a Premium Sweet White Wine
The one thing that sets apart top sweet wines from mediocre ones or those with low quality is their complexity. Low-quality sweet wines tend to taste too simplistic, mainly if it is produced through capitalization, which is a process of adding sugar cane or beet to the grape before the fermentation. But in all fairness, some sweet wines with good quality, use capitalization in their winemaking processes. But it is a tricky process that requires a detailed approach that won’t kill the wine’s nuanced flavors.
Because of that, many sweet wines undergo different, more natural processes of fermentation. Processes that will make the wine sweet while preserving its complexity.
How to Make a Sweet Wine?
The easiest and most natural method to make a sweet wine is harvesting the grape as late as possible. The later the grape is picked, it will be riper and sweeter, which are essential for making a sweet wine. The thing is if the grapes are left on the vine long after their harvest time, the water in the fruit will start to evaporate. That will make the grape’s flavors very concentrated.
Fortification is another method used to create a sweet wine. To do this, winemakers pour a grape spirit into the wine to eliminate the yeast so that the residual alcohol doesn’t turn into alcohol. The earlier the spirit is added, the sweeter the wine will be. This process is used for the making of the famous white port wine.
If you’re curious how sweet reds are made, and how best to pair them, then please don’t forget to check out our article on sweet red wine!
Botrytis is a type of fungus that infects the grape and absorbs almost all water from the grapes. The process is known as noble rot, and after nearly all the water has been absorbed, what’s left is natural sugar, trace minerals, malic and tartaric acids. That leads to naturally sweet wines, way sweeter than wines made with grapes that haven’t been infected in the first place.
Best Ranked Sweet Wines
If you plan to start a sweet wine collection, you should get familiar with some of the most popular ones on the market. Some of the sweet wines whose quality is consistent throughout the years are:
If you want to dive deeper into the world of sweet wines, you might find it interesting that sweet wines fall in one of three main categories: semi-sweet, sweet, and very sweet.
Some of the most prominent semi-sweet wines are Moscato d’ Asti, Riesling Sapatlese, and gewurztraminer spatlese.
The sweet category is occupied by wines such as Tokaji Auszu, Riesling Auslese, Sauternes, and Gewurztraminer Auslese.
If you are interested in the very sweet category, then you need to look into sweet wines such as Gewurztraminer Beerenauslese, Riesling Beerenauslese, Ice Wine, Tokaji Esencia, White Port, and Rutherglen Muscat.
How to Choose the Right Sweet White Wine?
In regards to making the right choice, nothing is written in stone, and there are no hard rules. The level of sweetness is something that everyone should choose on their own. Some folks prefer very sweet, while others go for semi-sweet or sweet white wines. Then there is their complexity and the specific flavors. But again, it is up to your preferences and which notes you prefer.
Drinking Temperature for White Sweet Wine
White sweet wines are best served chilled. But more often, that depends on the style of the wine. Sometimes for some wines (i.e.Vouvray), that range can be from 45 to 50 degrees, whereas for some sweet white wines (i.e., Sauternes), the upper border can be 58 degrees.
Same as sweet red wines, the premium rated sweet wines tend to offer way more than what meets the eye. Many of these wines are very rare, exceedingly complex, age-worthy, and can reach quite a value on the secondary market. Every true wine aficionado owns at least a few sweet wine bottles.