Dessert Wines - What are the main types?

Dessert wines still charm despite their sugary character. After all, dry wines have always been loved by most wine enthusiasts. There’s a lot to appreciate about dessert wines that make them special. Firstly, dessert wines are a large category of sweet wines that make them versatile. They are usually served or paired with a sweet dessert. However, there’s more to dessert wines than just limiting the time and place when they should be served at the dining table. 

Secondly, the harvesting and winemaking methods for dessert wines are also very particular. Their methods of production affect their characteristics and sweetness. Lastly, life is indeed uncertain but not with dessert wines. There’s a lot of wonderful and surprisingly good food to be paired with these sweet after-dinner drinks. Eat dessert first with a good bottle of dessert wine!


Dessert wines and the differences between them

Dessert wines have higher alcohol content which depends on the process of production. They can range from 6% to 25% volume. Its high sugar content is due to the length of fermentation and the amount of residual sugar in them. Dry wines have less sugar because they are fermented for a period of time while dessert wines have a shorter fermentation process. 


How are dessert wines made? 

There are several methods for making and adding sweetness to dessert wines: 

Method 1: To add sweetness before fermentation, winemakers usually dry the grapes first by leaving them on the vine after the harvest date. This process makes sure that there is more sweetness in the wine. Alternatively, there is also a method called ‘noble rot’, which means the mould found on the grape skin speeds up the process of evaporation. The mould, known as Botrytis Cinerea’, also gives unique flavours to the wine because it sucks out all of the moisture leaving a strong sweetness to the grapes. ‘Freezing the grapes’ is also another method wherein the grapes are left on the vine for a longer period and will be harvested during winter. 

Method 2: To add sweetness during fermentation, the fermentation is interrupted in two different ways after going through the normal process of harvesting and crushing the grapes. The first method is to remove the yeast by filtering to stop the fermentation to let the sugar remain in the blend. The second method is to remove the yeast by fortifying it. This is a well-known technique of adding sulphur dioxide or more alcohol into the blend to poison the yeast.  

Method 3: To add sweetness after fermentation, winemakers add natural sweet liquids like unfermented grape juice.


What are the types of dessert wines?

Dessert wines have a broad category but the most popular are fortified wines, sweet red wines, richly sweet wines and sparkling wines. 

  • Fortified wines

    Fortified wines have 17% to 20% ABV. Grape brandy, a spirit drink made by wine distillation, is added to the wine making it sweet or dry. Examples of fortified wine are:

      • Port Wine - fortified in Porto, Portugal
      • Sherry - fortified in Jerez region of Spain 
      • Madeira - fortified in Madeira, Portugal

  • Sweet red wines 

  • These are dessert wines that are now mostly for commercial production. They are cheap and are mostly made in Italy. Examples of sweet red wine are: 

      • Schiava - dessert wine from Piedmont
      • Freisa - a rare variety of dessert wine from Alto-Adige


  • Sparkling wines

  • Sparkling dessert wines are less sweet because of carbonation and high acidity. Examples are:

    • Amabile - meaning slightly sweet in Italian
    • Demi-Sec - meaning off-dry in French
    • Doux - meaning sweet in French


    What you should pair with each dessert wine

    There’s a broad variety of dessert wines that can be paired with any kind of sweet dish. The rule is to choose a dessert wine that’s sweeter than the dish. 

    • Sparkling dessert wines can go with fresh fruit desserts after a good lunch. 
    • Port wine’s classic pair is the chocolate truffles.
    • Sherry is perfect for ice creams and custard-based desserts. 
    • Madeira tastes good with toffee pudding or tiramisu
    • Riesling is a fruity sparkling dessert wine from Germany that pairs well with cheese and lemon pound cake. 


    The Epoque Monbazillac 

    Popsy & JJ has an enchanting French dessert wine, the Epoque Monbazillac 375ml 2015, in their collection. You can watch their wonderful review here. The Epoque Monbazillac has a golden colour which adds elegance to its pleasing look and taste. It has notes of citrus, candied apricots and sweet pear. Enjoy it with an apple pie or chocolate or coffee-based desserts.

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