11 Dessert Wines to End a Meal

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Finding the right wine to pair with dessert can be tough. The richness of the finishing course can often overpower a wine while on the other end, a sugary treat can make dry wines taste bitter or unbalanced. Enter dessert wines. This broad category of sweet wines offers a fun way to match sweetness with sweetness and elevate the flavors of your favorite post-dinner bites.

Dessert wines are made all over the world, and when done properly, can be truly magical. These wines are made by concentrating the sugars of the grapes then cutting the fermentation process short before the yeast has a chance to consume all the concentrated fruit. Sometimes this process is natural where there is simply more sugar than the yeast can possibly convert. Other times, a strong neutral spirit or sulfur are added mid-fermentation to kill off the yeast. This leaves a higher level of residual sugar which results in a sweeter wine.

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The ways to create this effect are so diverse it would be hard to mention them all, yet the most well-known is the result of a controlled fungus. Botrytis cinerea is a fungus that ordinarily could damage grapes but, under very specific conditions it concentrates the sugar in grapes by partially dehydrating them. This is called the “noble rot” and is used in some of the most sought-after wines like Sauternes, Tokaji and Trockenbeerenausleses from Germany and Austria.

Port and Sherry are also at home in the dessert wine category, with many luscious examples that offer great food-pairing abilities. Here are some of our favorite sweet wines.

Alvear NV Oloroso Asunción Pedro Ximénez
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Alvear NV Oloroso Asunción Pedro Ximénez (Montilla-Moriles); $30. Buy on Vivino. A burnished orange-meets-tawny color and lively aromas of caramel and apricot get this oloroso off to a fine start… SEE SCORE AND REVIEW

Castello di Amorosa 2019 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer
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Castello di Amorosa 2019 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer (Anderson Valley); $45. Find on Wine-Searcher. Dripping with honey, apricot and poached pear flavors, this luscious and extremely sweet wine coats the palate and lingers for minutes on the finish… SEE SCORE AND REVIEW

Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2018 Sauternes
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Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2018 Sauternes; $85. Find on Wine-Searcher. Rich and concentrated, this wine is a success from this difficult vintage… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Château Peybrun 2016 Cadillac
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Château Peybrun 2016 Cadillac; $32. Find on Vivino. In the de Loze family probably since the 16th century, this estate has an ideal south-facing exposure for producing ripe, sweet wines… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Höpler 2017 Trockenbeerenauslese
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Höpler 2017 Trockenbeerenauslese (Burgenland); $49. Find on Wine-Searcher. Musky botrytis and zesty, candied grapefruit peel take equal attention on the nose… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Inniskillin 2019 Sparkling Icewine Vidal Blanc
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Inniskillin 2019 Sparkling Icewine Vidal Blanc (Niagara Peninsula); $90. Buy on Wine.com. This wine was harvested at 387g/L residual sugar and bottled at 215. Aromas of ripe pineapple… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Offley 2017 Late Bottled Vintage Port
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Offley 2017 Late Bottled Vintage Port; $28. Find on Wine-Searcher. From one of the oldest Port houses, this wine is rich, generously textured and well poised between sweet and dry… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Robert Mondavi 2018 Sauvito Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon
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Robert Mondavi 2018 Sauvito Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon (Oakville); $65. A dessert wine made with the passito method of drying grapes on the vine, this is 78% Sauvignon Blanc and 22% Sémillon… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Royal Tokaji 2017 SZT. Tamás Single Vineyard 6 Puttonyos Aszú First Growt
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Royal Tokaji 2017 SZT. Tamás Single Vineyard 6 Puttonyos Aszú First Growth (Tokaji); $135. Find on Wine-Searcher. This wine comes from one of Tokaji’s most famous vineyards. It is light amber in color with heady aromas of honeysuckle, freesia, beeswax and honey… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Salt of the Earth 2020 Flore de Moscato
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Salt of the Earth 2020 Flore de Moscato (California); $12. Find on Wine-Searcher. This jazzy, sweet, light-bodied wine offers effusive lychee and rose-petal aromas… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Volpaia 2015 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
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Volpaia 2015 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico; $61. Find on Wine-Searcher. Made of 60% Trebbiano and 40% Malvasia, this opens with aromas of maple syrup, ripe apricot and vanilla… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

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Published on April 22, 2022
Topics: Buying Guide