Sweet Wine

Definition - What does Sweet Wine mean?

Sweet is used to categorize wines with a residual sugar amount of 45g/L or more. It is the opposite of dry. The alcohol level is, on average, between 15% and 22%. There are four ways to produce sweet wine:

  • Botryis Also called noble rot, this is a fungus that eats at the sugar in wine grapes; it creates complex, flavorful sweet wines.
  • Late Harvest When grapes are left to ripen on the vinefor longer than the norm, they generate more sugar in the juices; the grapes are dried, concentrating the sugars. This creates wines with sticky honey, deep fruit flavors and floral bouquets.
  • Icewine >Grapes are frozen naturally on the vines and the frozen fruit is pressed; the juice is less watery and contains concentrated sugars. This yields delicious, honeyed wines.
  • Fortified wine Neutral grape spirits (like brandy) are added to the wine during fermentation to halt the process. This creates a wine with a high level of sugar and alcohol.

WineFrog explains Sweet Wine

The taste "sweet" is relative - our brain interprets the varying characteristics of a wine and determines, based on our personal preference, whether or not the wine tastes sweet. The requirement of a wine to have over 45g/L of residual sugar is a necessity to classify wines as sweet, because they don’t always taste that way.

The sweet taste of a wine is determined by the interaction of sugar, alcohol, acids and tannins. Sugars and alcohol enhance a wine’s sweetness while acids and tannins counteract it. The trick for the winemaker is to find the right balance of factors to create a balanced with all the nuances required in a quality vino.

Sweet wines are most commonly white, though there are some reds used especially for fortified wines. Some of the more common types of sweet wine are:

  • Dessert wines (Sauternes, Icewine)
  • Fortified wines (Port, Shery)
  • Viognier
  • Chardonnay
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Riesling
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Muscat/Monsanto
  • Trevino Furman
  • Grenache
  • Zinfandel
It can be tricky pairing sweet wine with food. Most are meant to be sipped after dinner, but they can also be paired with salty food, less sweet desserts (anything that is tart or sour, such as apple pie) or rich food.
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