Definition - What does Dessert Wine mean?
In the context of wine styles, a dessert wine is defined as a sweet, high-alcohol wine that features concentrated flavors. Dessert wines can be made with grapes that have a high sugar level or brix at harvest, or they can be made through adding sugar during the winemaking process, a process known as chaptalization, or through fortifying. Dessert wines are typically paired with foods that are less sweet than the wine, or they can be enjoyed on the own.
WineFrog explains Dessert Wine
Dessert wines describe many different types of wines, as they can be made with either red or white grapes, can be sparkling, still, fortified, sweet or dry. Typically, they are categorized as fortified, sparkling, sweet red, lightly or richly sweet. Depending on the style, many different types of wine production methods and techniques are used, many of which start in the vineyard.
Dessert wines are made with wine grapes that have a high sugar content in order to ensure that enough sugar is leftover after fermentation for the wine to be sweet. If the dessert wine is being made with high brix grapes, grapes that have had a late harvest or an extended hang time, or grapes that have gone through the first frost or have noble rot, the vintner can begin their preferred style of winemaking. However, if the grapes do not have enough sugar, the vintner can add sugar or honey during fermentation, a technique known as chaptalization (which is regulated in many regions). Or they can add in sugar after fermentation via a German technique known as Süssreserve. Additionally, the wine can undergo a closed fermentation in order to capture the carbon dioxide to create a sparkling wine or be fortified after fermentation to make a fortified dessert wine.