About Dessert Wines

A dessert wine is one that contains enough residual sugar to be considered too sweet for dinner (= 5% RS). Some of these wines are naturally sweet, while others are fortified. Examples of the former category include Auslese from Germany or passito from Italy, while fortified dessert wines include port as well as sweet sherries such as oloroso.

Alcoholic levels vary with these dessert wines, from 5.5% for a Moscato d'Asti from Italy to 20% with a port or sherry. Colors range from light amber to deep gold for a non-fortified dessert wine, such as Riesling; these wines have aromas of honey, caramel and tropical fruits.

There are also dessert liqueurs, such as cream-based or fruit-based, produced from any number of fruits from raspberries and cherries to peaches and bananas.

Top Picks for Dessert Wines

Grgich Hills 2016 Late Harvest Dessert Wine Napa Valley
95 points
Bright gold color. Aromas and flavors of golden raisin, honeyed dried apricot, toasty meringue and baklava, and lychee and honeysuckle with a glycerous, vibrant, sweet medium-full body and a tingling, nuanced, long finish with overtones of apple pie, peach cobbler, and mandarin oranges in syrup with fine, silky, fruit tannins. A superb, unctuous dessert wine that can hold its own with the finest German ausleses and Canadian ice wines.
Tomasello NV Blackberry Wine New Jersey
95 points
Best Buy
Burnt sienna color. Aromas of tamarind, ripe strawberry, raspberry syrup, pineapple confection, spiced grapefruit, and passionfruit with a racy, very sweet medium-to-full body and an effortless, intricate, long honeycomb, lychee, and bing cherry finish with well-integrated, fruit tannins. A serious fruit wine with excellent complexity and depth; a superior after-dinner choice.
95 points $12.95 Best Buy
Domaine des Bernardins 2017  Muscat
94 points
Steely orange color. Aromas of ripe peach, honey-drizzled apricot, golden raisins, and lime peel with a round, crisp, sweet light-to-medium body and a smooth, interesting, medium-length orange blossom water and chamomile tea finish. A bright Beaumes de Venise Blanc that offers delicate notes of dried fruit and honey.
Ferrante 2016 Ice Wine Vidal Blanc
94 points
Gold color. Aromas of lychee, ripe cantaloupe, golden raspberry, fresh grated ginger, peach candies, and honeycomb with a thick, vibrant, very sweet medium-to-full body and a tingling, interesting, medium-long roasted nuts and sesame seed candy finish. Bright aromas of exotic fruit beacon to a glass of this fantastic ice wine from Ohio.
94 points $29.99
Monte De Oro 2015 Legato Dessert Wine Cinsault
93 points
Brown brick red color. Tropical aromas and flavors of overripe pineapple, brown sugar, apricot marmalade, quince, thyme, and fig paste with a satiny, lively, very sweet medium body and a warming, complex, medium-long finish revealing impressions of Spanish peanuts, Madeira cake, cinnamon pastry, and baklava with moderate oak flavor. A distinctive dessert wine with enticing tropical nuance and toasty complexity; a must-try.
Wagner Vineyards 2017 Estate Bottled Ice Wine Riesling
93 points
Golden yellow color. Aromas of apricot liqueur, quince, and clove honey with a vibrant, moderately sweet full body and an interesting, medium-long apricot nectar, white peach skin, and golden delicious apple skin finish. A delicious stone-fruit nectar Eiswein for polishing off a splendid meal.
93 points $24.99
Pend d’Oreille 2008 Oui! Red Dessert Wine Washington
93 points
Dark burnt sienna color. Aromas and flavors of tiramisu, maple-fudge, cherry candies, and black pepper with a round, lively, sweet medium-to-full body and a peppery, layered, long finish with suggestions of baked Washington apple with blackberry jam, tamarind chutney, chocolate dipped black licorice, and dates with well-integrated, medium tannins and moderate oak flavor. Lively acidity and peppery nuance make this a craveable dessert wine to share.
Tom Eddy 2010 Old Vine Dessert Wine Zinfandel
93 points
Garnet black color. Fruity aromas of raspberry, chocolate graham cracker crust, dried figs and raisins, and cinnamon babka with a round, lively, sweet medium body and a smooth, intriguing, medium-length chocolate silk, espresso crema, and caramel finish with no oak flavor. A lip smacking late-harvest zinfandel that will be a decadent after-dinner cheese pairing.
Ferraris 2017 Dulcis in Fundo Malvasia di Casorzo
92 points
Best Buy
Siam color. Perfumed aromas of ripe wild strawberry, orange zest, and magnolia with a round, spritzy, moderately sweet light-to-medium body and an effortless, interesting, medium-length huckleberries in creme finish with no oak flavor. A very friendly and juicy sweet red spritzer that will be a divine alternative to Lambrusco or Brachetto.
92 points $17.99 Best Buy
Cline 2016 Late Harvest Mourvedre
92 points
Deep purple color. Minty aromas and flavors of chocolate mint cookie and blueberry cobbler a la mode with a satiny, vibrant, sweet medium body and a graceful, captivating, long finish that shows notes of alpine mint, berry pie filling, and eucalyptus honey with fine, chewy tannins and a suggestion of oak flavor. A lovely, spicy, minty red dessert wine that will turn heads.