About Dessert Wines

A sweet 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 sweet wines include port as well as sweet sherries such as PX.

Alcoholic levels vary with these sweet 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 sweet wine, such as Riesling; these wines have aromas of honey, caramel and tropical fruits.

There are also sweet 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
$85
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
$12.95
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
Medal Royal 2018 Late Harvest with Natural Botrytis Muscat
94 points
$17
Best Buy
Golden straw color. Aromas and flavors of honey, caramel, rum-soaked apricot, candied pineapple, and suede with a round, tangy, very sweet medium-to-full body and a subtle, long finish imparting shades of honey-roasted macadamia nuts, brown butter, allspice, and salted pecans. A divine, Sauternes-esque Late Harvest wine that delights the senses.
94 points $17 Best Buy
Domaine des Bernardins 2017  Muscat
94 points
$40
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
$29.99
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
$39
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
$24.99
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
$25
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
$75
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
$17.99
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