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

Parallel 44 2016 Estate Ice Wine Wisconsin Ledge
95 points
$55
Straw green color. Aromas and flavors of golden raisins, dried apricots, butter roasted nuts, and kidd leather with a tangy, moderately sweet medium-to-full body and an interesting, long finish conveying notes of caramelized green apples and citrus and honeyed spiced peaches. A great American ice wine that drinks like a fine Austrian or German riesling eiswein.
Grgich Hills 2014 Violetta Late Harvest Dessert Wine Napa Valley
94 points
$85
Golden yellow color. Complex aromas of beeswax, petrol, yellow apple confection, lily, rose petal, stewed apricot, and golden raisin with a round, vibrant, very sweet medium-to-full body and a silky, complex, long caramelized lychee, nata de coco, coriander, ginger, grapefruit marmalade, and coconut sugar finish. A beautifully textured, concentrated and stylish dessert wine to show off to Sauternes-loving friends; feel free to cellar.
Tomasello NV Cranberry Wine
94 points
$12.95
Best Buy
Bright light ruby color. Aromas of spicy cranberry relish and pickled cherries and berries with a full body and a refreshing, long floral honey, tangerine, and chalk finish with chewy, earthy tannins. A clean, powerful and pure cranberry wine that will be great with desserts, cheeses and cocktails.
94 points $12.95 Best Buy
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.
Tomasello NV Red Raspberry Wine
93 points
$12.95
Best Buy
Brilliant Siam black color. Aromas of fresh raspberry preserves with a satiny, racy, moderately sweet medium body and a smooth, interesting, long ripe plum, spiced cherries, and raspberry liqueur finish with no oak. A stunningly vibrant raspberry wine with incredible flavor.
93 points $12.95 Best Buy
Sweet Bitch NV Sparkling Moscato
93 points
$11.99
Best Buy
Pale silvery straw color. Fruity, sweet aromas and flavors of peach custard pie, golden raisin bread pudding, and caramel apple with a satiny, tangy, spritzy, moderately sweet medium body and a smooth, interesting, long finish manifesting notes of candied tangerine and fruit cocktail with fine, fruit tannins. A delicious and vibrant sweet wine that will be super versatile and widely appealing; drinks like a fine Moscato d’Asti but frizzante.
93 points $11.99 Best Buy
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
Cline 2016 Late Harvest Mourvedre
92 points
$36
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.