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 caramelized green apples and citrus and honeyed spiced peaches finish. A great American ice wine that drinks like a fine Austrian or German riesling eiswein.
Alea Ludendo 2013  Elba Aleatico Passito
95 points
$147
Deep purple color. Fruity, floral aromas of sugared plums, pressed violet, honeycomb, sweet cigars, and dark chocolate with a round, vibrant, sweet medium body and a smooth, layered, long ginger, saffron, dried figs, mint creme, and molasses cookies finish with well-integrated tannins and light oak. A delightful and nuanced Dessert Wine to finish an excellent meal; just lovely.
Awards: 2017 Best Dessert Wine
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
City Winery NV Chazak Dessert Wine California
94 points
$25
Black garnet color. Aromas of fruit cake, blackberry preserves, winter spices, toasted coconut, dark roasted almonds, and cocoa powder with a velvety, vibrant, very sweet medium-to-full body and a smooth, interesting, medium-long vanilla wafer cookies, rich chocolate covered black fruits, and French vanilla gelato finish with well-integrated, coating tannins and moderate oak. Fall in love with this rich port-style California wine that is perfect for cheese or after-dinner sipping.
Awards: 2017 Best US Dessert Wine
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 candied tangerine and fruit cocktail finish 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
Weinwurm’s 2015 Ausbruch Weissburgunder
93 points
$20.60
Golden straw color. Candied, perfumed aromas of golden honey, dried apricot, honeysuckle, and beeswax with a syrupy, lively, very sweet full body and a polished, interesting, medium-length peach blossom, fresh apple, fluffy almond nougat, and brown spices finish with fruit tannins and a suggestion of oak. A sweet and honeyed wine that would be delightful with Italian cookies.
93 points $20.60
Salt of the Earth 2016 Flor de Moscato California
93 points
$11.99
Best Buy
Light gold color. Sweet aromas and flavors of honeyed dried apricot, sultana, and suede with a silky, vibrant, fruity sweet medium body and a seamless, distinctive, long mandarin oranges and peach marmalade on cake finish with fine, fruit tannins. A delightful dessert wine with lovely layers of flavor.
Awards: '2017 World Value Wine Challenge-Top 10 Dessert Wine $15 and Under' Best Value US Dessert Wine Exceptional Value
93 points $11.99 Best Buy
Tomasello NV Red Raspberry Moscato
92 points
$13.95
Best Buy
Brilliant Siam color. Fruity aromas of tart red raspberries, raspberry leaf, clover honey, and lemon bar with a round, vibrant, moderately sweet medium body and a smooth, compelling, medium-long honeysuckle finish with no oak. A concentrated, pure, shining example of fruit wine; a serious, mouthwatering wine for all to love.
92 points $13.95 Best Buy
Tomasello NV Cranberry Moscato
92 points
$13.95
Best Buy
Brilliant Siam color. Fruity aromas and flavors of cranberry sauce and cocoa with a supple, tangy, fruity sweet medium body and a polished, appealing, long blood orange and chalk finish with no oak. A sensational flavorful and pure cranberry wine that delivers the tart and tangy cranberry goods.
92 points $13.95 Best Buy