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

Alea Ludendo 2013  Elba Aleatico Passito
95 points
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
City Winery NV Chazak Dessert Wine California
94 points
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
Weinwurm’s 2015 Ausbruch Weissburgunder
93 points
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
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
Englar Castle Winery 2015 Passito Mitterberg IGT
93 points
Brilliant old gold color. Sweet, floral aromas and flavors of honey, amaretti cookies, honeysuckle blossoms, and pear blossom with a syrupy, crisp, very sweet fat body and an even, relaxed lychee and lemon curd finish with soft, fruit tannins. A honeyed dessert wine to dunk Italian cookies.
93 points $34.80
Paluzzi 2016  Moscato dAsti
92 points
Best Buy
Light straw color. Fruity, floral aromas and flavors of peach phosphate, golden raisin chutney, and honeysuckle with a supple, tangy, effervescent, fruity sweet medium body and a smooth, captivating, medium-long honeyed dried apricot and wet limestone finish with no oak. A delicious and pure moscato d’Asti with excellent flavor, balance, and acidity.
92 points $7 Best Buy
Barefoot Bubbly NV Sweet Red Sparkling Dessert Wine California
92 points
Best Buy
Bright ruby color. Aromas and flavors of cranberry and apple sauces, wild strawberry sorbet, and pannetone with a vibrant, effervescent, fruity sweet medium body and a complex, long spiced tangerines, kiwi, orange blossom water, and melon finish with crunchy, fine, fruit tannins and no oak. A racy, delicious sweet wine with great flavor, nuance and length.
Awards: '2017 World Value Wine Challenge-Top 10 Dessert Wine $10 and Under' Exceptional Value
92 points $9.99 Best Buy
Casa Larga 2013 Fiori Delle Stelle Estate Grown Ice Wine Vidal Blanc
92 points
Brilliant bright gold color. Fruity, interesting aromas and flavors of apple-raisin yogurt, toasty nut brittle, and caramelized cheese rind with a supple, bright, moderately sweet medium-to-full body and a smooth, distinctive, long dried peach and mango, yogurt nuts and apricots, and earth finish with crunchy tannins. A delightfully flavorful and complex dessert wine with a captivating earthy underbelly.
92 points $43.99
One Woman 2014 Dessert Wine Gruner Veltliner
91 points
Bright amber color. Complex aromas of sweet apricot, orange marmalade, honey drizzle, and maraschino cherry pit with a round, crisp, moderately sweet medium body and a seamless, complex, medium-length cumin, coriander, and allspice finish. A fantastically delicious sweet and spicy Grüner oozing with complex charm.
Barefoot Bubbly NV Pink Moscato Sparkling Dessert Wine California
91 points
Best Buy
Brilliant coral orange color. Aromas and flavors of peach sorbet, orange blossom talc, and honeyed golden raisins with a tangy, effervescent, moderately sweet medium body and a compelling, long dried apricot, tangerine sorbet, and honey crisp apple finish with fine, crunchy, fruit tannins and no oak. A delicious fruity, tangy, sweet wine with great flavor and structure.
Awards: '2017 World Value Wine Challenge-Top 10 Dessert Wine $10 and Under' Exceptional Value
91 points $9.99 Best Buy