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
$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
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.
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 flavor. A delightful and nuanced Dessert Wine to finish an excellent meal; just lovely.
Awards: 2017 Best Dessert Wine
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
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
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