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.
Johnson Estate 2019 Estate Grown Ice Wine Chambourcin
94 points
$49
Garnet black color. Aromas of boysenberry, damson plum, birch, lilac, and rhubarb preserves with a round, lively, sweet medium-to-full body and a silky, complex, very long blackberry coulis, hints of ripe mango, candied ginger, and glazed pastry finish with a suggestion of oak flavor. An outstanding expression of Chambourcin; this is a great Ice Wine to let the grape’s best characteristics shine.
Awards: 2021 Best Ice Wine
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.
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.
Weis Vineyards 2019 Ice Wine Riesling
92 points
$59
Golden straw color. Aromas of dried apricots and pineapple in yogurt and honey-nut granola with a velvety, vibrant, moderately sweet light-to-medium body and a seamless, compelling, medium-long ripe peach, honeysuckle, and apple custard finish with no oak flavor. A juicy and balanced Ice Wine that keeps you coming back for more.
Domaine Bosc Long 2015 Muscadelle Doux Gaillac AOP
91 points
$14.99
Best Buy
Brilliant dark old gold color. Aromas and flavors of artisan peach tart, poached mango, sweet cheesecake, roast banana with cashews, and anise with a satiny, crisp, sweet light-to-medium body and an effortless, complex, medium-length finish that exhibits overtones of maple-pecan granola, bergamot, and hints of tea. A charming and distinctive Late Harvest wine with diverse fruity flavors and a warmly spiced finish.
91 points $14.99 Best Buy
Grgich Hills 2018 Violetta Napa Valley
91 points
$85
Light gold color. Inviting aromas and flavors of apricots in syrup, floral honeycomb, tangerine zest, candied pineapple, and baklava with a silky, vibrant, sweet light body and a seamless, interesting, medium-long finish that presents accents of candied lemon peel, ginger, and hints of saffron with a suggestion of oak flavor. A rich and nicely layered Late Harvest wine from Napa.
Frost Bitten 2019 Ice Riesling Riesling
91 points
$14
Best Buy
Golden straw color. Aromas and flavors of poached pear, wildflower honey, elderflower, dried apricot, diced pineapple, and sultanas with a round, lively, sweet medium body and a polished, subtle, long finish. Intense, sophisticated fruit leaps to the nose and palate in this concentrated Ice Wine pleaser.
91 points $14 Best Buy
Quady 2020 Electra White Moscato
90 points
$15
Straw green color. Interesting aromas and flavors of oatmeal with golden raisins and pecans, saddle leather, dried peaches and pits, and matcha with a supple, bright, moderately sweet medium body and an effortless, complex, long finish that exhibits overtones of honeyed dried apricot, orange marmalade, and ground almond. A vibrantly delicious and concentrated dessert wine that will be a fine end to a rich meal.