Wine Tips & Tricks

9 “Serious” Sweet Wines You Must Try

Exploring the world of fine wine is tricky if you have a sweet tooth, as the most familiar and “serious” wines aren’t necessarily sweet. Historically speaking, though, sweet wines were once the most coveted style of wine in all the world. No really, it’s true!

Your love for sweet wine has just been validated.

For example, the world’s first demarcated wine region wasn’t Bordeaux, nor was it Champagne… it was an area in Eastern Hungary called Tokaji (“toe-kiy”), officially recognized in 1737. Tokaji is famous for – get this – sweet white wine. Interestingly enough, if you dig deeper into the today’s most important red wine regions, you’ll often discover that their originated from from sweet wine production.

Here are nine wines to try that prove sweet wines are among the finest wines of the world.

  1. Moscato d’Asti
  2. Tokaji Azsú
  3. Sauternes
  4. BA and TBA Riesling
  5. Ice Wine
  6. Rutherglen Muscat
  7. Recioto della Valpolicella
  8. Vintage Port
  9. P.X. Sherry
  1. Moscato d’Asti

    (“moe-scott-oh das-tee”) You haven’t really had Moscato until you’ve tried Moscato d’Asti; it’s the “O.G.” Moscato of Piedmont, Italy. The region is famous for Nebbiolo (like Barolo), but Moscato has been cultivated here since Roman times. Wines are “frizzante” (as in, somewhat sparkling) or “spumante” (full sparkling), with amazing aromas of perfume, Asian pear and peach. Moscato d’Asti is the perfect birthday cake wine.
    Sweetness level: 90–120 g/L residual sugar
    Expect to spend: ~$15
    More About Moscato

  2. Tokaji Aszú

    (“toe-kiy at-sue”) This white wine is made with a rare white grape called Furmint. These grapes are picked once they’ve been infected with a special type of rot (Botrytis cinerea aka “noble rot”). While this sounds gross, the result is a richly sweet golden white wine with subtle flavors of saffron and ginger. Tokaji Aszú might just be the closest thing to drinking stars.
    Sweetness level: 60–450 g/L residual sugar
    Expect to spend: ~$50
    The Tokaji Story

  3. Sauternes

    (“so-turn”) In Bordeaux, there is an area along the Garonne river that gets super moist and covered with fog – ideal conditions for developing the beneficial rot, Botrytis cinerea. Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes are blended together and wines reveal complex flavors of quince, marmalade, honey, ginger, and spice.
    Sweetness level: 120–220 g/L residual sugar
    Expect to spend: ~$25
    Sauternes Wine

  4. Beerenauslese Riesling

    (“bear-in-ohss-lay-say” or “BA” for short) There are several classifications of German Riesling and the Beerenauslese level is where things start to get serious (and seriously sweet). In order to have the sweetest grapes, harvesters will hand select only those grape bunches affected with noble rot. These wines are sweet and textured, like honeycomb, but with tingly acidity. You can also seek out Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) too–the highest sweetness level.
    Expect to spend: ~$90
    All About German Riesling

  5. Ice Wine

    When making Ice Wine, the grapes are left on the vine until it gets so cold that they freeze. The grapes are pressed while still frozen so only the sugar oozes out. This syrupy liquid is then fermented into wine! The best Ice Wines are typically made with Riesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes and come from places where it gets cold enough to freeze, including Canada, Germany, and Austria.
    Sweetness level: 120–220 g/L residual sugar
    Expect to spend: ~$30
    On Ice Wine

  6. Rutherglen Muscat

    There is a rare, red-colored variant of the Moscato grape (aka Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains) that grows in Victoria, Australia. The grapes are harvested later in the season when they become partially brown so that the sweetness is more concentrated. The result is a wine with rich aromas of toffee, dried strawberrie,s and hazelnuts that’s hauntingly sweet. This is Rutherglen Mucat.
    Sweetness level: 200–400+ g/L residual sugar
    Expect to spend: ~$18

  7. Recioto della Valpolicella

    (“Retch-ee-oh-toe”) Valpolicella is the wine region around Verona, Italy that is famous for its bold, dry Amarone wines. Originally however, Valpolicella was known for Recioto. Recioto della Valpolicella uses the same passito process of air-drying grapes to concentrate the sugars in the grapes. The major difference between Amarone and Recioto is that the fermentation stops before the sugars have all fermented, which produces a rich sweet red wine. Drinking Recioto is like liquid chocolate covered cherries.
    Sweetness level: 110–200 g/L residual sugar
    Expect to spend: ~$60
    Read More

  8. Vintage Port

    The Douro Valley in Portugal was the world’s second official wine region (demarcated in 1757) and is the home of true Port wine. While most of the Port wine we see in stores is basic quality Ruby Port, certain years are so good that they are recognized as “vintage” years. Vintage Port is a substantial step up in terms of quality and you can taste it. Additionally, Vintage Port is designed to cellar for 50–100 years.
    Sweetness level: ~90–140 g/L residual sugar
    Expect to spend: ~$50
    Port Wine Details

  9. PX – Pedro Ximénez

    (“pay-dro hym-men-nez”) No, Pedro is not a guy, it’s a rare white wine grape from Southern Spain! The process of making PX (a sweet Sherry) involves allowing the wine to age in barrels for many years, causing the liquid to become brownish-black in color. Over time the fluid in the wine slowly evaporates (both water and alcohol), which concentrates the sugar level.
    Sweetness level: 400+ g/L residual sugar
    Expect to spend: ~$50

About Madeline Puckette

I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me out there in the wine world @WineFolly