Top 10 Types of Dessert Wine

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Drinking dessert wine is a practice found all around the world, and the various types of specialty wine can be perfectly paired with different sweets.

What is a Dessert Wine?

Definitions of dessert wine vary from country to country. In the UK, a dessert wine is drunk with a meal, as opposed to before or after it. In the US, a dessert wine is classified legally by its percentage, and any wine over 14% makes the cut. For some, dessert wine is simply a sweet and strong wine. Made in a few different ways, dessert wines can be both red and white and can be enjoyed before, during, or after your meal. However, they vary in taste and sweetness, so being aware of the differences will help you make the right choice.

Types of Dessert Wine

There are many different types of wine, including sparkling dessert wine, lightly sweet dessert wine, richly sweet dessert wine, sweet red wine, fortified wine, ice wine, late harvest wine, noble rot wine, dried grape wine, and raisin wine among others.

Glasses of red and white wine with grapes and cheese on the cutting board

Dessert wines, sometimes called pudding wines, are sweet wines typically served with dessert. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Alcoholic beverage, wine, dessert, dry
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]72.53
Energy [kcal]152
Energy [kJ]638
Protein [g]0.2
Ash [g]0.3
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]11.67
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]1.09
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.58
Fructose [g]0.47
Maltose [g]0.1
Calcium, Ca [mg]8
Iron, Fe [mg]0.24
Magnesium, Mg [mg]9
Phosphorus, P [mg]9
Potassium, K [mg]92
Sodium, Na [mg]9
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.07
Copper, Cu [mg]0.05
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.12
Selenium, Se [µg]0.5
Thiamin [mg]0.02
Riboflavin [mg]0.02
Niacin [mg]0.21
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.03
Alcohol, ethyl [g]15.3
Sources include : USDA

Sparkling Dessert Wine

The clue is in the name of these sweet white dessert wines! These are the perfect choice if you’re after fizz and have a sweet tooth.

Lightly Sweet Dessert Wine

Lightly sweet dessert wines are fresh, fruity, and easy to drink. They work well with spicy dishes or with fruit-based desserts.

Richly Sweet Dessert Wine

These unfortified wines are made with excellent quality grapes and can age very well.

Sweet Red Wine

Often the cheapest option for dessert wines, sweet red wines don’t have the best reputation. However, higher quality, small batches of sweet red wine are well worth trying.

Fortified Wine

The best known fortified wines are port, sherry, and Madeira. To increase the alcohol content, the grape spirit is added to the wines either during or after the fermentation process. Fortified wines are up there with the sweetest and strongest of fortified wines, and they age well. 

Ice Wines

Icewine is made from grapes that are pressed while still frozen. They are very rich and sweet. Due to the labor-intensive nature of production and weather-dependent method of making them, ice wines are rare and have a price tag to match.

Late Harvest Wines

Made, unsurprisingly, from late harvest grapes, these wines have a sweet raisin flavor and typically come in at 15-17% ABV. 

Noble Rot Wine

These wines are made from grapes that have been deliberately affected by a spore called ‘noble rot’. This process creates dessert wines with honey and ginger flavors.

Dried Grape Wine

Made from grapes that are left to partially dry before being processed, these dessert wines tend to be fruity and spicy. 

Raisin Wine

Most common in Italy, these wines are made from dried grapes and are often drunk with the accompaniment of almond biscuits.

Nutrition Facts

Due to the wide range of dessert wines, there can be significant variation in the nutritional value. Per glass, there are approximately 150-250 calories, 12 grams of which are carbohydrates. 

How to Serve?

A good method of choosing a dessert wine is to ensure that it is sweeter than the dish it is accompanying. True to the name, dessert wines are often drunk alone, after a meal – instead of or following a dessert dish (cake, pudding, etc.). Generally speaking, white dessert wines are served chilled. Red dessert wines are often served chilled, but other times at room temperature. Once opened, most dessert wines are best when refrigerated. Their shelf life, once opened, depends on the exact type of wine, but fortified wines tend to last the longest.

Adverse Risks Associated with Alcohol Consumption: Moderation is key. The risks involved with drinking excessive alcohol can be short term such as violence and injuries to long-term health risks such as chronic diseases.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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