Mark Twain said, “There are no standards of taste in wine… Each man’s own taste is the standard…” Sweet wines are often a person’s initiation into wine drinking, but this doesn’t make them inferior choices. Winemakers from around the world produce superior sweet, semi-sweet and fruity wines that are as well respected as dry wines and champagnes. Whether your preference is for a sweet wine or you’re looking for a dessert pairing, consider your own taste to be the standard.
Look for an off-dry white wine like a Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Moscato or Asti Spumante. There is a range of sweetness within each varietal, from some being not very sweet to those that are considered dessert wines. Very sweet Rieslings are designated Beerenauslese, Eiswein or Trockenbeerenuslese. Asti is a sparkling wine that’s a good introduction to wine drinking.
Try the slightly sweet or fruity red wines. Beaujolais, Syrah and Shiraz are fruity red wines, as is Italian Lambrusco, which should be served chilled.
Try a blush wine, such as White Zinfandel. Blush wines are pink, but they’re made from red grapes whose skins are separated during the winemaking process. They’re slightly sweet and pair well with light dinners.
Opt for a very sweet dessert wine. Late-harvest wines are made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer, so they’re naturally sweet. French Sauternes and Hungarian Tokai fall into this category.
Finish a meal with a fortified port wine. To make port, alcohol is added to red wine for a more potent result. True ports come from Portugal. Vintage ports are matured in the bottle, and other ports are ready to be served as soon as they come to market. The variation in sweetness among different ports is not as pronounced as in other varietals.
References and ResourcesFood and Wine Magazine
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Choosing a Wine