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Dessert Wines - Overview

The legal definition of dessert wine in the US is as follows:

Fortified wine, sweet or dry that contains greater than 15% alcohol by volume.

To me, that definition is somewhat restrictive because dessert wine is so much more. I define dessert wine as follows:

Any wine that can possess in excess of 2% residual sugar with an alcoholic content between 5% and 21% by volume.

Dessert Wines

Fortified wines (wines with alcohol in excess of 15% by volume) that are dry in flavor, such as most Fino Sheries, are considered aperitif wines and are not usually enjoyed after dinner.

In the category of classic dessert wines you have a multitude of types, styles and formats. The common thread is that the fermentation process was stopped, either naturally or artificially, leaving residual sweetness in the wine. There is one exception to this common thread and that is the production of sweet Sherry (or Sherry-like wines). In Sherry-like wines all of the wine is vinified completely dry and then a sweetener, vino de dulce, is added to create the desired sweetness.

Dessert wine is made in practically every winemaking country. Within each country there are often several styles of dessert wine, some fortified and some not fortified, some sparkling and some still. The following is a list of dessert wines, including their country of origin.

Fortified

Sherry (sweet)

Spain

Marsala

Italy

Port

Portugal

Madeira (sweet)

Portugal

Vin Doux Naturel

France

Port-like wines

US, Australia



Non-Fortified

Sauternes

France

Beerenauslese

Germany

Eiswein

Germany

Trockenbeerenauslese

Germany

Champagne Doux

France

Moscato d’Asti

Italy

Vin Santo

Italy

Next: Fortified Dessert Wines >

 

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