Wine Culture

Complete Guide to Sweet White Wine

Sweet white wine is a sweet and delicious beverage that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. It is a type of white wine, but it has a sweet taste due to the high amount of residual sugar in it.

There are many different varieties of sweet white wines, such as sweet sparkling wines or sweet fortified wines. The history and process behind sweet white wine will also be explored in this article.

What Are Sweet White Wines?

Sweet white wine is a type of sweet alcoholic beverage made from fermented grape juice. It has an alcohol level between 12% to 16%. The sweet taste comes from the residual sugars left over by yeast during fermentation which makes it classified as a sweet type of wine.

white wine with grapes

The Sweetness Scale

There are sweet wines, semi-sweet wines, and dry wines. Sweet white wine falls in the sweet category of the sweetness scale.

There is no specific definition for what sweet wine means; it’s subjective to each person’s palate preferences or needs at that given time.

However, there are some common guidelines when describing a sweet white wine:

– A medium-sweet white wine has between 35-120g/L residual sugar

– A very sweet white wine has over 120g/L residual sugar

The History of Sweet White Wine

The earliest known reference to making sweet style table wines was found in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back between 4000 BC – 3000 BC where they mention winemaking techniques using wild grapes with high natural sugar content.

The sweet white wines that are produced today have evolved over time to be more consistent in quality and sweetness, but still, retain the same variety of grapes as their dry counterpart (such as Chardonnay or Riesling).

The Winemaking Process

When making sweet wine, they do not ferment all of the grapes. This is done because yeast can only process a certain amount of sugar at one time.

Usually, either water or brandy is added to stop fermentation before it’s completed – this ensures sweetness.

Sweet white wines will also age longer than regular white wines due to their high natural residual sugar levels which act as preservatives.

Sweet White Wine Varieties

There are many different types of sweet white wines, such as sweet sparkling wines, sweet fortified wines, and late harvest wines. Here are just a few of the most common types:

– Sweet White Sparkling Wines – Moscato d’Asti (Italy): an effervescent white wine with flavors of apricot and peach.

– Semi-sweet White Wine – Pinot Grigio (Italy): fresh citrus aromas, medium body with fruity notes.

– Sweet White Fortified Wine – Cream Sherry (Spain): a fortified wine that has been aged for at least seven years in the solera system. This style of wine is rich and nutty with notes of caramel, raisins, and figs.

white wines

Sweet Wine Styles

The goal of sweet white wine with high sugar levels is not all about sweetness. Instead, what you want in a sweet white wine are delicious flavors and aromas that make it enjoyable on its own or paired with sweet desserts.

Sweet wines are made in a variety of styles, including sweet white wine, sweet red wine, and sweet dessert wines like Port wine or Sauternes.

Another sweet white wine is the late harvest wine which is made by letting grapes hang on vines longer than usual to increase sugar levels in order to produce sweet flavors before fermentation. They include Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc among many others.

Table Wines

Table wines are sweet white wines that have medium to sweet levels of sweetness. They include Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Riesling among many others.

Unfortified Dessert Wines

Unfortified sweet white wines are sweetened with grape concentrate or other sweeteners instead of sugar. They include Moscato d’Asti, Riesling Icewine, and Sauternes among many others.

Fortified Dessert Wines

Fortified sweet white wines are sweetened with grape spirits or other types of alcohol. They include Port wine, Late Harvest Riesling, and Sauternes among many others.

Popular Sweet White Wines to Try:

  • Chateau d’Yquem – From Bordeaux France, this sweet white wine is sweet with flavors of honey, apricot, and peach.
  • Spatlese Riesling – From Germany, this sweet white wine has become very popular in the US among sweet white wines. It is light yellow color with flavors of grapefruit, lime zest, and green apple.

Sweet White Wine Pairing Tips:

  • Sweet white wines are best paired with desserts made with fruit or chocolate
  • Sweet dessert wine like Port wine or Sauternes pairs nicely with nuts, dried fruits, and most hard cheeses. They can also be served alongside sweet pudding, ice cream, or sweet custard.
  • Sweet white wines go well with spicy dishes, especially those containing Thai and Mexican ingredients.

Sweet White Wine Regions

France is the largest producer of sweet white wine in the world including both dry and sweet styles.

Loire Valley is the largest region for sweet white wine production in France including both dry and sweet styles of Sauternes as well as Muscadet which are produced on a large scale.

In Italy, sweet white wines can be found in Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Piedmont. Sweet white wine grapes include Glera (aka Prosecco), Grillo, Chardonnay (Malvasia), and Pinot Bianco which are grown in sweet wines regions around the world including New Zealand, Australia, the US, and South Africa.

What is the sweetest white wine?

The sweetest white wine is a late harvest grape called White Peony made in Germany which has over 40% residual sugar content on average.

The sweet white wines are perfect for special occasions like weddings, bachelorette parties or anniversaries.

Their high sugar levels make them very sweet which is why they pair well with sweet desserts such as cakes and pies among others.

They are also great on their own especially after a meal to help digestion thanks to their low alcohol content.


Sweet white wines are very versatile and can be paired with many different foods. If you’re new to wine, or even if you’ve been drinking it for years, there’s no better time than now to try some sweet whites.

These wines have a wide variety of flavors that range from light and refreshing to rich and bold so chances are good that one will suit your palate perfectly. You don’t need any fancy equipment either – just grab the nearest glass!

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