There are a wide variety of different sweet white wine brands available on the market today, and some of the best dessert wines in the world fall into this category. A number of different processes are used to make these sweet whites, each of which produces slightly different styles and flavors of wine.
Sweet white wine brands are produced all over the world, and there are certain brands and regions that are best known for high-quality sweet white wine production.
Sweet White Wine Overview
There are many different styles of sweet white wine available today, and each is made using a slightly different process. These sweet white wines are most often served after meals as dessert wines, or between courses as an aperitif.
Dry vs Sweet Wine
A wide variety of different white wine styles are available today, and many wine enthusiasts are unaware of the difference between dry and sweet white wines. Certain styles of white wine can carry notes of sweetness on the palate while still being considered “dry.”
The first factor in determining whether a wine is dry or sweet is the residual sugar content. Wines with higher residual sugar are considered sweet, while wines with low traces of residual sugar are considered to be dry.
Perceived sweetness is another factor in determining how to categorize a bottle of wine. Certain factors like acidity and body can affect how sweet the palette perceives the wine to be. Wine Folly has assembled a helpful sweetness chart to determine where a given wine ranks.
Botrytis is a type of fungus that develops on wine grapes that have been left on the vine for an extended period of time. The mold is often referred to as “noble rot,” as it is a very desirable attribute for dessert wine grapes when controlled correctly.
The fungus requires moisture to stay alive, and it removes a great deal of water from the wine grapes over time. The result is a wine grape that has less residual water content than usual, and a higher concentration of sugars within the grape.
The results of making wine from Botrytis-affected grapes are sweet and luscious dessert wines, and some of the most highly sought-after sweet white wines in the world are produced using “noble rot” in the vineyard.
One of the simplest and most historic ways to produce dessert wines is by using a technique called late harvesting. Leaving wine grapes on the vine for an extended period of time allows the Botrytis fungus to develop under the correct moisture and humidity conditions.
This is one of the longest-standing methods of producing sweet dessert wines, and it requires no extra steps or tools compared to normal wine production. The best producers of Botrytis-affected sweet white wines know exactly when to harvest grapes to achieve maximum flavor.
While the term “Late Harvest” most often refers to Botrytis-affected dessert wines, there are other styles of dessert wine like “Icewine” that are technically considered to be late harvest wine styles.
Icewine is produced using similar methods as other late harvest wines, but with drastically different results due to the area where they are made. Icewine is prevalent in cold weather wine-producing regions like Canada and Germany.
The grapes used to produce Icewine are completely frozen on the vine before harvest. During the freezing process, the water inside the grape is separated from the sugars and other parts of the grape.
When these frozen grapes are pressed, the ice stays inside the grapes while the sugars and solids are removed to create a strong and concentrated grape juice. This juice is fermented to make some of the highest quality dessert wines across cold-weather regions.
Other Sweet White Wine Styles
There are a number of other ways to produce dessert wine, though the best bottles of sweet white wine are made using the previously outlined methods. More cost-effective methods are also used, though the results are usually lower in quality.
One common low-cost method of producing dessert wines is by adding sugar directly to the wine. This can either be done before or after fermentation, and naturally sweet substances like honey are sometimes used.
Five of the World’s Best Sweet White Wine Brands
Sweet white wines are produced all over the world, and there are thousands of different brands available on the market today.
There are certain brands that have become extremely famous over the years and are well regarded for being of high quality.
Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos
- Very sweet and full-bodied
- Strong and bold example of Hungarian dessert wine
- Winner of multiple international wine awards
- Too strong and sweet for some palates
- Not a good introductory sweet wine for new enthusiasts
Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos is the most famous bottle of wine produced in the country of Hungary and is a fantastic example of a full-bodied and luscious dessert wine using late harvest botrytis-affected grapes.
- Most famous bottle from the highly regarded Sauternes region
- Balanced and complex, layers are there for refined palates
- Available at some of the best restaurants in the world
- High price tag is not realistic for some wine enthusiasts
- Usually not available at more casual dining establishments
Château d’Yquem is a famous producer of sweet white wine from the famous Sauternes region of Bordeaux, France. It is a delicate and complex bottle of dessert wine that is world-renowned for its balance and layers of flavor.
Groot Constantia Grand Constance Muscat
- Deep and complex with a thick body
- Notes of bold flavors like smoke and caramel
- One of South Africa’s top wines
- Tough to find in some areas of the world
- One of the more expensive bottles of Muscat on the market
Groot Constantia Grand Constance Muscat is a naturally sweet white wine that does not undergo any extra processes to enhance its sweetness. This is one of the top bottles of Muscat from the exciting wine country of South Africa.
Inniskillin Niagara Peninsula Vidal Icewine
- Very sweet with nearly 250 grams per liter of residual sugar
- Fruit flavors of melon, peach, and pineapple
- Also available in a Reisling version
- Too sweet for wine enthusiasts with more delicate palettes
- High price tag is intimidating for many wine enthusiasts
Inniskillin Niagara Peninsula Vidal Icewine is a famous bottle of dessert wine from Canada’s most important wine region. This bold yet balanced sweet white wine is a regular winner of international wine competitions.
Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese
- One of the highest-rated dessert wines in all of Germany
- Not produced during vintages where growing conditions are not ideal
- One of the best examples of Germany’s famous Riesling grape
- One bottle costs as much as some automobiles
- Extremely rare and difficult to find
Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese is one of the most elegant and refined bottles of dessert wine in the entire world. At only six percent alcohol per volume, it is light on alcohol while extremely bold on flavor.
Sweet White Wine Brands – Conclusion
Sweet white wines make fantastic dessert wines, and they are produced all over the world today using different methods and grapes.
Some of the most important white wines in the world are dessert wines, and there is a handful that is world-renowned for being of the highest quality.