Some of the most popular wines are sweet white wines. They are generally made from the same grape varieties as dry wines and they range from semi-sweet to very sweet. Sweet white wines are mostly made from fermented grapes.
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Types of sweet white wine
The sweetness of the wine is a characteristic of the residual sugars of the grape. If the process of making dry wine involves long fermentation for the sugar to leave the grapes, the process of making sweet wine is shorter. Fermentation is stopped before the sugar in these sweet grapes turns into alcohol. This being said, here are the best types of sweet wine to enjoy at the moment.
25. Chenin blanc
Region: Loire, South Africa
Also known as: Steen, Pineau de Loire, Pinot Blanco
Sweet or dry, the white wine grapes of Chenin blanc come from Loire Valley. Acidity makes the grapes versatile and you can enjoy them either as sparkling wine or dessert wine. Today, the grapes variety is used to create both dry and sweet wines. It’s the climate that influences sweetness more than other variables.
Region: Rhône, Australia, California
The grapes originating in France are used to create sweet and dry wine. You can sample its sweet version in Rhône as well as in Valais Switzerland. The Marsanne grapes don’t like overly hot climates as they overripen. They aren’t fond of cool climates either. As a result, most winemakers harvest it just before it ripens.
This type of wine is probably among the oldest in the world. It has been traced back to 3000BC when it was stored in clay pots. The grapes have been widely used to create wide wine varieties. But efforts were unsuccessful in harvesting it for a sparkling wine due to its high level of alcohol. Today, the sweet version of the wine is made in the Georgian region of Kakheti.
22. Sauvignon Blanc
Region: South Africa, Chile, New Zealand, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Ukraine, Romania
Originating in the popular wine region of Bordeaux, the wine comes in different categories from grassy to sweet. The wine is known for its green undertones, often associated with grass or green bell peppers. Sauvignon Blanc enjoys ever-growing popularity and you can even enjoy it in Italy’s Mufallo della Sala.
Region: Germany, France
Also known as: Johannisberger
The white wine is known for its aromatic profile. Flowery and high in acidity, it is at the base of sweet and semi-sweet sparkling wines. The sweetest Riesling wines take a long time to age, normally at least 10 years.
20. Pinot Gris
Also known as: Pinot Grigio
The wine is growing in popularity across the world and it is used to make both dry and sweet wine. Drier wines are normally labeled as Pinot Grigio but sweet wines are labeled Pinot Gris. The grapes of the wine are interlinked with the Tokaj wine of Hungary and it has been made as Tokaj Pinot Gris in Alsace up to 2007. After Hungary’s adhesion to the EU in 2007, Tokaj became a protected type of sweet wine only to be labeled on wines made in Hungary.
Region: Tramin Italy, Alsace France
Also known as: Gewürz, Traminer Musque
The aromatic wine grape is used to make both sweet and dry wine. Unlike many believe, it doesn’t come from Germany but Italy. You can sample the sweetest Gewürztraminer by enjoying wines made in the Alsace region of France, known for its naturally sweet grapes.
Also known as: Japanese rice wine
Made by fermenting rice, Sake has hundreds of variations. Sweet sake is made by lowering the alcohol levels and raising the sugar levels of the drink by adding Mirin, a complex carbohydrate sugar.
Region: France, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand
Also known as: Blanc doux
The grape variety is used to create sweet wine. Once fermentation is over, the grapes turn to Sauternes wines. In the fermentation process, it needs to develop noble rot which dries out the grapes shrinking them and concentrating the sugar levels.
Region: Austria, Germany
Also known as: Sämling 88, Scheu
Highly aromatic, this grape type is used to create sweet wines. The grape is left to ripe and overripe before being harvested for maximum sweetness. Notes of honey are familiar with the type of grape.
15. Pedro Ximenez
Also known as: PX
Sweet with raisins aroma, the grape variety is used in dessert wines. The wine is made by drying the grapes under the sun to concentrate their sugars. Some varieties are made with whiskey for a more flavorful type of sweet white wine.
14. Vin Santo
Originating in Tuscany, the wine variety is used to make dry and extremely sweet wine. White wine grapes of Trebbiano and Malvasia are used to make sweet white wine. Its origin is ancient as it has been linked to Ottoman rule.
13. Ice Wine
Region: Germany, Canada, United States
Also known as: Eiswein
As its name suggests, this type of wine is made from frozen grapes. The grapes are still on the vine when frozen and it’s only the water in them that freezes as sugars become more concentrated. Unlike other sweet wines, the grapes aren’t affected by noble rot.
Region: Alsace, Italy, Spain, South Africa, California
Also known as: Muscat
Muscat is known as a sweet wine, with only a few exceptions. In Europe, Muscat Ottonel refers to dry perfumed wines. Muscadelle is often confused with sweet white Muscat wine.
Muscadelle is a French wine grape variety. It is normally used in blends of sweet wine. Normally, Muscadelle accounts for 10% of the sweet wine blend. The exception is the village of Monbazillac was Muscadelle is used in higher concentration.
Region: Austria, Germany
Also known as: Auslesen
The German wine is known for its sweetness. It’s made from late November harvest selected years and the final result is similar to Eiswein, albeit not as sweet. It is considered a dessert wine even if some regions of Germany serve it as aperitif or afternoon daytime wine.
9. Passito wines
Region: Italy, Greece, Cyprus
Also known as: Straw wine, raisin wine
These types of white wines are typically sweet and very sweet. They are most often compared to Sauternes even if their history goes back to Roman times. Grapes are left to dry out to concentrate the sugars. This technique is used today in Italy (Tuscany, Piedmont, and Veneto), Greece, and Cyprus were the sweet wine is most popular.
Also known as: Torrontes Sanjuanino
Argentine white grapes are used to make a wide variety of sweet Torrontes. They are known for moderate acidity with peach and apricot aroma for added sweetness. Historically speaking, Argentinian Torrontes are confused with Galician Spanish Albillo Real.
Viognier grapes have been traditionally used to create dry wine. But late-harvest Viognier is used to make sweet white wine. Known for low acidity and floral aromas, these wines are aged rarely as they’re made to be consumed young.
Region: Chablis France
Grown in the Burgundy region of France, Chablis is easily distinguishable from the other white wines grown in the region. It has no oak influence and it is matured in stainless steel tanks instead of oak barrels.
Also known as: Vinho do Porto
Port is a type of fortified wine made in Portugal. By its nature, it has added distilled alcohol. White Port can be made from different types of grapes and alcohol and its original composition is now lost in the multitude of options available. If you want to try sweet white Port wine, you need to seek those made from the grapes of Malvasia Fina or Gouveio.
Region: Italy, Madeira, Canary Islands
Malvasia is a type of grape used exclusively in the production of sweet wine. While it originates in Italy, it’s also grown around the Mediterranean. If you want to taste the sweetest Malvasia wine, you can try Malmsey, a type of sweet wine made on the island of Madeira.
Region: Hungary, Slovakia
Hárslevelü has a semi-sweet profile. It isn’t as sweet as Furmint but it is grown in the same region of Somló. It is here that these grapes are mixed with the very sweet Furmint to create a unique dessert wine called Tokaj Aszu.
Region: Tokaj Hungary
Furmint is one of the sweetest white wines made today. Its grapes grow in Hungary and are widely used in sweet dessert wines. It is the main type of grape used in Tokaji wines. These white wines are golden and they are easily distinguishable by looks for their wheat-gold color.
Also known as: aubaine, beaunois, Germany blanc
Originating in Burgundy (Eastern France), Chardonnay is harvested late for extra sweet grapes. These types of grapes also vary in flavor according to the region of growth. Cool climate chardonnay typically comes with crispiness and high acidity. Temperate climate chardonnay is known for a sweet honey undertone with tropical fruit influences.
If you’re traveling to France, you need to know the type of chardonnay wine isn’t printed on bottles. You can find it under the name of its regions such as Burgundy or Chablis. The sweetest type of French white chardonnay is labeled as Blanc de Blancs.