20 Best Sweet White Wines [Essential Picks For Every Budget]
Many a wine lovers 'gateway' drink to the world of wine, sweet white wine is the easiest for beginners to drink, and holds a special place at the dinner table with desserts and as a treat.
The sweetest white wines often take on honeyed and candied fruit notes, while off-dry varieties (semi-sweet) add a dose of minerality.
The sheer variety of grapes ensures that all tastes are catered for, no matter how sweet your tooth is.
Ice Wine is the sweetest variety, with White Port, Moscato, and Riesling being very sweet.
We've left no winery unturned to discover the finest sweet white wines around. Join us below to discover the twenty best sweet wines for every budget!
Our Recommended Sweet White Wines
20. Fontanafredda Briccotondo Moscato d'Asti - $15
An intense, bright Moscato with a pleasantly sweet palate, Fontanafredda Briccotondo Moscato d'Asti pairs beautifully with spicy food. It is produced in Piedmont, Italy, by the world-famous Fontanafredda Estate & Winery.
Aromas of musk, orange blossom, honey, and sweet apple reveal a complex bouquet. On the palate, freshly picked grapes, crisp Meyer lemons, and candied peach deliver a mouth-watering sweetness with hints of sage.
We love this sweet white wine with Indian food, Pad-Thai, and spicy Chinese dishes, and it also works well with ice cream and marshmallows.
19. Jam Jar Sweet White - $10
Jam Jar Sweet White is produced in Western Cape, South Africa, from Moscato Bianco grapes. It's sweet and refined, with notes of peach, apricot, and marmalade. The finish has a welcome jolt of acidity, giving it balance.
This wine smells divine with aromas of lychee and apricot with hints of lime. The flavor profile is interesting, with honey and peach and a mid-palate of honeysuckle. The finish has robust, honeyed flavors with a dash of lemon.
We like this wine to take center stage on its own and as an aperitif for light fish dishes. Strong flavors easily overpower the delicate flavors.
18. Chateau Ste. Michelle Harvest Select Sweet Riesling - $12
This classic Riesling has flowery, aromatic notes and high acidity, making it delicious with soft cheese and spicy dishes.
It's produced in Columbia Valley, Washington, by Chateau Ste. Michelle at a winery dedicated to white wine.
A sumptuous bouquet of nectarine, honey-crisp apple, and pear lead to candied grapefruit, apricot, and green apple flavors.
This is a bright, fresh wine with a light body, and ginger and orange citrus notes add depth to the palate.
Unlike some Rieslings, this wine isn't too sweet to enjoy with desserts, but it is best with spicy dishes, cheese, and savory snacks.
17. Melanie Pfister Cuvée 8, 2016 - $30
Cuvée 8 is a blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat, produced in Alsace, France, by Melanie Pfister.
It is a young, vibrant sweet white wine with exotic fruits like guava on the palate, making it extra special.
Aromas of flowers, tropical fruit, grapefruit, apple, and hints of lemon give it an attractive nose.
On the palate, flavors of ripe green grapes, fresh rose petal, guava, and lime lead to a finish of herbs with a slight minerality.
The sweet and juicy profile goes down a treat with salads, brunch, cheese, and smoked fish, with the minerality offsetting a sweet mid-palate.
16. Hermann J. Wiemer Late Harvest Riesling 2019 - $30
This is Hermann J. Wiemer's signature dessert wine, with a smooth mouthfeel and a medium body.
Lush tropical notes and a subtle minerality ensure it goes down a treat, with a lively acidity adding tang to every sip.
Notes of peach, citrus, orange marmalade, and peach shine on the nose, with hints of ripe lime and wet slate chalk.
The flavor profile is divine, with lemon and tropical fruits, honey, and nectarine, with a mid-palate of orange and a mineral finish.
The very sweet nature of this wine makes it perfect for muffins, cakes, cookies, and creamy desserts, especially if they have fruit compote.
15. Gancia Moscato di Asti - $13
Gancia Moscato di Asti is a classic Italian Moscato – peachy and floral with balanced sweetness and acidity.
It is produced by The House of Gancia, a winery surrounded by precious vineyards in Canelli, Piedmont.
Aromas of apricot, peach, blossom, and honey are replicated by the palate, adding green apple and a twist of lemon.
It has a soft, sweet mouthfeel and a light body with a finish of dried fruit and a twang of minerality.
We adore this wine with cakes, pastries, panettone, jams, and fresh fruit, and it also pairs well with fresh fruit and leafy salads.
14. Willm Gewurztraminer Reserve 2019 - $15
This is a peppery and rounded Gewurztraminer from Alsace, France, produced by The Willm Estate in Barr.
It is sweet with a fruity, floral bouquet and tropical flavor. The sweetness has a nice balance with a smooth mouthfeel.
We love how this wine smells and tastes – aromas of lychee, flowers, and cinnamon give way to flavors of lychee, guava, roses, pepper, and passion fruit, with a hint of banana. It has great depth with a medium body and a long finish.
Because it is full of tropical fruit flavors with a floral edge, we love this wine with Asian cuisine (Thai, Chinese, Moroccan, and Indian).
13. Castello di Meleto Vin Santo, 2019 - $40
This is one of the finest sweet wines we've ever tried! Castello di Meleto Vin Santo 2019 sumptuously combines notes of cherry, white petals, and vanilla with a velvety mouthfeel that keeps you coming back for more.
Aromas of apricot, cherry, lime, and a hint of allspice give this wine a hearty bouquet. On the palate, vibrant apricot, honey, vanilla, and citrus come through with a fruity and juicy mid-palate. The finish is long with good acidity.
You can enjoy this sweet wine with fish, chicken, pasta, and salads. Hints of orange peel and spice also bring out the best in duck.
12. Ramos Pinto Lágrima White Port N.V. - $19
A classic white port from Portugal, Ramos Pinto Lágrima White Port N.V. is one of the sweetest wines on our list.
Floral aromas, chamomile, and orange blossom stand out on the nose, with notes of pineapple, honey, nut, and wood.
It treats the palate with orange, banana, lime, and caramel flavors, with a fruity and slightly dry medium finish.
This wine pairs best with smoked salmon, shellfish, and sushi, and try it with salted nuts and savory snacks for a sweet and salty sensation.
11. Hatzidakis Vinsanto, 2004 - $45
Hatzidakis Vinsanto 2004 is a naturally sweet wine made with sun-dried grapes. The 80% Assyrtiko, 20% Aidani composition gives it a balance of sweetness and acidity, with candied orange and butter flavors shining through.
Notes of raisins, honey, and butter caramel lead to orange, peach, and lime, with a candied fruit finish.
A medium body and a smooth mouthfeel make it a delightful tipple, and you can expect a refreshing tang of lemon with every sip.
We love this wine with Foie Gras, duck, grilled fish, and strong cheeses like Feta, Brie, Roquefort, and Gouda.
10. Château Rieussec Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes 2018 - $30
Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes 2018 is a dessert wine made with 90% Sémillon, 7% Sauvignon, and 3% Muscadelle. It has a medium body and a sweet, fresh finish dominated by cooked pear and baked apple flavors.
On the nose, aromas of apricot marmalade, honey, vanilla, and candied melon shine through.
This exotic bouquet is reflected in the palate, with a mid-palate of buttercream and citrus. A delicious wine with mild acidity.
Soft and very sweet, this wine is best on its own and as an aperitif, but it also compliments seafood dishes made with garlic.
9. Castello del Poggio Moscato Provincia di Pavia - $14
Aromatic and floral, this white wine from Piedmont, Italy, is a delicate dessert wine with musk, cream, ripe peach, and vanilla notes. The Castello del Poggio winery makes it in the heart of the world-famous Asti wine region.
If you enjoy musky, creamy white wines, this is for you. Aromas of musk, baked peach, pear, and white flower with hints of vanilla and caramel are reflected on the palate, which is mildly acidic with a pleasant minerality.
This wine perfectly complements grilled chicken, grilled fish, barbequed seafood, risotto, pasta in white sauce, and spicy sausage pizza.
8. Chateau Laribotte Sauternes 2018 - $40
Deliciously sweet with an aromatic floral bouquet, this wine is a blend of 90% Semillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc, and 2% Muscadelle.
It is fruity and vibrant, with a dose of vanilla and cream, making it a pure indulgence with spicy foods.
This wine is long on the palate with notes of grapefruit, acacia, white flowers, honey, and candied fruits. It is beautifully balanced with a slightly mineral finish, with hints of orange peel and lemon providing a zesty edge.
We love this white wine with spicy food, grilled fish, tacos, Mediterranean cuisine, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It also works with BBQ chicken.
7. RL Buller Victoria Tawny - $15
RL Buller Victoria Tawny is a wine you can drink anytime. It's a blend of Carina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and Shiraz, producing a sweet wine with orange-red tints. Fruity and vibrant flavors dominate with white port characteristics.
Warm and supple with aromas of cherry, strawberry, oak, and vanilla, this decadent wine has fantastic depth.
Dried fruit, cherry, plum, and prune shine through on the palate with a clean, fresh finish that leaves a lovely taste.
This wine is perfect with chocolate, figs, mousse, mild cheeses, and apple pie. Avoid fish and chicken because of the strong flavor profile.
6. New Age White - $10
New Age White is produced in Mendoza, Argentina, by Valentin Eduardo Bianchi. It is a blend of 90% Torrontes and 10% Sauvignon Blanc, perfectly balancing citrus and tropical fruit flavors with crisp acidity and a refreshing finish.
We love the fruity and floral aromas with hints of sweet apple, lime, white flowers, and caramel.
The palate is impressively crisp, dominated by peach and tropical fruit, and it has a slight effervescence with light acidity.
Try this wine with smoked salmon, mackerel, and other fatty fish. It also pairs perfectly with smoked sausage and grilled chicken.
5. Chateau Climens 2002 - $200
Sweet and creamy, Chateau Climens 2002 is a perfect dessert wine, produced in Bordeaux, France, from Semillon grapes. The lush, balanced fruity profile teeters on the edge of floral, with bright, summery notes.
Light and refreshing, this sweet wine has white peach and pear on the nose with flavors of nectarines, orange, peaches, and cream on the palate. The flavors are elegantly balanced with medium-plus acidity and plenty of rich sweet fruit.
You can enjoy this wine with cakes, cream pie, and custards. It also works as an aperitif to seafood and shellfish.
Related: Are you a budding winemaker? Learn how to make wine sweeter in our guide.
4. Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2010 - $50
This compelling blend of Furmint, Harslevelu, Zeta, and Sagamuskotaly grape varieties is intensely sweet with apricot and citrus notes. A full, long body and a pronounced, buttery finish make it perfect as a dessert on its own.
Aromas of dried apricot, honey, chalk, and nuts give this wine a unique bouquet, while fresh stone fruits and elderflower on the palate keep things lively. It has high acidity with an intense, fruity finish with a side of cream.
This wine works well with salty snacks like pretzels, lunch meats, and ramen, but the extra sweet profile makes it best on its own as a dessert.
3. Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 2011 - $75
A favorite with wine connoisseurs, Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 2011 is deliciously sweet and fruity with a full body.
It's produced by Trimbach winery in Alsace, France, using natural sweetening processes.
Aromas of minty green apple, minerals, and citrus with a hint of cream give this wine a pleasant scent.
Bright flavors of stone fruits, pineapple, lemon, and tart apple shine through, with a mid-palate of almonds and a nutty finish. Deliciously fresh and vibrant.
The high acidity of this wine makes it perfect for spicy dishes, especially Indian dishes like Paneer, Biryani, and Tandoori chicken.
2. Chateau Doisy Vedrines Sauternes 2016 - $55
Chateau Doisy Vedrines Sauternes 2016 is pure indulgence, packed with rich, fruity tones, refreshing acidity, and honeydew sweetness.
It's produced in Barsac, Bordeaux, France, with the ripest grapes from the late harvest.
Quince, stewed orange and marmalade aromas on the nose and honey, ginger, stone, apple, and peach on the palate give this wine incredible depth. It has an impressively long finish with notes of almond and lemon.
Lobster, shellfish, monkfish, and grilled chicken are perfect pairings for this wine, and it's also sweet enough as a dessert on its own.
1. Our Top Pick: Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes 2019 - $380
Our top pick is Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes 2019, a sublime vintage oozing with tropical fruits, honey, and white blossom.
It has 45% Sauvignon Blanc, the most in any modern Yquem, and 55% Semillon for natural sweetness.
What makes this wine so good? The aromatic nose of sweet pineapple, guava, lemongrass, and chalk, and a palate of tropical fruit, spice, and minerals.
The long finish is sublime, with notes of stone, honey, and sultanas.
This wine pairs beautifully with fresh fruit, strawberries and cream, apricot tart, cheesecake, baked plums, and fruity ice cream.
What is Sweet Wine?
Sweet wines have more residual sugar than dry wines. Traditionally, winemakers preserve sugar in wine by interrupting the fermentation process; yeast, which converts sugar to alcohol, is removed during fermentation, preserving the sugar.
To enhance sweetness naturally, winemakers use various techniques like sun-drying, using late harvest grapes, and affecting grapes with noble rot.
Another method is to add sweet components like sugar or honey at bottling; the wine is fermented to good dryness and then sweetened with sugar or syrup.
The word "sweet" is often misused in the wine world to describe notes and flavors, but a "sweet" wine simply has high sugar content.
Very sweet wines have 120-220 g/L of sugar, while sweet wines have 35-120 g/L. As you would expect, more sugar equals more calories - very sweet wines have around 160 calories per glass (3.5 fl. oz.), while sweet wines have around 72 calories per glass.
The sweetest variety is Ice Wine, made from grapes that have frozen over on the vine; the sugar and solids in the grapes do not freeze, but the water does, and the grapes are pressed to produce a highly concentrated, sugary grape juice.
Popular Sweet Wine Types
Sweet wines come in a variety of styles. These are the most commonly enjoyed sweet wines around the world.
Riesling is a white grape variety originating from Rhine, Germany. The wine has flowery, aromatic notes and high acidity.
Riesling is rarely exposed to oak barrels during fermentation, although some winemakers use new oak barrels, which impart less flavor. The grapes are harvested late in the season, as late as November in cooler years.
Riesling wine is aromatic with flavors of apple, apricot, peaches, and pears. It's considered sweet with high acidity, so it provides a balance edging towards sweet. It's perfect with fish, pasta, goat's cheese, and spicy food like Pad-Thai.
Moscato or Muscat is a grape family consisting of over 200 grape varieties, including white, yellow, pink, and near-black grapes, which vary in sweetness.
Moscato wine is considered very sweet, with a floral aroma and citrus and peach notes, edging towards orange blossom and nectarine. It is one of the zestiest sweet white wines with hints of Meyer lemon and a dash of lime.
Thanks to its sweetness and low alcohol content, Moscato is perfect as an aperitif to cakes and pairs beautifully with spicy Indian curries. It works best with opposing flavors like spicy, sour, salty, and bitter foods.
Gewurztraminer is a rose-colored grape originating from Tramin, Italy, but the modern variety gets its name from 16th-century Germany.
This aromatic classic is sweet and fruit-forward, with dominant flavors of lychee, grapefruit, and pineapple. Hints of berries, orange, and apricot, and aromas of tropical fruits and sweet spices add fantastic depth to this aromatic wine.
Gewurztraminer has low to moderate acidity, so it goes perfectly with smoked cheese and savory snacks. It can sometimes have a slightly fizzy profile from the grapes, which are higher in acidity than the average Moscato.
Sauternes is not a grape variety, but a sweet wine made from a combination of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes.
Most Sauternes wines are made in Bordeaux, France, home to the Bordeaux style of winemaking (blended wines). It qualifies as a very sweet wine, with flavors of honeyed apricots, peaches, marmalade, and toasted baking spices.
The Muscadelle grapes are affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot, which concentrates the grape's flavor, producing a sweet, aromatic grape juice. This wine goes best with fresh fruit, strawberries and cream, and fruity desserts.
White Port is a fortified wine from Portugal. It is fortified with clear brandy to neutralize the yeast and stop the sugars from turning into alcohol during fermentation.
The wine has aromas of honey and nut, with hints of apple and melon. The sweetest variety is Lágrima, used as a mixer in cocktails. Dryer varieties are still sweet, with a tangy minerality that brings the palate to life.
Notes of molasses and nutmeg are evident in wines fermented in oak barrels, while wines aged in new oak have a fruitier profile leaning towards orange and apricot. Because it is so sweet, White Port is best on its own or with desserts.
Ice wine is one of the sweetest white wines globally, produced with grapes that have frozen over and get pressed before they can thaw.
The main grapes for ice wine are Riesling and Vidal Blanc, but any varieties can be used, providing they are ripe and frozen. The sugars in the grapes don't freeze, so when pressed, you get a highly concentrated, sugary juice.
Ice wines are a dessert all on their own, but they also work with contrasting foods like Pad-Thai, Mexican food, and Cajun. It's too sickly to have with desserts.
Considered one of the finest sweet wines in the world, Tokaji Aszu (also known as Tokay wine) is a sweet white wine from Hungary, made with Aszu grapes from the Tokaj region.
The Aszu grapes are affected by noble rot and get harvested at the end of the season when they have ripened into shrivels. They get pressed slowly, and Tokay wine is made using juice from the first pressing (second pressing juices make a rarer wine called Fordítás).
Flavors of tangerine, apricot, honey, and ginger with notes of marzipan and almond shine through. The classic pairing with Tokaji Aszu is Foie Gras, but it also goes perfectly with pate, liver and onions, and chicken casseroles.
Vinsanto is a naturally sweet white wine from Santorini, Greece, where it is enjoyed as an aperitif to seafood and with Taramasalata.
The wine is traditionally made with sun-dried Assyrtiko and Aidani grapes. Sun-drying eliminates the ripened grapes' moisture, leaving only sugars and solids. The grapes are then pressed to release a sugary concentrate.
Vinsanto is full-bodied (high alcohol, full in the mouth) with aromas of hazelnut, caramel, tropical fruit, and apricot. On the palate, honey, roasted nuts, and sweet spices. We love it with blue cheese, nut-based tarts, and savory treats.
How is Sweet Wine Made?
Sweet wine is made in one of three ways:
- Add sweetness before fermentation
- Add sweetness during fermentation
- Add sweetness after fermentation
It's important to say that 'adding' sweetness to wine does not necessarily mean using additives.
It mostly includes natural sweetening methods like drying grapes, using noble rot, and fortifying the wine to stop fermentation early.
The traditional process involves killing, inhibiting, or removing yeast to stop sugars in the grape juice from being converted to alcohol.
1. Add Sweetness Before Fermentation
Method 1: Dry the Grapes
Sun-drying eliminates most moisture from the grapes, leaving behind sugar and solids that are pressed to release a highly concentrated, sugary grape juice.
Many wineries also dry grapes in lofts, which turns them into raisin-like dried grapes with an intense flavor profile akin to caramel.
Method 2: Freeze the Grapes
Grapes are frozen on the vine and picked and pressed while frozen; ice stays in the press, and the grape juice slowly flows out of the press.
Ice Wine is the only wine variety that uses frozen grapes, requiring a hard freeze of 17–18°F or colder after the grapes are ripe.
Method 3: Use Noble Rot
Noble rot (Botrytis cinerea) is a good fungus. It attacks healthy thin-skinned grapes, making them shrivel up, which concentrates sugars in the grapes.
Noble rot is used with Semillon, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat grapes. It imparts a honey flavor with a crisp, acidic finish.
2. Add Sweetness During Fermentation
Method 1: Filter the Yeast Out
There are three ways to filter yeast out:
- Pass the wine through a nominal filter to catch the yeast cells.
- Let the yeast settle at the bottom of the tank/barrel and decant the wine, leaving behind the yeast.
- Let yeast settle at the bottom of the tank and decant the dead yeast, leaving behind the wine (this requires bottom decanting).
Method 2: Fortify the Yeast Out
The yeast is neutralized and poisoned off with an injection of white brandy or another grape-based spirit, which kills off the yeast when the wine reaches 15% ABV.
In sweet wines, yeast is also sometimes inhibited from multiplying, growing, and re-starting fermentation with potassium sorbate.
We have a detailed guide to wine fortification that reveals all about the process.
3. Add Sweetness After Fermentation
Method 1: Add a Sweet Liquid
Adding a sweet liquid to wine after fermentation is called back sweetening, and it involves adding dosed sugar or sweetener to fermented wine.
Although it is a legitimate winemaking technique, back sweetening is frowned upon because the best times to sweeten wine are before and during fermentation.