Sweet/Semi-Sweet Wine Recommendations

Mikey(SoCal-Z10-22/23)January 17, 2006

We are only now beginning to enjoy wine. Neither of us like dry wines. Can you recommend fruity wine varieties that are sweet or semi-sweet? Thanks - Mike

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Do you mean store bought or home made Many people start off with sweet wines and as their palate becomes educated make the switch to dry wines. I still enjoy a good off dry wine and sometimes like a sweet wine, Ports are my favorites of all tho and they are very sweet.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2006 at 11:14AM
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Ideefixe(SoCal/Sunset 23)

Try Reisling (good with spicy food) or Sauternes( honey sweet, like a dessert wine).

Here's some more information that might help you choose.

Here is a link that might be useful: why wines are sweet

    Bookmark   January 17, 2006 at 3:40PM
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For white wines, I have found that "oaky" can also mean dry... from the tannins from the oak... I like chardonnays that are buttery, not oaky... seems to be less "dry". Not sure if that gives you what you want, but might help you if you want to drink something that is not dry but not sweet.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2006 at 5:26PM
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Dessert-sweet: French Sauternes, Muscat (moscado, moscato), German Eiswein (Ice wine), Italian Recioto.

Semi-sweet: German Riesling, Spatlese, Italian Amarones.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2006 at 6:37PM
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femmelady(St. Louis)

You can also look for late harvest zinfandels, such as EdMeades, which is wonderful. We prefer dry red, but we'll have a late harvest with a chocolate based dessert - what a great paring!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 12:52PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Mikey: you should sit for hours contemplating your garden with a glass (or bottle) of a nice Washington state varietal, like a Chenin Blanc from Snoqualmie or Chateau Ste. Michelle. Or try a Johannisberg Riesling from these same vineyards, or from Columbia Crest. Or pick your favorite CA label that produces these varietals.

I wish I was at home while answering this; I'd add another volume or two, but here goes:

Many of the German-origin white wines, as well as those produced elsewhere in the world from these German grapes, will be in the off-dry to semisweet to sweet style. These grapes include Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Scheurebe, Ortega, Huxelrebe, Siegerrebe, Rulander, and Silvaner. The range of "sweetness" tends to rise (but this is NOT hard and fast; it depends on the vintner's style) with the categories from Kabinett; Spatlese; Auslese; Beerenauslese; Trockenbeerenauslese; to finally the richest rarest divine elixir of Eiswein.

France may best be known for Sauternes, as mentioned above, but also for Vouvray (Loire valley, I think) which may be in a price point more people may favor.

Greece has its Samos, Mavrodaphnos, and Retsina (may get a little off on spelling here; I've not got bottles in front of me). Liquid gold in a glass, with a classy vintage.

I think it is Hungary that produces the Tokaji (again, sp?) which are wonderfully rich sweet dessert wines. I am holding some bottles from the year my bride consented to "cleave unto me" to break open when we've got 20 under our belts (not far off now!).

In the U.S., many regions are producing wines in this class. The Finger Lakes area of NY has a firmly entrenched industry in these types, and grape varieties performing well there include Riesling, Niagara, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Vignoles, and others. Many of these incarnations are used around the U.S. in lesser known wine regions that don't have the classic European conditions replicated in CA. Some I've tried, happily, include the AVA of the Missouri River valley in MO; MD; VA; UT; CO; and NM.

Go up to the Great White North (wear your toque!) to try the Niagara Peninsula's fine assortment of vineyards producing ice wines. Inniskillen is probably best known, but there's a host more. Riesling and Vidal Blanc are among them.

Expand your horizons to get off the beaten path, and you'll find that there are treasures out there to enjoy that you might not have imagined.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 5:50PM
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Thanks for all of the recommendations. I've done a lot of copy/paste to save your information. - Mike

    Bookmark   January 21, 2006 at 10:00PM
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francis_eric(5 Illinois)

Hi I don't like sweet wine, but thanks I have problems always getting sweet wine so I will look out for those when I have the time to read more of the posts.

Mikey the good thing about liking sweet wine is if you buy a dry one you can sweetin when you drink it.

Hope this Helps.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 9:20AM
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Have you considered a good ice wine? We really like that for desserts. A favorite is Peller Estates from Niagara On The Lake. They have a great cabernet that is a wonderfully sweet ice wine.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 3:44PM
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pink_warm_mama_1(Z4 Maine)

Robynlacy - can you identify for me a "buttery" chardonney please? Thank you. I like a medium sweet medium dry.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2006 at 1:04PM
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I am sorta new to wines as well and have found the late harvest rieslings to be some of my favorites, especially ones from Hogue.
Several moscatos and white zinfandels are nice too.
Arbor Mist Sangria Zinfandel is a recent favorite.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 3:03PM
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I love Muscat for a sweet dessert wine. The best I found was a winery in Ontario California and it was less than 6.00 a bottle. The name began with a G but i cant remember....i do know they deliver though, for those not in California

    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 1:43AM
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msprettyky(Z6 KY)

I like lambrusco...goes with just about anything. Hubby likes it too.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 10:47AM
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Bizzar: What is the name of that winery in Ontario. Ontario is only an hour's drive from me.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 10:58PM
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viburnumvalley gave you some interesting choices. Remember that a wine is sweet if some residual sugar (RS) is left in the wine after fermentation. If it is fermented until there is no RS, the wine will be called "dry". Germany has very exact rules, but to Americans they are not necessarily clear. The grapes can be picked at various sugar levels - the sugar increases as the grapes get riper and riper. Then those wines can be fermented until they are dry, called "trocken", or halb trocken. So you can get a spatlese, which will have a lot of sugar at harvest, but if the winemaker wants to, he can ferment it all the way to dry and that wine will not taste sweet.

But Eiswein is not the next level up from Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) The TBA is made by a fungus that attacks the grapes. It is a kind of botrytis, or mold, called "noble rot". It dries the grapes and makes them taste very much like raisins, and it also adds its own flavors. The German levels of sweetness refer to how dry the berries get. Eiswein is made by leaving berries on the vine until they freeze and pressing the frozen juice. Dissolved sugar keeps some from being completely iced and this is what comes out - much more concentrated than if the rest of the water had not formed ice. Those berries don't need to have any botrytis. In both cases - botrytis and ice, the amount of juice is reduced and the wine is thus more expensive.

Vouvray comes from the Loire valley. Generally very dry, almost lemony wines. But the Loire also gets botrytis - you need a river or water source. And those very tart grapes, when attacked by botrytis, make very sweet wine. So you can get some very good sweets from the Loire.

Sauternes/Barsac are regions in Bordeaux. They typically grow white grapes - semillion and sauvignon blanc. The river allows the botrytis to form and the clusters become moldy then are pressed. These can be super expensive - the 2005 Chateau d'Yquem is available as a future for $500 / bottle.

Tokaj is the name of the town, the wine named there is Tokaji. The famous wine is Tokaji-aszu. Also made w botrytized grapes but in this case they also make a dry white. They pick the INDIVIDUAL berries and store them until ready. Then they mash these up and soak that paste in the dry wine. These wines are measured by the amount of sugar. The pails are called puttony, so you can get 3,4,5, 6 puttonyos wine. THat used to mean that they took 3,4,5,6 pails of mashed raisins and soaked them in a barrel of wine. Now it is based on sugar. But at the upper levels, you can have wine that has as much sugar as honey! These are truly great - I expect to be back there in about 2 weeks to get some more.

Most Australian rieslings are very dry unless otherwise indicated. May Americna rieslings have enough residual sugar to taste a bit sweet.

Port is made by adding alcohol into partly fermented grape juice. Remember, fermenting is the process of converting the sugar to alcohol, so if it is stopped, the juice remains sweet.

In Italy they make the vin santos - the grapes are air dried to concentrate the flavors, unlike the botrytis method in Austria, Hungary, France and Germany. Spain has some of the PX sherries made in a similar way, but also fortified.

All of the above are for very sweet wines. You can also get late harvest wines - left on the vine until the grapes are really ripe, they produce sweeter wine.

And you can find the undrinkable non-wines that they sell in supermarkets - usually have a lot of sugar and flavors added. Not really wine.

But don't forget that fruitiness is often perceived as sweet. So a dry wine that has lots of fruit, is often considered sweet. Around $100 you can find Gemstone Facets, Pax syrahs, or other big California wines - some people consider them sweet and soft. They are actually dry wines made from super ripe fruit. At a much lower level, look for Bodegas Arrocal or something similar from Spain - about $10, no oak, and very ripe.

Muscat as a grape smells like flowers. Beautiful. But it is not always made sweet. It is often a very dry wine that smells floral. Ditto viognier. Muscat is sometimes used in Tokaji-aszu, and those have fantastic aromatics.

Chardonnay, and any wine for that matter, can be made in a number of ways and can be fermented and/or stored in oak barrels. The stereotype California chardonnay is buttery and tastes like vanilla. That vanilla comes from oak. The butter can come from oak, but also malolactic fermentation makes the wine much softer and gives some of that quality. Remember, malolactic fermentation is the conversion of malic to lactic acid and "lactic" means milk. So you get a buttery quality.

The oak usually does not impart much tannin to chardonnay. Try Martin Ray from Russian River in Sonoma - about $15. In Burgundy, the French typcially do not use much or any oak for their chardonnay and the result is a much more tart and dry wine. Many California wineries are making unoaked chardonnay as well. Morgan for example. You can try one of these against say, Chateau St Michelle from Washington. Both good, both under $20 or even $15, and one w/out and one w oak.

Oak itself is too big a deal to get into here, but people discuss the differences between French and American oak, and in some cases Hungarian and Slovenian. Suffice it to say, whatever anyone tells you, most of it is nonsense. Especially coming from "experts". People in the oak business will explain that the best palates cannot really discern differences. Most of what we consider differences have to do with cooperage and the trees that were used. But it is not true that American oak is vanilla and French oak is spicy. Get good oak and have the same cooper make the barrels and no sommellier will ever be able to tell you which is which based on country. I've tried and was humbled.

Anyway, move beyond sweet wines and you will be surprised. A very nice dry shiraz, for example, can taste very fruity and full of blueberries and black cherries if you eat it with a piece of sharp aged white cheddar for example.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 2:10PM
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For sweet dessert wine, I prefer moscato. Robert Mondavi and Sterling both make excellent ones.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 11:30AM
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V. Sattui winery in CA has a nice wine called Gamay (the grape from which beaujalais is made). They only sell their wines at their winery or by mail order, though.

I second the recommendation for the Chateau Ste Michelle reisling.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 5:21PM
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One of the best sweet wines we've found is Honeywood Niagra. It's a Washington wine. My mother, who hates wine, loves it. You'll find it doesn't have the "winey" taste, yet doesn't remind you of fruit juice, like so many of the fruit (pear, rhubarb, peach, raspberry, etc) wines do. Fred Meyer has started stocking it @ $8.50 a bottle, which is a good price. We paid $12 for it at the winery.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 10:59PM
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You might try Felipe Winery in Etiwanda, Ca. if its still there. I heard they are still doing wine. Years ago it was Regina Bros. and I worked there for a long time. Every Friday they would open boxes of wine for the employees to help themselves to a bottle or two free. Oh for the good ole days.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2010 at 5:30PM
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