Ranging from medium-dry to rich, these wines are sweet from the residual sugar left in the wine after fermentation.
Sweet wines or dessert wines are produced in the same way as dry white wines; the difference lies in when the grapes are picked. By leaving the grapes on the vine for longer and harvesting them later in the season the grapes become fully ripe and develop much higher sugar contents.
When these high sugar content musts ferment, the yeast, which is converting the sugar to alcohol, tires quickly and the fermentation comes to a halt leaving behind unconverted natural sugars.
The most famous sweet wines like Château D’Yquem of Sauternes are made from grapes purposefully left on the vines waiting to pick up a type of rot called botrytis cinerea, better known as ‘noble rot’. This fungus dries out the grapes and gives them a much higher concentration of sugar as well as honey and apricot flavours but takes great skill and knowledge to bring about.
Sauternes is renowned for producing the best sweet wines in the world, though Alsace, the Loire valley and other regions of France produce outstanding examples. Only certain grape varieties are fit for producing sweet wines. Amongst these are Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Sweet wines naturally go well with sugary desserts and even cheese but also as an aperitif with dishes like foie gras. If not they are always delicious on their own. You want to serve these wines at 8-10°C.