America has a sweet tooth, but when it comes to wine, many tend to avoid bottles with a high sugar content. This makes sense considering the slew of one-note, saccharine-heavy examples on the market. But if you find a well-made, harmonious bottle, sweet wines can be some of the most complex and age-worthy wines in the world.
In sweet wines, balance is key. High acidity can offset the residual sugar (the natural sugars remaining post-fermentation) in the wine, keeping it light on your palate instead of cloying and syrupy. This is why many of the world’s best sweet wines are made with notoriously high-acid grapes like Riesling and Furmint.
Here at VinePair, we love embracing wines on the sweeter side, so we went ahead and tasted a wide variety and pared them down to the best the category has to offer. These bottles are perfect for dessert pairings, or maybe even indulging in a glass in lieu of dessert. From Canada to Friuli, Slovenia to the Finger Lakes, here are 15 of the best sweet wines to drink in 2024.
Table of Contents
Best Sweet Red Wines
Cline Family Cellars Late Harvest Mourvèdre 2019
Red dessert wine is not as well known as white or sparkling, but when it hits, it hits — and this one hits. The Cline family sources Mourvèdre grapes from the deep, sandy soil of California’s Contra Costa Valley for this late-harvest wine. There’s a bright pop of peppery, dark fruit on the nose. The palate is a joy with notes of plums and blackberries. There’s just the right amount of sweetness countered by fresh acidity.
Average price: $32
Best Sweet White Wines
Keuka Spring Vineyards Après 2021
Vignoles is one of the more well-known hybrid grapes, and it thrives in upstate New York. This delicious dessert wine comes from the banks of Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes. It has inviting notes of raw honeycomb on the nose. The palate has an intriguing texture, with wonderful acidity and a balanced finish.
Average price: $22
Rodica Yellow Muscat 2021
One of the oldest families of grapes on the planet, Muscat comes in many forms, ranging from dry to sweet and everything in between. This example finds the perfect middle ground, with a beeswax-like sweetness impeccably balanced by active natural acidity. The nose has notes of minerals and honey with refreshing hints of potpourri. The palate bursts with peaches and subtle flecks of pepper.
Average price: $25
Big Cork Vineyards Bank Road Vidal Blanc 2020
When it comes to hybrid grapes, Virginia is one of the most prominent areas for production and experimentation. But just north, in Maryland, we’re beginning to see the same push and this Vidal Blanc shows they are on the right track. This wine has a shy nose, but it’s the mouthfeel that sings with rich caramel notes. The palate is quite angular, with good acid to balance the sweetness.
Average price: $35
Lamoreaux Landing Riesling Ice 2022
Here’s a great example of how the Finger Lakes is killing it with frozen Riesling. This wine has wonderful notes of baked apple and honey on the nose with a hint of citrus peel. The palate is well balanced with plentiful acidity and harmonious fruit that fills the senses.
Average price: $38
Barboursville Vineyards Paxxito 2019
This historic Virginia estate is calling back to our wine history with this sweet wine, a style very popular around the founding of the U.S. A blend of the aromatic Muscat Ottonel and Vidal Blanc grapes, the nose wafts with aromas of acacia and honey. The palate is rich yet balanced with good acidity and an even finish.
Average price: $40
Stringer Cellars Late Harvest Viognier 2022
Viognier is super expressive. When made as a dry wine white it gives perfumed aromas and oily textures. As a sweet wine, it takes us on a different journey. This example from the Robert Young vineyard in Alexander Valley has a musky nose with notes of orange blossom, ginger, and chamomile tea. The fragrant nose is balanced on the palate with great acidity, breaking through the wine’s viscosity.
Average price: $50
Mazza Vineyards Ice Wine of Vidal Blanc 2018
Hybrids are a big part of our American wine history. In the past few years, the industry has been celebrating these varieties more and we’re here for it. They thrive in the cool climates of the Northeast, and this Vidal ice wine from Pennsylvania is a great example of how delicious they can be. The nose is well developed with aged aromas of caramel and brûléed pear. The palate is inviting with a soft, creamy mouthfeel and balanced acidity. Welcome to hybrids.
Average price: $55
Sheldrake Point Riesling Ice Wine 2020
High-acid varieties grown in very cool climates make for great ice wine, and New York’s Finger Lakes region is uniquely suited to make stunning wines in this style. This Riesling ice wine from Sheldrake Point is one of our favorites from the Empire State. It has a well-balanced nose with hints of white pepper, stone fruit, agave, and some ginger. The palate is creamy with concentrated tropical fruit notes and amazing acidity. Enjoy this with a rich cheese like Stilton.
Average price: $60
Balletto Vineyards Harvest Select Noble B Chardonnay 2021
This is a first for us here at VinePair. We’ve tasted many sweet wines, but never one made from the Chardonnay grape. And after tasting this we hope to see more, cuz wow, this bottle from the Russian River Valley is good. It’s made with selectively harvested Chardonnay grapes that have been affected by botrytis (otherwise known as “noble rot”), which is a component in the production of the world’s most renowned sweet wines like Sauternes and Tokaji. It welcomes the senses with warming honeyed notes and hints of toasted coconut. The palate is soft and viscous with nice weight and just the right amount of acidity.
Average price: $65
Materra Cunat Family Vineyards Amabie Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2022
The Cunat family sets a standard here for late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc from California. It has classic green pepper aromas that you would expect from this grape, but coated with a dollop of honey. The palate is all about texture with a viscous mouthfeel lifted by nice acidity. What an awesome wine.
Average price: $68
Lenkey Pincészet Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2000
Hungary is known for producing some of the most age-worthy and prestigious sweet wines in the world. It’s a tradition going back centuries and this bottle from 2000 will send you back in time. The nose has salted caramel and citrus peel notes with hints of white pepper. The palate brings a dose of caramelized fruit flavor that adds to its complexity. The acidity is still lively, lifting up the richness on the palate.
Average price: $95
Livio Felluga Picolit 2015
Picolit, a variety native to Italy’s Friuli region, is named for its small grape bunches. The conditions need to be just right to produce a perfect Picolit, so these wines aren’t made every year. It’s when the vintage is just right that these little berries are coaxed into a sweet, late-harvest wine. It’s a rare treat and Livio Felluga sets the standard when it comes to quality. This wine has a comforting nose with notes of caramel, pear brandy, and almonds. It has an exceptional, focused palate that finds the optimal balance between sweetness and acidity.
Average price: $125
Best Sparkling Sweet Wines
Ceretto I Vignaioli di Santo Stefano Moscato d’Asti 2022
Asti, an ancient town in the heart of Piedmont’s wine country, is the first documented home of the Moscato grape. This naturally effervescent wine is how we first fell in love with this grape, and today wines from this region are better than ever. The nose is expressive with floral notes and pops of orange zest and honey. The palate is very balanced with calm, frothing bubbles and a nice harmony between sugar and acidity.
Average price: $24
Inniskillin Sparkling Icewine 2022
The cold climate in our neighbor to the north makes it another great region for producing hybrid grapes and ice wine. Inniskillin was the first estate winery in Canada and we always enjoy their ice wine lineup. Especially when they add some sparkle. This bubbly bottle has ripe stone fruit on the nose with slight white pepper and creamy agave notes. The sweetness on the palate is balanced by lively bubbles that rise through the viscosity. That depth with those bubbles is so harmonious.
Average price: $90
How is sweet wine made?
There are several different techniques that can be used to make sweet wine. Wines can be made sweet from harvesting the grape later in the growing season to let them accumulate more sugars (these are known as late-harvest wines), harvesting the grapes when they’re frozen (these are known as ice wines), or by selecting grapes that have been affected by botrytis, a fungus also known as “noble rot” that concentrates sugars in the grape. Further explanation can be found here.
Where do sweet wines come from?
Sweet wines can be made in any region, but they are common in cooler-climate regions like Germany, New York, and Canada. Some of the world’s most famous sweet wines also come from Hungary and France’s Bordeaux. There are also great dessert wines coming out of Italy, where grapes can be dried using the passito method to retain sweetness.
Why are sweet wines so expensive?
Sweet wines can get pretty pricey, but that’s usually because they are so rare. The grapes used to make these wines are usually specially selected due to certain growing conditions or need to go through a time-consuming winemaking method, so there’s a limited amount of these wines produced.
VinePair’s Tasting Methodology
Throughout the year, VinePair conducts numerous tastings for our popular Buy This Booze column, and wine and spirits reviews. Our mission is to provide a clear, reliable source of information for drinkers, providing an overview applicable to day-to-day buying and drinking.
Tastings are not typically conducted blind. In alignment with our reviews mission, we believe in purposefully tasting all products as our readers typically would, with full knowledge of the producer, the region, and the price.
For Buy This Booze roundups, we typically include a maximum of one expression per brand, though we do allow multiple products from the same production facility (i.e., released under different labels).
In creating this list of the best sweet wines, we took into account various criteria before making our final decisions. Our goal was to showcase a diverse range of wines in different styles and from different regions, at a range of different prices, to best suit every possible occasion.