"Beer is made by Men, Wine by God" - Martin Luther
Dessert wines are starkly different from your regular wines, because they are much sweeter and not as acidic. While regular wines are served before or during a meal, these are always served after a meal.
It is very common for some hosts to serve dessert wine along with dessert, as the wine accentuates the taste of certain types of desserts. Also this wine is savored, and enjoyed in small sips, rather than gulped down in gallons!
The reason for the sweetness is the amount of sugar that is left over in the wine during and after the wine fermentation process. In fact, this wine is used as a substitute for the regular dessert, and leaves a sweet lingering aftertaste in your mouth.
There is no fixed universal classification of wines, and each country classifies the types of wines differently. So, the list for different countries may be slightly different from each other. For instance, in the US any wine with over 14% alcohol by volume is classified as a dessert wine. But in Europe, dessert wines contain almost half as much alcohol.
In general however, dessert wines, as the name suggests, is a lot sweeter than the usual wine. Red wine too, is often called a dessert wine, because unlike white wine, which is usually had before a meal, red wine is had after a meal to complete the meal.
Dessert wine is produced from the same kind of grapes that are used to produce red wine. The grapes however, are left on the vines for longer, where they ripen further, and the sugar content too increases. The wine making process is essentially the same as that used to produce the other types of wines.
Types of Dessert Wines
This is one of the most popular dessert wines, but is not made as commonly as sweet white wine.The sweetness is derived from leaving behind the sugars in grapes in the wine while making it, or by adding more sugar into the mixture. Sweet red wine will either come as fortified wine (when a beverage like brandy is added to it), or as a late harvest wine.
The two most common types of sweet red wine are Port and Banyuls. Both use different types of grapes, but the process of fermentation is similar. In order to make the wine sweeter, the fermentation process is stopped early, and brandy is added to it. Keeping the wine bottled for a lesser amount of time also results in it being sweeter.
Sweet white wine is the most commonly made and consumed wine. The process of making it is similar to that of sweet red wine, and can be fortified by adding brandy. The level of sweetness can be controlled, and ranges from a dry sweetness to a syrupy sweetness. Two of the most common sweet white wines are Madeira and Sherry; very popular all around the world.
Ice wine is made in extremely cold regions, and also called cold weather wine. They are most commonly fermented in Germany and the cold Niagara region of Canada. Even though the grapes are ripe, they are left on the vines through the winter to freeze. Once they are completely frozen, they are picked and squeezed.
The resultant wine is very sweet, because the squeezed grapes mainly consist of grape sugar and grape juice. Some of the most popular ones are Vidal, Riesling, and Scheurebe.
Any wine that is made from grapes that are left on the vines even after they have ripened, is known as a late harvest wine. Delaying the harvesting of the grapes makes sure that there is a lot more sugar in the grapes, and in turn makes the wine all the more sweeter. Almost all the sweet wines that come under dessert wines, are late harvest wines.
This wine is loved by the French wine connoisseurs. Noble rot or Botrytis cinerea, is a type of fungus that grows on the grapes. This causes the grapes to shrivel and dehydrate. As they have a much higher concentration of sugar, the wine produced from these grapes is therefore very sweet, and the fungus, itself, adds to the flavor of the wine.
Benjamin Franklin said, "Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy".
The smaller bottles of dessert wines (not to mention the pricey tags!), and the sweet lingering taste, should also make sure that you don't really overindulge, at the same time it should do just enough to get your 'spirits' up. Cheers.