List of Sweet Red Wines

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Before tackling a list of sweet red wines, it might be wise to get a slightly better understand of what makes a wine red, what makes a wine sweet and what separates a “sweet” wine from a “dessert” wine.

Some grapes have a natural sweetness that becomes a recognizable and desired trait of the wine made from the grapes. According to experienced vintners a few varieties have more natural sweetness than others.

It is also possible to get different levels of sweetness depending on the growing conditions and the length of time grapes remain on the vine. “Fruity” wines will give the sensation of natural sweetness of the grape.

Where does the color come from?

A wine gets its red color from the color of the grape skin that is left in during the winemaking process. It is possible to make a white wine from a red grape if the skin is removed immediately so that no color is imparted to the liquid.

A sweet wine is not necessarily a “dessert” wine. There are ways to change the sugar content/sweetness of wines. Adding sugar is the most basic way to create something closer to a dessert or very-sweet wine. Sometimes water is removed from the process, thus increasing the sugar concentration.

Pouring red wine into a glass.

Pouring red wine

With these basic guidelines in mind, a sweet red wine has the natural color of the dark skins, natural sweetness of the grape and in many cases, added sweetness from additional sugar. There are dozens upon dozens of grape varieties, including numerous hybrid types.

A quick search for information on sweet red wines usually indicates that sweetness is not a desired characteristic for lovers of red wine. Requesting a sweet red wine will usually result in a true dessert wine or a Port, which have sweetness beyond the contribution of the grape. For those seeking a sweet red wine, it might be best to stay with something lighter in color that promises a lot of fruit taste.

Here are a few grape varieties, blends and types that might make the list that produces more fruity red wines. Understand that this is not a complete list and is not intended to represent all the varieties that could be included under the “sweet red wine” umbrella. Wines produced from these varieties and types could also be dry or semi-sweet.

List of sweet red wines

  • Barbera - wines from a particular region in Italy usually offer strong color and berry flavor.

  • Beaujolais - commonly referred to as a fresh red wine with strong presence of fruit.

  • Cabernet – different production methods, aging etc. result in full-bodied wines that can have strong fruit notes. Won’t necessarily satisfy a true “sweet” taste.

  • Grenache – this grape has found some new life, though many of the red wines from this grape are not on the sweet end of the scale.
  • Lambrusco - can be a red, sweet wine, again depending on treatment.

  • Madeira – some can be rich and sweet

  • Mourvedre – often spicy and berry-like.

  • Port – most often sweet and red, as well as fortified (alcohol added).

  • Rosé – may be referred to as a “blush” wine. Often presented as a sweet wine.

  • Syrah – this variety from an American winery might satisfy the desire for a slightly sweeter red wine, as will wines from the same grape grown in Australia.

  • Zinfandel – sometimes offered as a sweeter red wine.

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