|Dessert wines are sweet wines typically served with dessert, such as Sauternes. Despite the name, they are often best appreciated alone, or with fruit or bakery sweets. They are often high in alcohol strength.
There is no simple definition of a dessert wine.
In the UK, a dessert wine is considered to be any sweet wine drunk with a meal, as opposed to the white fortified wine drunk before the meal, and the red fortified wines drunk after it. Thus most fortified wines are regarded as distinct from dessert wines, but some of the less strong fortified white wines, such as sherry and Muscat, are regarded as honorary dessert wines.
In the United States, by contrast, a dessert wine is legally defined as any wine over 14% alcohol by volume, which includes all fortified wines - and is taxed at a higher rate as a result.
Generally consumed as an after dinner beverage, dessert wines are made the world over in varying styles and levels of complexity. Dessert wines are crafted from grapes with high concentrations of sugar whereas fortified wines refer to those ‘fortified’ or strengthened by the addition of spirit.
Dessert wines are usually made from white grapes, but have a deep yellow, gold or even brown colour in the bottle and the glass. Older, richer wines tend to have darker colours.
Sometimes referred to as “stickies”, dessert wines are traditionally made from grapes that are harvested later in the season. This allows the concentration of grape sugars in the berry and a naturally occurring fungus, botrytis cinerea to attack the grape, gradually drawing the moisture from the berry and intensifying the sugar concentration, acidity and fruit flavour.
Fermented in the same manner as conventional white wines, dessert wines tend to be intensely flavoured, deeply gold in colour with bouquets of dried apricots, rich sweet flavour and a sharp acid finish.
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