With its long lunches and decadent dinners, Christmas is undoubtedly a time for indulgence. And few bottles scream ‘indulgent’ like a sweet wine.
Whether it’s a golden Sauternes from Bordeaux or a Hungarian Tokaji to accompany dessert, or a richer Italian appassimento or New World sticky to sip by the fireside, sweet wines are part of many families’ Christmas routines. Yet those traditional niches are just the tip of this sugary iceberg.
Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for Peter Ranscombe’s best sweet wines from around the world
Sweeter Champagnes not only make fine food matches but also provide a warming aperitif to kick off an evening, while the vibrant red hues of a sparkling Shiraz can become a real talking point to get a party started. Once the kids are tucked up in bed, a sweet red can be the ideal accompaniment when raiding that favourite chocolate selection box.
In Europe, wines stop being ‘dry’ if they contain more than four grams of residual sugar in each litre of liquid – a measure of the sweetness left over after sugars in the grapes’ juice are fermented into alcohol.
By the time that residual sugar reaches 45g/L, wines are classed as sweet. Other factors play tricks with our tastebuds though: high acidity masks sweetness, while the palate also perceives alcohol itself as sweet.