Definition of Dessert Wine

Definition of Dessert Wine – Day 19

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Wine of the Day

Bonotto delle Tezza Raboso Passito 2010
Find a Passito at Wine.Com

You may have to ask your local store for this, or a “raisin wine” made from red grapes.


Raisins, Dried Fruit, Jam

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Video Transcript

Hello again!

I’m Annie Shapero, certified sommelier. And welcome to Day 19! Today we have a super sweet episode dedicated to Dessert Wine.   

I brought a beautiful bottle of Passito, An Italian Dessert wine.

Have you ever had one of these? They come in all colors. Let me know in the comments if you have. Maybe you think you don’t like sweet wine…. Prepare to have your mind blown. Let’s get to it. (walk off)

TITLE/SCREEN: Day 19 – Definition of Dessert Wine

(Walk on) In traditional, western fine dining, you have appetizers, first and second courses, and dessert.  Wine has developed in the same way.


There are super light-bodied wines with a dry, mineral finish, designed to get your palate ready and fire up your appetite. 

TITLE/SCREEN: Food & Wine Pairing

Then, as you now know, there is a whole spectrum of wine to accompany different kinds of food, with characteristics to match, from delicate and aromatic whites to big, robust reds with a long finish.


But what about dessert?  There’s a good chance you’re not even hungry by the time you get to dessert, which might explain why there is such a vast array of dessert wines out there, ranging from super light, crisp, and bubbly to intense, rich, and aromatic.

Whether you’re having that slice of pie, a cheese plate, or nothing at all…. there is a dessert wine for you.

TITLE/SCREEN: (Find) your sweet spot

Today I brought a Passito di Raboso, which might not be easy to find. Let me know in the comments what you found for this lesson!

As always, I brought some scent notes to help train your nose, including dried fruit and jam.

Dessert wine is sweet wine.  Plain and simple.


But That doesn’t mean it can’t be bright and fresh, or high in alcohol. In fact, some Dessert wines have alcohol added in order to stop fermentation, extend shelf life and increase aromas.


These are called Fortified wines and they’re coming up in the next episode, DAY 20.

Just a reminder, it’s not too late to subscribe to this channel for more like this, and enroll in DiVino Wine school to get a head’s up on what we’re tasting and smelling in each class.  The link is right down there.

TITLE/SCREEN: Subscribe & Enroll (arrow)

There a number of ways to create sweet wines and some of them may surprise you.

TITLE/SCREEN: (check the song, sugar on me) Pour some sugar on me.

You can add sugar or a blend of sugar and wine back in, as they do in Champagne and sparkling wines to create a demi sec, or off-dry or very sweet style.

This sweet little trick is called Liqueur d’expédition:

TITLE/SCREEN: Liqueur d’Expédition

We talked about sparkling wines on DAY 5 so definitely check it out if you need a refresher course.  The link is in the description.

Title slide from DAY 5 (novella)

TITLE/SCREEN: Sweet Sparkling Wines (list/ bullets)

Spumante d’Asti

Demi Sec Vouvray

demi sec Champagne

Examples of sweet sparkling wines include: Spumante d’Asti (which is made from Moscato), Demi Sec Vouvray, demi sec Champagne, and a whole host of others ranging from very sweet to something lighter and fresher.

TITLE/SCREEN: Sweet Still Wines

You can also make sweet still wines. These are often lower in alcohol.

In this case, the winemaker simply stops the fermentation early.

Remember the science?  In alcoholic fermentation, less alcohol means more sugar.

TITLE/SCREEN: In alcoholic fermentation, less alcohol means more sugar.

They do this by lowering the temperature. Some like it hot, and Yeast is one of those things.  I am also one of those things.

This kind of sweet wine is everywhere, and you can order them or shop for them by asking for an off-dry or sweeter version of white wines like Riesling, Viognier, and even red wines.

TITLE/SCREEN:  Ask for an off-dry or sweet version.

The USA produces sweet wine like crazy.

My home state of Missouri, where we are filming these videos, makes lightly sweet white wines in the tradition of their German heritage.

Seyval, Vignoles, and Vidal all come in off-dry versions.

TITLE/SCREEN:  Seyval, Vignoles, and Vidal all come in off-dry versions.

TITLE/SCREEN:  Not all dessert wines are sugar bombs.

Dessert wines may be sweet, but depending on multiple factors, like the type and ripeness of the grape, and the climate, they can still possess great acidity for balance and will not necessarily overwhelm your palate with sugar.  Imagine a cold and juicy slice of pineapple. It’s sweet, but it’s tart at the same time.

TITLE/SCREEN:  Remember the pineapple.

Moving up the sugar ladder, there are a number of dessert winemaking techniques that utilize the power of nature.


Ice wine or Eiswein is made from froze and very aromatic grapes. These wines are rare and expensive because they are only made when a vineyard freezes following peak harvest season.

The grapes are picked and crushed immediately to preserve maximum aromas and crispness.  Most ice wines come from cool climate wine regions like Germany and Canada, but they are experimenting in our country in New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and several other states.

If the timing is right and the grapes survive the frost, an experienced winemaker will know what to do.

Title Screen: Late Harvest Wines

For example, late harvest wines are made from grapes that ripen on the vine until they are oozing with sugar and on their way to being raisins.  

They are naturally sweeter and there is a concentration of aroma in the skins.  Literally, eat a raisin. I brought some today as part of this episode! Raisin notes are pervasive in both dessert wines and fortified wines.

This wine screaming raisin! (sniff it)

TITLE/SCREEN:   Straw Wines

Straw wines, like the one I brought today, are harvested and then dried – using a number of techniques – until they are almost raisins.  In much of the Mediterranean and throughout Europe the grapes are laid out on straw mats or held in crates in a drafty room until they start to dry.

*Optional graphic of grapes drying.

These wines are called Passito or Passiti, in Italian, Vin de Paille in French, and Strohwein in German.  They have intense aromas of dried fruit – obviously –  they are dried fruit – and a rich, satiny, viscosity thanks to all the sugar.

This wine comes from Veneto in north eastern Italy and is made from the red Raboso grape. The grapes are laid out to dry for about 4 months, and then fermented, and aged in oak barrels for two years!

The aromas are intense. Dried fruit, a little vanilla, along with Mediterranean  herbs. The Grapes have a thick skins and that comes through on the palate with acidity and tannin – along with some tannin from the oak aging, which makes this wine a circle of sweet and tart! It’s very balanced.

Let me know what dessert wine you tried today in the comments.


And then there is the noble rot. Sounds very appetizing doesn’t it?

Would you believe that the world’s most expensive white wine is in this category?

According the Guinness book of World Records, a bottle of Château d’Yquem 1811   Sauturnes sold for over $ 100,000.

TITLE/SCREEN:   Sauturnes is one example of dessert wines effected by noble rot.

A lot can go wrong in the vineyard, damp conditions crowded grape clusters are the perfect place for mold to grow.  

Growers do everything in their power to prevent this, but there is one exception. Botrytis cinerea looks disgusting but imparts a unique spicy sweetness to the wine.

Sauternes, the one I mentioned, is made from Semillon and Sauvignon blanc Grapes,

in the Bordeaux region of France.  It’s often referred to as liquid gold for its striking brightness yellow color and amazing aromas of honeysuckle and a piquant, somewhat ginger quality. It is sweet and utterly busting with crispness at the same time.

It’s like drinking a glass of sunshine.

My sweet tooth is tingling. But really I’m dying to eat some cheese.  Some the world’s best pairings are dessert wines and cheese.

We’ll talk more of that in the final episode, [Day 21 – Learn About Food and Wine] so don’t forget to subscribe and enroll so you can participate from home, and keep all the class notes. It’s free!

See you next time, when we turn up the volume. Alcohol by volume that is…. On DAY 20 –  all about Fortified Wines…  See you then!

END TITLE/SCREEN: Wine is a language. Learn how to speak it.

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