9 Sweet Red Wines Every Wine Lover Should Try

9 Sweet Red Wines Every Wine Lover Should Try

McKenzie Hagan |

If you prefer your wine on the sweeter side, then you should get to know these nine sweet red wines. Ranging from our favorite sparkling red options and beautiful red dessert wines to full- and light-bodied classics, we’ve compiled a list of varietals everyone with a sweet tooth won’t be able to resist. Put your tried-and-true Pinot Noir or Merlot aside for the night, and discover a few new favorites.

How Is Sweet Red Wine Made?

There are several different methods used to create sweet red wine. 

Sometimes, winemakers will purposely kill the yeast in the wine, halting the fermentation process. This means that the yeast cannot convert all of the grape’s natural sugars into alcohol, creating a wine which is higher in residual sugar and tastes sweeter.

When it comes to creating a sweet sparkling red, winemakers take fermented wine and put it through a second fermentation. During this process, the producer will add a sugary wine mixture (called a dosage) to the wine, upping the sugar content and giving the wine its sparkle.

Other methods to create sweet red wines include using noble rot or botrytis. While noble rot is a fungus, winemakers can utilize it — the fungus perforates the grapes' skin, which causes water in the grape to evaporate. This means that the sugar in the grape juice is more concentrated and therefore sweeter.

Sweet red wines and sweet white wines are very similar in the way they are made. The only real difference is the inclusion of the grape skins in the production of red sweet wine. These grape skins not only give the wine their deep red color, but they also add tannins and other complex flavors to the mix.

Sweet Red Wines That Sparkle

Sparkling red wines are far less common than their white alternatives — it seems even the most passionate wine lovers haven’t always had the pleasure of a glass of red bubbles. 

While they may not be as popular as they once were, sweet sparkling reds can be incredibly delicious and are perfect for an outdoor dinner party.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorites.

1. Lambrusco

This italian sparkling red actually comes in several different sweetness styles, ranging from very dry to very sweet. If you're in the market for a nice sweet version look for the words "dulce" or "semi-seco," which mean sweet and semi-dry in Italian.

Tasting notes: blueberry, sweet cherry, red fruit, violet

ABV: Lambrusco is a great choice for those watching their alcohol intake; it comes in at about 10-12%.

Acidity: Medium-High

Tannins: Low-Medium

2. Brachetto d’Acqui

A delicious sweet sparkling red from Piedmont, Italy,Brachetto d’Acqui pairs perfectly with chocolate. This sweet yet complex wine is a lovely treat, and better yet, it’s so low in alcohol you could happily finish off the entire bottle.

Tasting notes: rose, raspberry, cotton candy, cherry

ABV: 5.5-6%

Acidity: Medium-High

Tannins: Low 

3. Sparkling Shiraz

Hailing from South Australia, sparkling Shiraz is a world away from its Italian cousins. With deep, savory flavors and plenty of tang, this bubbly treat pairs well with a range of BBQ options.

Tasting notes: blackberry, tobacco, pepper, licorice

ABV: 12.5%

Acidity: Medium

Tannins: Medium-High 

Full- and Medium-Bodied Sweet Red Wines

sweet red wine: person grabbing an olive from a bowl placed in a platter with a bottle of red wine from Usual Wines

Sweet red wines with a medium to full body usually taste fruity on the tongue, rather than overly sweet. If you’re not a fan of intense, robust reds like Merlot, you may prefer a slightly sweeter alternative.

Here are a few of our favorites.

4. Dolcetta

Another Italian beauty, this full-bodied red wine literally translates to "little sweet one." While it doesn’t scream sweet like some of the other wines on this list, Dolcetta is incredibly fruity.

Tasting notes: violet, plum, black pepper, blackberry

ABV: 11.5-13.5%

Acidity: Low-Medium

Tannins: Low

5. Dornfelder

While not very popular in the United States, Dornfelder is a sweet red wine that German wine drinkers can’t get enough of. Dornfelder comes in a range of styles from dry to semi-sweet to very sweet. It also has a low alcohol content and lots of fresh fruit flavors.

Tasting notes: cherry, blackberry, herbs, spices

ABV: 11.5-12%

Acidity: Medium

Tannins: Medium

Light-Bodied Sweet Red Wines

For those who love their wines light on the body and sweeter on the palate, these two delicious red wines are your best choice.

6. Beaujolais Nouveau

Produced in France, Beaujolais Nouveau is considered the world’s fastest wine because it can go from grape to glass in just 60 days. It’s a wonderfully fruity wine with low tannins and high acidity levels.

Tasting notes: candied fruit, figs, banana, bubblegum

ABV: 10-11.5%

Acidity: High

Tannins: Low

7. Gamay

While Beaujolais Nouveau is produced using Gamay grapes, the two wines are different because of the different ways they're produced. Nevertheless, if you’re on the lookout for a light-bodied red with fruity sweetness, Gamay just might be the ticket.

Tasting notes: pomegranate, violet, blackberry, potting soil

ABV: 10-11.5%

Acidity: High

Tannins: Low

Sweet Red Fortified Wines

Red wines aren’t always robust and tannic — some of the sweetest wines in the world are red! We’re huge fans of red dessert wines, but be warned, when we say sweet we mean sweet. Some ruby Ports have a similar sugar content to Coca Cola.

8. Ruby Port

Traditionally enjoyed as a dessert wine, ruby Port is a proud creation of Portugal. Although they come in a range of varieties, including white Port, rose Port, and tawny Port, Port wines are most popularly red.

Tasting notes: plum, chocolate, raisin, black cherry.

ABV: 15% and over

Acidity: Medium-High

Tannins: High

9. Black Muscat

Not quite as sweet or boozy as Port, black Muscat is a rare, sweet red wine that can be challenging to find. If you are so lucky, you can expect a highly aromatic, very sweet dessert wine with flavors of candied fruit and cinnamon.

Tasting notes: candied apple, rose, violet, cinnamon

ABV: 10%

Acidity: Medium

Tannins: Low

How to Serve Sweet Red Wine

For sparkling reds, such as Lambrusco, serve chilled just like you would a white sparkling wine. You can pair this bubbly red with a range of different dishes, but to keep it inline with its Italian roots, pizza is a great choice.

Light-, medium-, and full-bodied sweet reds are best served a little cooler than room temperature. Try to serve them in a glass with a wide bowl, so you can capture all of the wonderful aromas as you sip.

Fortified wines should always be served in a small dessert wine glass because they are highly alcoholic and a little goes a long way. Port, in particular, pairs beautifully with blue cheese, or for a super indulgent treat, sip it alongside a dessert that's equally sweet, such as chocolate cheesecake.

Sweet Dreams

woman sitting on the floor with a bottle of Red wine from Usual Wines

We hope we’ve spiked your interest with our list of sweet red wines, but this has merely scratched the surface of the wonderful options on the market. There are plenty of others to discover, including red blends and other sparkling beauties.

We understand that sweet reds are not for everyone, but for those who love fruity flavors like cherry, raspberry, and blackberry, they’re a welcome change from drier red wines. Sparkling wine lovers may enjoy stepping away from traditional white Proseccos or Champagnes, and trying a sparkling red instead.

Whatever your taste, we urge you to give sweet red wine a spin — you never know, you could discover a new favorite.

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