Six styles of dessert wine to explore. Pexels


  • "Anything from [France's] Jura is cool these days," says Basile al Mileik, wine director at Brooklyn's Reynard, pointing to its version of dessert wine, macvin, which is fortified with brandy and usually infused with herbs. 
  • "The cool thing is, you can make macvin with both white and red wines - from Chardonnay or Sauvignon or Pinot Noir - and they're not overly sweet. They're the easiest to pair with."

Coteaux du Layon

  • These Loire Valley sweet wines are made from Chenin Blanc grapes that are infected with botrytis (aka noble rot) and left to dry a little on the vine, which concentrates the sugars in the remaining juice. 
  • "Waiting that long to harvest the grapes gives the wine a strong characteristic of saffron and buckwheat honey in the glass," says NoMad in Los Angeles, wine director Ryan Bailey. 
  • "Numerous times, I've caught myself describing these wines as a poor man's Sauternes, since you can get a full-sized bottle with 20-plus years of age on it for the price of a newly released Sauterne."

American sommeliers explain the variations of dessert wine you should be drinking.

  • "Everybody in France has figured out what to do with leftover grape must," says Roni Ginach of Michael's in Santa Monica, pointing to ratafia, a style of dessert wine made throughout the country (especially in Champagne and Burgundy). 
  • The grape musts are used to make a brandy, similar to grappa in Italy, and this is used to fortify sweet wines - a method of up-cycling remnants of winemaking. 
  • The ratafia is then aged in barrel, resulting in wines that have bright, fresh fruit character, with a mellow sweetness.

Clairette de Die

  • Rather than pouring dessert Champagnes at dessert, Bailey likes to pour this light sparkling wine from the Rhône Valley at the more approachable $12 a glass. 
  • The style, which is primarily made from the Muscat grape, tends to have vibrant, citrusy flavors, which make it perfect for lighter desserts, such as the NoMad's baked Alaska.

Tokaj Aszu

  • Although its dry wines are becoming popular of late, Hungary's Tokaj region was made famous for its aszu dessert wines, a style with a rich history as a favorite of European royalty in the 17th and 18th centuries. 
  • For obvious reasons, the wines, with deeply concentrated flavors of orchard fruit and honey, were barely produced after World War II, but they've seen a renaissance in the last 20 years.

Sweet Auslese Riesling

  • In no way are all German rieslings sweet, but the ones that are, such as the late-harvest Auslese, tend to have remarkable acidity, too, which keeps them lively and nice for pairing with food. 
  • NoMad's Bailey loves them with some age. "Our '89 Auslese is such a good value, and it's so fresh," he says of the $19 pour. He even likes it with more savory dishes.