Wine and food pairing tips
Apéritif & Dessert wines
  French Sweet Wines  
Sweet wine typs

Sweet Wine Styles

Late Harvest wines are sweet or off-dry wines made from grapes left on the vines to overripen, and thereby achieve higher levels of natural sugar. They offer a good balance of sweetness and acidity.
Botrytis Cinerea or Noble Rot wines made from Botrytis-affected grapes. They are rich and concentrated sweet dessert wines, which are rare and expensive.
Fortified Wines are made by adding alcohol to the wine during the fermentation process to preserve the sweetness of the wine.
Passerillé or dried grape wines are made from grapes that have been air dried or left to dehydrate on the vine to increase the sugar concentration.
Vin de Liquor or Liquor wines Made from grape juice blended with liquor (e.g Cognac, Eau de Vie).

Tips: Such wines make an elegant partner for certain exotic dishes, foie gras and desserts. Serve chilled (10-12 degrees C).
Vendanges tardives or Late Harvest

Vendanges Tardives (VT)

Sweet or off-dry wines produced in the Alsace and Alsace Grand Cru appellations from late harvested overripe grapes. The grape varieties permitted are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, or Pinot Gris. The Vendanges Tardives or VT term has been legally defined in Alsace, but now it is also used in other regions of France.

Tips: Such wines make an elegant partner for certain exotic dishes, foie gras and desserts that are not overly sweet. Serve chilled (10-12 degrees C).
Botrytis cinerea, Noble rot grapes

Sauternes / Barsac

Sauternes is the world's best known sweet wine. The Sauternes AOC is in the Graves district of the Bordeaux region. It includes the 5 communes of Barsac, Bommes, Fargues, Preignac and Sauternes near the Garonne river. Although Barsac is in Sauternes, its wines can be labeled either Barsac (its own appellation) or Sauternes.
Semillon is the dominant Sauternes grape variey, blended with some Sauvignon Blanc and occasionally with a small amount of Muscadelle. In a good vintage year these grapes are infected by the Botrytis Cinerea fungus caused by the mist from the Céron river. This beneficial mold causes grapes to shrivel, leaving sweet and juicy fruit full of rich concentrated flavor. The Botrytis Cinerea contributes a desirable spicy and complex nature to both aroma and flavor. The result is a rare and expensive sweet wine with deep gold color, richly concentrated flavor and a lively acid finish with aromas of dried apricots.

Tips: The sweet texture with delicate acidic balance makes Sauternes an ideal wine to enjoy with Foie gras (goose liver) or Duck à l'orange. But it also can be enjoyed with sweet desserts or on its own.
Muscat wine

Fortified Wines

Muscat is a fortified white wine made from "Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains", one of the few grapes to produce wine with the same aromas as the grape itself. It also has rich nose of dried fruits, raisins and oranges.
The best known are produced in southern France, under the AOC Muscat-de-Beaumes-de-Venise, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Lunel and Muscat de Rivesaltes.
Banyuls and Maury are two "vins doux naturels" produced predominantly from the Grenache varieties in the Roussillon appellations, in red, Rosé and white variants. In their youth, these wines are tannic and fruity, becoming more savory and deep in color as they age.

Tips: These wines are sweet to very sweet and are wonderful with a variety of fruity desserts, but they are also delight to drink on their own. Banyuls and Maury are considered the best match for chocolate. Serve chilled (8-10 degrees C) but not iced.
Jura Vin de Paille aperitif or desseret wine

Vin de Paille

Vin de Paille or "Straw Wine" is a rich, deep golden or amber, sweet dessert wine made in small quantities by only some producers because of the laborious process. Harvested by hand, the Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard grapes are selected and picked individually at the beginning of the harvest to produce this specialty of the Jura. Once dried on straw bed, nowadays the grapes are either left on racks or suspended in a ventilated place, for 2 months or more, where they reach 80% dehydration. After pressing the grapes, 18 liters of must is obtained for 100 kg (220 lb.) of grapes which then ferments slowly before ageing in oak casks for 2 to 3 years. It reaches between 15 and 17 percent alcohol content.

Tips: Quite rare and expensive, this wine is a great pick me up with medicinal benefits. It is best served chilled as an apéritif, dessert wine or with "Foie Gras" (goose liver). It can be kept for 50 years.
Macvin sweet wine

Vin de Liqueur

Regional French aperitif wines made by blending of grape juice or lightly fermented grape must and eau-de-vie (liquor). They are produced in different styles in many regions of France usually made from the local grapes and liquors, sometimes flavored with fruits or pine.

Pineau des Charentes or simply Pineau is an aperitif wine from western France. It is made in white, red and rosé styles by blending lightly fermented grape must and Cognac "Eau-de-Vie" liquor.
Macvin du Jura is a dessert or aperitif wine of amber color made from grape juice blended with Franche-Comte "Eau de Vie" liquor. Its maturation process takes at least 12 months in oak barrels. It can reach up to 16 to 22 percent alcohol content.

Tips: It is best served chilled as an aperitif and is perfect with melon. It can be kept for 25 years.
Demi-Sec and Doux sparkling wines

Sweet Sparkling wines

Sweet sparkling wines are made in most of the French wine regions. They are labeled Demi-Sec or Doux, and the best known of them are produced in Champagne region. Demi-Sec is sweet with dosage (sweetness level) of 32-50 grams per liter. But many producers consider Doux Champagne with a dosage of more than 50 grams per liter sweet enough to be considered dessert wine.

Tips: These sweet bubbly wines not only are delightful on their own, but are perfect aperitif wines. They can easily accompany any dessert selection, which is not overly sweet.
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