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Sweet wine is a wine with a high sugar content. A sweet wine is considered to have a sugar concentration higher than 4g/L. However, at these levels of concentration, it is difficult to perceive sweetness in the wine. For sugar values above 10 grams, it is easier to identify the sweetness in the wine, but this also depends on the acidity. Often, wines with a very high acidity content are balanced with the addition of sugar (this is the case with some vinho verde).
Examples of sweet wines are late harvest wines, liqueur wines, ice wine and some types of sparkling wines whose sugar concentration is higher.
Sweet wine can be made from two processes, either partial fermentation of the sugars from the grapes, or the addition of concentrated grape must to the wine.
In the case of partial fermentation, the sugars are prevented from being totally degraded by two methods:
Regarding the case of adding concentrated grape must to the wines, examples of sweet wines resulting from this process are sweet and semi-dry sparkling wines and any wine to which sugar has been added in the final stage of production, such as sweet white wine, sweet red wine and sweet vinho verde.
When choosing a sweet wine, find a moment during the meal. The best moment will be at the beginning or at the end of the meal, depending on the type of sweet wine. At the beginning of the meal, sweet wines of low alcoholic strength and high acidity should be used (late harvest and ice wine), which can be paired with fairly intense starters (foie gras and cheese fondue).
At the end of the meal, fortified wines are recommended, as they are sweet wines with a high alcoholic strength. The golden-coloured liqueur wines can be paired with traditional convent sweets based on eggs and dried fruit, and the sweet red wines such as LBV and Vintage can be paired with chocolate and red fruit-based sweets.
Whether at the beginning or at the end of the meal, most sweet wines can be paired with traditional Portuguese cheeses.
Try our Verdelho 10 Years, from Pico island, available in our online shop, with traditional cheeses from the Azores.