The Sweet Wine Pairing Myth You Should Leave Behind

While some prefer sweet wines, others turn away in horror at the thought of sipping Fuschia-colored, syrupy alcohol. Sweet wines tend to have a poor reputation among self-professed wine connoisseurs and even professional sommeliers, per Michelin Guide. Vine Pair states that sweet wines are often dismissed as cheap or basic since lower-quality wines in America have high amounts of added sugar in them. This means that many cheap sweet wines are not only naturally sweetened, but also through the addition of artificial sweeteners.

However, there are expensive sweet wines, which have a presence of tannins and a variety of complex notes underlying their sweetness. The real difference between a dry wine and a sweet wine is in the fermentation process; the less time grapes are left to ferment, the more natural sugar content is left behind, making for a sweeter flavor, according to Winetraveler. Not all sweet wines have the same residual sugar either; there can be a range of 25 g/l of residual sugar to over 450 g/l, depending on the type of wine you select. 

Still, people tend to believe that sweet wines are universally less complex than dry wines. This misconception has led some wine aficionados to believe the myth that sweet wines lack versatility. However, this isn't the case at all, as sweet wines can actually be enjoyed in a variety of settings.

Myth: Sweet wines are only for dessert

Even those who like sweet wine prefer to have it on its own, as a dessert or palate cleanser. After all, the name speaks for itself — "dessert wines" are meant to be enjoyed with other desserts, whether it be fruits, petit fours, or a mousse. However, we must not let names fool us into limiting our wining-and-dining experiences. Michelin Guide notes that sweet wines can serve as perfect counterparts to savory dishes, including spicy dishes like curry or Thai stir-fry. A sweet Riesling would complement the piquant profile of a spicy Asian dish by counteracting the burn and enhancing the aromatics with a fruity finish.

Sweet wines also go well with seafood dishes, whether cooked or raw. An octopus aguachile with fresh vegetables, spicy oil, and herbs pairs well with a sweet white wine like Pinot Grigio, according to Slo Wine Country. Any delicate, yet sweet white wine would balance the fishy aspect of a seafood dish, and brighten the palate. Sweet wines can also be served as an aperitif, before the meal to whet the appetite. In this case, a sweet wine would pair nicely with cheese and crackers, preceding a heavier dish. All in all, sweet wines should not only be enjoyed as desserts, but also as refreshers for spicy seafood or cheese platters.