Last updated: August 6, 2021

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Welcome to our big sweet red wine test 2021. Here we present all the sweet red wines we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best sweet red wine for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should pay attention to if you want to buy a sweet red wine.




Summary

  • Sweet red wine is a semi-sweet, mild red wine with a residual sweetness of less than 45g/litre.
  • It goes particularly well with dark meat, soft cheeses and desserts.
  • Sweet red wine is often underestimated, but can offer a special taste experience.

The Best Sweet Red Wine: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying sweet red wine

If you're interested in sweet red wine, you might ask yourself some of the following questions before you buy. We answer your questions to help you find the best red wine for you.

What is sweet red wine?

In wine language, sweet means semi-sweet and describes a mild, rounded wine with a pleasant sweetness.

A sweet red wine is a red wine with a residual sugar content of at least 18 and at most 45 g per litre.

During the ripening process of the grape, fructose, glucose and acids such as tartaric or malic acid develop. The latter decrease as the grapes ripen, but the sugar content increases.

When the grapes are finally fermented, alcohol is produced from the sugar with the help of yeast bacteria.

The quality of the grapes plays a particularly important role for sweet red wine. (Image source: unsplash.com / Hari Nandakumar)

However, if semi-dry or sweet wine is the goal, the fermentation process must be stopped by filtering and/or sterilising the wine. This can also be achieved by adding sulphur or unfermented must.

This leaves more sugar in the wine, which is then called residual sugar content and gives the wine its sweetness.

Did you know that red wine is not made from red grapes?

The type of grapes used is different from white wine or rosé wine. Red wine is made from blue grapes.

For whom is sweet red wine suitable?

Sweet red wine is suitable for people who prefer mildly sweet-tasting wine to dry, tart wine. As soon as a wine has a residual sugar content of more than 45 g/l, it is considered a sweet wine.

A sweet red wine also has a lower alcohol content than a dry red wine. Sweet red wine offers an elegant sweetness, the taste is described as pleasantly drinkable, velvety and juicy.

From fruity-fresh aromas to berry, even spicy aromas, the different types of wine offer a wide range of taste experiences.

Sweet red wine usually convinces with a fruity, pleasantly sweet or even berry note.

In principle, sweet red wines often attract less attention than sweet white wines, but in Germany they are particularly popular during the cold season.

Here, grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Dornfelder and Portugieser are particularly popular. In Italy, Merlot or Barbera are served.

Although a sweet red wine has the same maximum value of residual sugar, it is often less sweet than a sweet white wine, as the composition of tartaric acid, residual sugar and alcohol content has an essential influence on the taste.

In the case of sweet red wine, there are also the so-called tannins, which describe the vegetable tannins from the skin of the red grapes, which make sweet red wine taste less sweet than sweet white wines.

Also, high quality is often attributed to dry wines, but sweet wines are often of excellent quality because the grapes are strictly selected due to the long ripening period.

Sweet red wine is your perfect companion for a nice evening with friends or even your next barbecue party.

If you are a fan of dark meat, you should definitely try a combination with sweet red wine. Even if you have a sweet tooth, sweet red wine can be a special treat with desserts.

Lovely red wine is also popular as an aperitif and is particularly suitable for drinking independently of food.

For a delicious homemade mulled wine from the mulled wine pot, however, you should rather use a dry wine.

How much does sweet red wine cost?

As usual with wines, there is a wide range of prices depending on the quality. From €5 to €20 and more per bottle, anything is possible.

Tasting packages of 5 different wines are available from around 25 €.

What alternatives are there to sweet red wine?

In addition to sweet red wine, you can also choose dry, semi-dry or sweet red wine. If you are a lover of sweet wine notes, a sweet white wine could also be a suitable alternative for you.

In the following table we have compared the taste levels.

Flavour level Flavours Food Example variety
Red sweet Lush, full-bodied, strong Heavy desserts or strong-spicy cheese Dornfelder sweet, Port, Cabernet Dorsa
Red semi-dry Slight residual sweetness, drinkable, mild, soft Light, finely spiced dishes, grilled fish, cheese Portugieser semi-dry, Monastrell, Lambrusco
Red dry Berry, tannic, strong, fruity Beef roulades, roast veal, game, strong fish Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon, Trollinger dry
White sweet/sweet Sweet, racy, fruity Sweet and sour dishes, fruity desserts, cheese Gewürztraminer, Scheurebe, Riesling sweet

Decision: What types of sweet red wine are there and which is the right one for you?

If you are interested in buying a sweet red wine, it is important to find out which flavour suits you best. In the following, we will introduce you to three different grape varieties, their aromas and suitable combinations with food:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Dornfelder
  • Merlot

What distinguishes sweet Pinot Noir and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The blue Pinot Noir is also known as "Pinot noir" and is one of the most important and noblest grape varieties. It is usually fermented into a dry wine, but due to its fruity character it is also increasingly being made into a sweet wine.

The sweet Pinot Noir is a dark red wine, full of character and drinkable, with a pleasant, subtle sweetness. Aromas reminiscent of raspberries are often mentioned.

The wine goes well with many dishes, from Mediterranean or vegetarian dishes to exotic dishes or cheese.

Advantages
  • High-quality
  • Ideal table wine
  • Goes with many things
Disadvantages
  • Vulnerable grape variety
  • High demands on cultivation
  • Actually intended as a dry wine

What distinguishes sweet Dornfelder and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The Dornfelder grape variety is still a relatively young wine variety; it was only created in 1955 from a cross between older wine varieties.

This wine has a deep dark colour and a mild, well-tolerated acidity, which makes it suitable for wine connoisseurs with sensitive stomachs.

Lieblicher Rotwein offers an ideal companion not only to desserts and various warm dishes, but also to soft cheeses and a hearty Vesper. (Image source: unsplash.com/ Lana Abie)

The taste often contains fruity (for example sour cherry, blackberry), sometimes nutty to spicy notes and offers a velvety, harmonious taste experience. This wine is becoming increasingly popular.

Food-wise, the wine goes well with roasts, poultry, mushroom dishes or hearty meals or hearty vespers.

Advantages
  • Inexpensive
  • Tastes good to many
  • Easy on the stomach
Disadvantages
  • Fashionable variety
  • Vine sensitive to frost/drought/fungal diseases

What distinguishes sweet Merlot and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Merlot, which comes from France, is one of the most popular red wine varieties. In the meantime, there are also very good Merlot wines in Germany and Italy.

Merlot is an early-maturing variety with few tannins. The dark red colour matches the wine's taste of plums and cherries.

Merlot also has low acidity and thus embodies a gentle, full-bodied wine, which exchanges the fruity note for herbal aromas as it matures.

A sweet Merlot goes best with light dishes, while spicy dishes mask its flavour. Merlot is also a perfect pleasure wine.

Advantages
  • High-quality
  • Noble pleasure wine
  • Can be stored for a long time
Disadvantages
  • Vine sensitive to cold and humidity
  • Unsuitable for stronger dishes

Here again is an overview of the varieties presented:

Variety Taste Food
Pinot Noir Fruity, raspberry, silky, soft Mediterranean dishes, short roasts, vegetarian and exotic dishes, cheese
Dornfelder Mild, harmonious sweetness and acidity, fruity, nutty, spicy, velvety roasts, poultry with dark sauce, mushroom dishes, hearty dishes, hearty vespers
Merlot plummy, cherry, soft, full-bodied Mediterranean cuisine, light dishes, desserts

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate sweet red wine

The most important factors you should take into account when deciding on your favourite red wine are the following:

  • Place of origin
  • Quality
  • Vintage
  • Price
  • Taste

In this section we explain what you should pay particular attention to in the individual criteria.

Place of origin

The quality of wines often depends on their place of origin. The more traditional the winery, the better the quality. In addition to quality, the place of origin also determines price and taste.

France is highlighted here as a wine country in itself, but Italy can also deliver good quality with enough sun for the grape varieties.

In Germany and Austria, attention to sweet red wine has also increased and some well-known grape varieties are made into sweet red wine.

Quality

When it comes to the quality of wines, a distinction can be made between table wine, country wine and quality wine. In addition, quality wines can be assigned predicates such as Kabinett, Spät-, Beerenauslese, etc. The origin of the wine should be indicated when buying a wine. The origin of the wine should always be indicated on a good wine.

The following video explains what a wine label says about the quality of the wine.

Vintage

Here you will be advised particularly well in specialist shops. Especially with quality wines, the vintage still plays a role.

A vintage year may only be noted on the bottle for quality and country wines and also only if at least 85% of the vintage comes from that year. Wines in lower price categories often do not mention a vintage.

Price

Wine is already available at relatively low prices, the question is whether the quality correlates with the price. In principle, however, the more expensive a wine is, the higher the quality of its production.

Whether a non-wine gourmet can really tell the difference in taste between a cheap and an expensive wine is another matter.

Taste

Lovely red wine is often dominated by fruity notes. Berry aromas can also occur.

A sweet red wine can be a special taste experience. When tasting in company, you can discuss the quality and aromas of the wines. (Image source: unsplash.com/ Kelsey Knight)

To taste the flavour in its full intensity, the wine should be swirled slightly in the glass to perceive the colour and aroma more precisely and kept in the mouth for a short time before swallowing.

Facts worth knowing on the subject of sweet red wine

With what food should I serve sweet red wine?

You can serve sweet red wine primarily with pasta dishes and generally Italian classics or dark meat, for example game dishes, goose, duck or beef roulades and roast beef.

A velvety, berry-like red wine can harmonise well with seafood and fish dishes. A sweet red wine also goes well with soft cheeses such as blue cheese, a hearty snack and chocolate.

Did you know that a red wine can also taste of chocolate?

A red wine can develop aromas. Often, however, these are only perceptible in tendency. But chocolate is possible.

In combination with sweet dishes or desserts such as Crema Catalana, you are offered a special taste experience.

A wine should always accentuate the taste of a dish, not mask it.

However, sweet red wine can not only be drunk with food, but also offers a great taste experience on its own.

But sweet red wine can also be used for cooking. For example, compotes, jellies or desserts can be refined with sweet red wine.

But you can also serve a steak or a roast with a red wine sauce.

How do I store sweet red wine?

Generally speaking, wine feels most at home in cool places that are protected from light. The place where the wine is stored should have a high level of humidity, there should be no temperature fluctuations and the wine should not be affected by intense odours.

Unopened, sweet Auslese wines can be kept for up to 10 years. If you are planning to consume a wine only in a few years, it is best to store it horizontally.

However, the current trend in wine drinking tends to be towards consumption in the near future, as very few people have a suitable storage facility.

If you only break the wine bottle and do not empty it completely, it is important to close the bottle airtight and store it in a cool place.

However, the wine should not be left to stand for too long, as it will then lose its aroma. This also happens if a red wine is stored at too high a temperature.

At what temperature should I drink sweet red wine?

For sweet red wine, as for red wine in general, room temperature is considered the ideal drinking temperature. However, one must bear in mind what room temperature means in the wine world.

The term still comes from earlier conditions, where a room with a tiled stove was about 18° warm in winter.

This is exactly the temperature that a conventional red wine should have. Sweet red wines can also tolerate a temperature of around 15° and may also be kept in the refrigerator for a short time, because even a red wine should not reach much more than 20°.

For some wines, it is recommended to open them 2-3 hours before drinking.

Image source: pixabay.com / congerdesign

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