How Sweet Wines are Made

When you drink sweet wine, have you ever wondered where these different sweet tastes come from. It seems that every sweet wine has unique style of sweetness. But why? At this moment, let us explore how sweet wines are made. The sweet wine refers to residual sugar more than 30 grams per litter, which is generally naturally sweet and unfortified. There are several methods to make sweet wines by increasing the sugar level. For example, late harvest botrytis infected grapes, late harvest ice wine, freeze concentration, addition of juice concentrate, drying the grapes to increase the concentration.  

Ice Wine 

The sommelierAlpana Singh said: “It takes a great deal of labor and love to make ice wine. When you have it with dessert, you miss the point of enjoying it on its own.” This is very interesting comment. Some people who are not familiar with ice wine, maybe take for granted that ice wine is cold wine according to the literal meaning. It is an understandable opinion because the optimum ice wine drinks at a low temperature. However, the reason it is called ice wine is that it uses frozen grapes to produce ice wine for tasting sweet. Specifically, the characteristic of ice wine is refreshing and clean sweetness, and this sweet style from grapes covered in snow and ice. Due to harvesting grapes in cold winter and using frozen grapes to make juice is very hard work, it is impossible to make valuable ice wine without enthusiastic labor. At this moment, you already know the secret of ice wine. You will not choose dessert when you enjoy ice wine.  

Here is the main winemaking method to make ice wine. Firstly, harvesting grapes from grapevine at the temperature below -8 (Nourissat, 2018). The cold temperature allows sugar to concentrate on grapes to increase the sweet level. The consumer should be careful not to buy fake ice wine. If the grapes are frozen in refrigeration rather than naturally frozen by nature environment, this wine will be regarded as not true ice wine. Next making process, getting grape juice before fermentation. When using frozen grapes to get juice, this is a kind of damage to the presser. Furthermore, grape juice is uneasily exacted at low temperature as most water components froze. That is one of the reasons why ice wine is expensive. 

Botrytis Infected Wine 

For microbiology fans, the word botrytis is a mysterious name of the fungus. The humidity suitably humid microclimates are very important for creating botrytis style. The fungus Botrytis attacks grapes in humid conditions, developing into gray rot but. When a desirable botrytis infection occurs in grapes, producing what is called noble rot (Jarvis, 2017)Noble Rot causes grapes to dehydrate. The sugar concentration increases due to water loss by evaporation, which leads to grape gaining high sweet level. Gentle press botrytis infected grapes to get juice for producing botrytis infected sweet wine. Botrytis leads to many flavors formed, so this rich and mellow sweet wine with honey, spice and medicinal aromas. 

Fortified Wine of Pedro Ximénez (PX) Sherry      

PX is one of the Sherry wines, which is the highest sweet sherry. William Shakespeare spoke highly of Sherry as “Spanish sunshine in a bottle!” In my opinion, the PX Sherry is honey sweet out of the bottle. This fortified sweet wine is made of dry grapes. The white grape variety is also Pedro Ximénez. After harvesting grapes, borrowing sunshine to dry grapes. This method can remove water from grapes to concentrate on the sugar levels (Sweet and Sabroso, 2018). In the meantime, the additional flavor will be formed. That is why PX Sherry has dried fruity aroma. The fermentation step is very special because of partially fermentation (Sweet and Sabroso, 2018). It means that the fermentation is stopped by adding high alcohol spirits to prevent all the sugar converting to ethyl alcohol, which leads to high sweet levels left in the wine. The following production processing is similar to making Sherry, that is using a Solera system. 

Freeze Concentration Method 

After getting juice from grapes, put it in the chilled tank to allow water to freeze out of the juice. The concentrated juice can run off the tank, leaving a block of ice in the tank. This way can increase sugar level but very low-level concentration. 



Jarvis, T. (2017). The Complete Guide to Botrytis. Retrieved from 

Nourissat, V. (2018). Ice Wine 101 in 6 Simple Steps. Retrieved from Refe 

Sweet and Sabroso. (2018). Pedro Ximénez (PX) Wine Reduction Sauce – You’ll Want to Put it on Everything! Retrieved from 

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