So, wine lovers, when it comes to red wine, sweetness levels can vary. Today, our focus is on semi-sweet red wines – the perfect balance between dry and sweet red wine.
First, we’ll explore nine of the most renowned styles of semi-sweet red wines. Next, we’ll discuss ten additional varieties that may appear somewhat sweet but are, in fact, completely dry wines and definitely worth trying, even if you typically don’t fancy dry red wines!
Table of Contents
9 Semi Sweet Red Wines
Semi sweet wines get their sweetness from something called ‘residual sugar.’ The wine’s residual sugar is what’s left after fermentation.
For a red wine to be considered semi-sweet, it usually has between 10 and 50 grams of sugar in every liter.
1. Lambrusco (Italy)
Lambrusco is a lightly sparkling Italian red wine. It has notes of red fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries, coupled with violet aromas, Lambrusco is so light that is often mistaken for grape juice.
This beginner friendly wine offers a fizzy, refreshing quality and a taste profile featuring red berry flavors.
2. Red Moscato (Italy)
Red Moscato is a semi sweet red wine known for its fruity character, featuring notes of ripe red berries, peaches, and orange blossoms. It has a light effervescence and offers flavors of sweet red fruit and floral hints.
3. Appassimento Negroamaro (Italy)
This wine is made using the appassimento winemaking technique, which involves partially drying the grapes before fermentation.
This process concentrates the flavors and sugars, giving the semi sweet wine a distinct richness and sweetness.
Appassimento Negroamaro semi sweet reds typically feature a deep, dark fruit profile with notes of black cherries, plums, and hints of spice.
4. Late Harvest Zinfandel (USA)
Late Harvest Zinfandel is distinguished by the unique winemaking process that involves letting the grapes remain on the vine longer, allowing them to develop higher sugar levels.
This results in a semi sweet red wine with a naturally sweet and concentrated flavor profile, brimming with ripe blackberry, plum, and jammy fruit notes.
5. Ruby Port (Portugal)
Ruby Port is known for its vivid red color and flavors of ripe red berries, cherries, and plums. This semi sweet red wine boasts a luscious, sweet profile with a well-balanced acidity. Find out more about the difference between Ruby and Tawny Port here.
6. Concord (USA)
Concord wine is a flavorful semi sweet red wine often produced in the United States. It’s known for its intense grapey aroma and bold, sweet grape juice flavors.
This fruity wine offers a rich, slightly jammy taste.
7. Brachetto d’Acqui (Italy)
Brachetto d’Acqui is renowned for its intense aromatic profile, featuring notes of rose petals, red berries, and a hint of musk.
This semi sweet red wine captivates the palate with a gentle effervescence and flavors reminiscent of strawberries and raspberries.
8. Recioto della Valpolicella (Italy)
This semi sweet wine is famous its sweetness and rich, full-bodied character. Made from partially dried grapes, it captures the essence of dark cherry, raisin, and dark chocolate notes.
Recioto is naturally sweet, with a higher leftover sugar content, and it undergoes a slow fermentation process, resulting in a luxurious, sweet wine with a velvety texture.
9. Schiava (Italy)
This popular semi sweet red wine is characterized by its light to medium body, soft tannins, and an appealing semi-sweet taste profile. It typically features red fruit notes, such as red cherries and raspberries, along with floral hints.
10 Wines Perceived as Semi Sweet Red Wine Styles
Let’s check out some dry wines that are sometimes perceived as semi sweet, due to their fruit-forward profile.
1. Shiraz (Australia)
Shiraz, again a dry red wine, can sometimes surprise with lightly sweet versions. These wines offer a combination of sweetness, dark fruit notes like blackberries and plums, and hints of black pepper and spices.
They are often characterized by a medium to full body, which provides a luscious mouthfeel. The presence of tannins in Shiraz, even in its lightly sweet form, lends structure and balance to the wine.
2. Grenache (Australia/Spain)
Grenache is typically known as a dry red wine, but in some cases, especially with late harvest grapes, it can exhibit semi-sweet characteristics.
Grenache late harvest wines can feature delicious notes of ripe red berries, cherries, and sometimes a hint of spice.
3. Red Zinfandel (USA)
Red Zinfandel features bold flavors of blackberries, ripe cherries, and sometimes spicy pepper. This wine typically has a medium to full body, providing a satisfying and smooth texture.
While most Red Zinfandels are dry, some variations can taste slightly sweet (mainly late harvest).
4. Beaujolais Nouveau (France)
Beaujolais Nouveau is a light and vibrant wine, known for its fresh, red fruit flavors, such as strawberries and cherries. This wine is typically released just a few weeks after the harvest.
5. Pinot Noir (USA/New Zealand/Australia/Chile)
It is renowned for its elegant and dry character, featuring delicate red fruit notes, such as strawberries and cherries, with subtle hints of earthiness. However, some variations, especially New World Pinot Noir from California, can surprise with sweet tendencies.
These wines offer a balance between their natural acidity and a touch of sweetness, resulting in a nuanced flavor profile.
6. Amarone della Valpolicella (Italy)
What makes it stand out is its winemaking process. The grapes are dried before fermentation, which concentrates their sugars and flavors.
While it’s not traditionally sweet, this method can create a perception of off-dry or semi sweet qualities. The wine retains a full-bodied character with a balanced sweetness, with flavors of dark cherries, raisins, and a hint of spices.
7. Malbec (Argentina)
Malbec is typically known for its dry character, showcasing dark fruit notes like plums, blackberries, and often a touch of cocoa. Some variations, particularly late-harvest Malbec wines, can showcase lightly sweet qualities.
8. Bonarda (Argentina)
Bonarda is known for its light to medium body and complex taste profile. It features dark fruit notes like black cherries, plums, and sometimes even a hint of spice.
While traditionally dry, some variations may exhibit sweet characteristics.
9. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Italy)
It often presents flavors of ripe red berries, black cherry, and a hint of spices. While it is typically a dry red wine, some variations can offer a slightly sweet perception due to their well-balanced fruitiness.
10. Cabernet Sauvignon (USA, Chile, Australia, Argentina)
New World Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold red wine, famous for its dark fruit flavors, like blackberries and black currant, often accompanied by notes of spices and oak.
While it’s typically a dry red wine, some New World Cabernet Sauvignons may exhibit a touch of semi-sweetness.
Sweet Red Wine Styles (Dessert Wine)
If you’re into even sweeter red wines, there are some fun options to try. Late harvest wines, like Late Harvest Zinfandel and Riesling, are naturally sweet because the grapes are left longer on the vines, making them taste even fruitier.
And then there are fortified wines like Madeira, Port, and Sherry. They’re very sweet and also have some interesting flavors because of the the addition of spirits during fermentation.
Semi Sweet Red Wine Food Pairings
Semi-sweet red wines are like the chameleons of the wine world when it comes to food pairings. They play well with all kinds of dishes.
Try them with spicy foods to cool the spiciness. Semi sweet red wine styles also get along great with roasted duck or pork.
If you’re into cheese, these wines are like cheese’s best friend, especially with soft or blue varieties.
And don’t forget desserts with fruits – they make a great combo with semi sweet red wine.
Semi Sweet Red Wine Occasions
Semi-sweet red wines are fantastic choices for a range of occasions. They’re excellent crowd-pleasers, making them ideal for parties and get-togethers.
These wines add a touch of charm to romantic evenings and dinner dates, enhancing the dining experience.
When you’re celebrating, their sweetness can elevate the festivities, whether it’s a special occasion or a casual toast with friends.
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