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Late harvest sweet wines for Christmas

Late Harvest Sweet Wines are often overlooked and misunderstood by many wine drinkers. Sweet wine or dessert wine are among some of finest drinks made from grapes. Just a taste of a classic sweet wine you will realise that it is not sticky and cloying but rather rich, layered and luscious. Naturally sweet wines can be made in several ways; Noble Rot, Late Harvested, Ice Wine or fortified with the addition of alcohol.

Today I am focussing on non fortified sweet wines.

The world’s most famous sweet wines are Sauternes from Bordeaux in France and the most celebrated of those wines is Chateaux d’Yquem. Made predominantly from late harvested Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc that are left on the vines until the berries are covered in a mould called botrytis or noble rot, which has the effect of shrivelling and dehydrating the grapes and concentrating the natural sugars and increasing the acidity.

Once reason why the best known sweet wines are expensive is because the pickers have to pass through the vineyard many times in order to pick every single botrytis affected grape. Sometimes the harvest can take up to two months with each vines only yielding enough juice for a single glass of wine. However, it is well worth it with intense flavours of honey, orange peel, apricot, nutty with acidity to balance the sweetness.

TheWinePlace.es has received a special delivery of an excellent Sauterne from Clos Dady Sauterne. If you have yet to try Sauterne, this is a super wine to enjoy this Christmas. Stocks are limited.

The other classic sweet wines are:

Tokaji from Hungary made from the Furmint grape variety. The wine spends many months untouched in small casks intensifying the citrus-peel character of the grape and luscious caramel flavours. You can find out more about Tokaji from the webpage of the Royal Tokaji Wine Company.

Germany and Austria produce make stunningly good late harvested Riesling that are classified as Beerenauslese, which means selected berries, and Trockenbeerenauslese, which means selected dried ‘noble rot’ affected berries. Look out for them, they last for years and are wonderful wines. These Rieslings are delicate yet intense with a lightness of touch with refreshing acidity and low alcohol. The finest wines should just be sipped and enjoyed on their own.

Alsace in Eastern France also produces superb sweet wines, known as ‘Vendage tardive’, which means late harvest, and also ‘Selection de Grains Nobles’, made mostly from Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris.

Ice wine is the ultimate late-harvest wines made from berries left so long on the vine that the berries freeze in the first snows. Water in the berries freezes concentrating the acids and sugar in the grapes which are unaffected by noble rot. Rarely made, icewine or eiswein, in Germany and Austria is one of the world’s most spectacular sweet wines. Yields are tiny and the prices very high.Canada is also famed for its Ice Wine, the most famous producer being Inniskillen in Ontario.

Ice Wine Grapes

Ice Wine Grapes


The Muscat grape variety can produce some excellent sweet wines. At TheWinePlace.es we have the superb Late Harvest Muscat from Chile Tabali is one of Chile’s most exciting producers who have brought the cool Limari Valley climate to life, planting exciting fragrant white varietals. This late harvested Muscat represents excellent value for money. A rich and complex wine, smooth on the palate with balanced acidity and a refreshing edge.

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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