Best Sweet Red Wine: Your Complete Buying Guide

Wine, let alone red wine, can have a whole bunch of different notes and flavors.

By understanding what these flavors are, how and why they occur, and figuring out which ones we like, we can understand the kind of wines we like more. 

Best Sweet Red Wine: Your Complete Buying Guide

This is the best way to approach understanding which wines you will enjoy, don’t necessarily cut out, or rely on, one style or region of wine, instead understand what you want from a wine.

‘I like acidic wines’ or ‘I prefer dry wine’ are all much better ways to look at your wine choices. This allows you to try different regions and styles, rather than excluding certain ones for perhaps fallible reasons. 

In a situation where you are at a fancy restaurant and you have to speak to a sommelier, a professional wine connoisseur, you can simply tell them you would like something dry, or sweet in our case.

To find out more about the wines you like, as well as our top picks for sweet red wines, simply read our recommendations below. Keep reading to learn more about sweet red wines (see also “A List Of 8 Low Acid Red Wines“).

Madeira Wine

Madeira wine is a wine from Portugal that can come in many varieties from dry to sweet.

It’s a fortified wine and gets its name from its origin on the island of Madeira in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira is under the rule of Portugal and is quite Portuguese in its culture. 

Madeira’s unique flavor comes from the way it is made through a heating process, this was prized in days gone by when transportation and preservation of wines was hard and often the flavors could sully when in transit.

You can expect flavors and notes such as caramel, walnuts, peach , hazelnuts, orange peel, burnt sugar, and other fruits.

The sweet varieties are markedly sweet and perfect to drink as an after dinner dipper like you would with cognac or any after dinner aperitif.


Shiraz is a notably sweet and fruit style of wine and grape made from the Syrah grape.

The modern ‘shiraz’ grape is virtually identical to the Syrah grape that originated in southeast French. Neither have any connection to the city of Shiraz in Iran.

Shiraz and Syrah are pretty much the same wine, or made from the same grape at least, and we have Australian winemaker James Busby to thank for this.

James Busby was an Australian but went to France to gain more wine knowledge, he is attributed as the progenitor of modern Australian wine culture.

In the mid-1800s he brought the Syrah grape back to Australia and this is what would eventually become Shiraz as we know it today. 

If you find Syrah or Shiraz in a restaurant or shop, consider them pretty much the same. Both have similar flavors due to the high level of tannins from the grape’s thick skin.

Expect flavors like berries, red fruit, pepper, tobacco, and even meat. Generally, though, most would describe Shiraz and Syrah as sweeter red wines that are perfect to eat with your meal, particularly to bring the juicer side of meat out (see also “Which Is Sweeter: Merlot Or Shiraz?“).

Ice Wine

Ice wine is an interesting concept and a style of making wine, rather than one that is made from a specific type of grape. In short, ice wine is made from grapes that have been allowed to freeze while still on the vine.

This means that sugar itself does not freeze but the water does which in turn concentrates the sugars to a large degree, if you are looking for a sweet wine this is one that has been engineered to be like this.

They can be expensive as production is basically limited to vineyards that get freezing temperatures.

Moreover, the nature of freezing these grapes naturally while on the vine can be quite hard to do without destroying the grape and is at risk of rot and other things.

But if you see one they are really good to try. This said, this is no modern method and was done even in Roman times, with references to from Pliny the Elder.

An ice wine can literally be made from any grape but red ice wines are a lot sweeter.


Merlot is another classic red wine style that is naturally sweet.

The French Merlot grape is notoriously dark and swollen in its color being dark blue to black when ripe, which is indicative of its juicy, fruity, and sweet wine it produces.

It is planted a lot in the Bordeaux regions where it arguably grows best and is also one of the main grapes used in Bordeaux wine which blend many French grapes.

It’s also considered to be the third most grown grape in the world, which means it is never too pricey but is still high quality, but is also an ‘international’ wine style as a result.

The wine has a medium body and often has moderate alcohol levels which can indicate its sugar as well.

The most common notes in Merlot are red berries and fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, and more, with a background of leafy vegetal notes.

Port Wine

Best Sweet Red Wine: Your Complete Buying Guide

Port Wine gets its name from its origin in mainland Portugal, it’s a fortified wine that is produced historically in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal.

There are many different port style wines created in various other regions across the world but there is  designation of Protected Origin here meaning only wines from Portugal can be called ‘Port Wine’ or ‘Port’.

This is another one of those fortified wines that was made popular historically as it could travel really well, while most wines would go off when exported over long distances.

Generally there are over a hundred varieties of grape that are sanctioned for port production under its protected designation of origin.

This said, only around five are used in the modern day and the others are reserved for more historic styles

In terms of flavor, port is one of the most historic dessert wines out there and is considered to be quite a sweet wine. It’s particularly sweet and heavy and also has a very high alcohol percentage as a result of the sugar.

This makes it perfect to have after meals, but is also really nice to compliment cheese and other fatty and salty foods.


Chianti is a pretty great all rounder wine made from the Sangiovese grape, while it is versatile its most prominent feature is its sweetness.

Sangiovese translates in Italian to ‘The blood of Jupiter’ which can tell you lots about its color, grapes, and what to expect from these full bodied wines.

The Sangiovese is actually grape as well as a style. And is grown from Central Italy to the South, as well as Sicily, being grown mostly in Tuscany.

As a result it is one of a few grapes that are used to make the modern ‘Super Tuscan style wines.

Chianti has lots of notes of berries and other red fruits, particularly strawberry, but can be earth with a lighter body.

Chianti is generally considered an ideal table wine and is pretty palatable to most people due to its light body and fruity and sweet notes (see also “Sangiovese Vs Chianti: Must-Know Italian Wine“).


Beaujolais is a style of French wine that is praised for its versatility. ‘Beaujolais’ is an old term that refers to any wine made from Gamay grapes but Beaujolais is more of a specific style of wine in the modern day.

In this area, white wine makes up only 1% of production which shows how popular this style is, especially if you want something that a people pleaser.

As the Gamay grape has a thin skin it generally has pretty low tannins this allows the fruitier and lighter notes to shine through without being super full bodied light a Merlot.

This wine is the perfect choice for light drinking, as a general French table wine, but also for those who aren’t keen on the heavy wines, but still want something sweet and fruity.


Malbec is a full bodied and dark wine that is often presented as an alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah which can be expensive. The Malbec grape is originally from France where it grows in the Southwestern areas.

There are generally two types of Malbec, one from France, one from Argentina. The French Malbec is much more leather and tannic thanks to the grape’s thicker skin.

Expect flavors of currants, plums, plus a nice bitterness from the tannins. French Malbecs are generally moderate in their tannin level and acidity and as a result are often lower in alcohol, so they tend to be aged for a lot longer than other styles. 

On the other hand the Argentinian Malbec is quite different. The main fruity flavors are blackberry, violet flowers, tobacco, and even milk chocolate.

As a result the Argentinian Malbec is considered to be much sweeter and tastier, with less acidity but still a moderate tannin profile. 

This demonstrates how wines from different terroirs can be quite different even with the same grape.

If you are looking for a sweet, full bodied dessert wine, go for an Argentine Malbec over the French, or choose the latter for something more acidic.

Final Thoughts

As you can see there are loads of sweet red wines out there, we would argue it’s harder to find sweet white wines.

Knowing that you like sweet wines can help you pick what kinds of styles you like, regardless of their grape and region, but is useful for wine tastings or for a sommelier.

Also Read: Syrah vs Zinfandel: Difference Between Two Red Titans

Jon Barbieri
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