Underground Cellar’s Guide to Dessert Wines

The trend in favor of dry wines has grown massively in the last decade, and the opposition against sweet wines often means that dessert wines are barely on most wine-drinkers’ radars. This is quite a shame since many dessert wines are some of the most long-lived, complex, and historical wines around the world. Dessert wines are one of the best ways to enhance the after-dinner experience and while some can be enjoyed on their own, they do tend to work best when paired with food. We read an interesting article recently that made us want to try some of these top dessert wines

Fortified Wines:

Dessert wines from Underground Cellar  are in one of the most historically significant wine categories. Fortified wines are made by adding brandy or grape spirit to wine either during or after the fermentation process, depending on whether the finished wine is to be sweet or dry. When the wine is fortified before the fermentation process has ended, the result will be a sweet wine due to the sugar that is leftover in the wine itself. 


Sherry is one of the most well-known and also one of the most versatile dessert wines around the world. It has several different styles and personalities and can certainly be quite intimidating to those who are new to it. There are three grapes that can be used in the production of Sherry; these are Palomino Fino, Pedro Ximenez, and Moscatel. Sherry is made using a unique solera aging system, where older barrels are topped up using younger wines. 


This wine made on the warm island of the same name located off the coast of Morocco is the most ageable of all the wines – because technically, it is already destroyed. Deliberate oxidation and repetitive heating, two strategies that will usually completely ruin wine, are used in the vinification of Madeira. It is made from four core grapes and ranges from drier to sweeter wines. It is in some of the oldest bottles of wine in the world since it can last for centuries when stored correctly. 


Similar to Sherry, Port is also available in a wide range of different style categories. However, it is always sweet and will typically be red. Port is made from the Portuguese Touriga Nacional grape and other local supporting grapes. Ruby Ports are the ideal choice for those who prefer sweet dessert wines with fresh flavors of red fruit, while Tawny Port is an amber-hued style with flavors of toffee, dried nuts, and fruits. 


While marsala might be a top choice as a cooking wine, it has a lot of history in the ranks of the world’s ‘top three’ fortified dessert wines. Marsala is the region where this wine is produced, located on the island of Sicily in the north-western corner. It is typically made from white grapes, although you can find ruby versions. Grillo grapes are used to make the best marsala wines, but they can also be blended with other local grapes including Cataratto and inzolia. 

What’s your favourite dessert wine? Let us know!