How to serve sweet wines

By Nola James

12 Nov, 2023

From late harvest riesling to rich port, here are the top tips for serving sweet wines.

Go to section: Serving temperature for sweet wines | Glassware for sweet wines | Serving sizes for sweet wines | Food pairing ideas for sweet wines

There was a time in Australia’s drinking history when almost all the wines we consumed were sweet. Today, they’re often overlooked in favour of their drier counterparts, but sweet wines are downright delicious when served correctly. Plus, they’re an easy way to impress at dinner parties. 

Whether you're enjoying a luscious dessert wine, a late harvest riesling, or a rich port, here are some essential tips for serving sweet wines to get the best out of your bottle.

Fortified wineThe serving temperature for sweet wines can significantly impact their taste, be sure to serve them at between seven and 13 degrees.

Serving temperature for sweet wines

The temperature at which you serve sweet wines can significantly impact their taste. Generally, sweet wines are best enjoyed when chilled, but not excessively cold. Aim for temperatures ranging from 7–13 degrees, which allows the wine's natural sweetness to shine without becoming cloying.

Glassware for sweet wines

Selecting the right glassware can make a significant difference in how a sweet wine is perceived. Look for glasses with a tulip-shaped bowl. This shape helps concentrate the wine's aromas and directs them toward your nose, which enhances the wine's bouquet. 

Serving sizes for sweet wines

Aim for about 75ml per glass – as sweet wines are rich and syrupy, less is more. Unlike dry wines, sweet and fortified wines keep for up to a week after opening. Feel free to experiment over a variety of mealtimes and cuisines, if you’re not up for entertaining a crowd. 

A range of cakes in a windowSweet wines pair with cheeses and desserts, but they can also handle spice.

Food pairing ideas for sweet wines

Pairing sweet wines with the right food can elevate both the wine and the dish. Here are some food matching ideas:

Cheese platters: Sweet wines pair wonderfully with a variety of cheeses, from blue to cheddar, as the wine's sweetness balances the saltiness of the cheese.

Desserts: Sweet wines are the perfect partners for desserts. Try a tawny port with chocolate, a muscat with cheesecake, or pedro ximénez with crème brûlée. 

Spicy dishes: The sweetness in the wines can help temper the heat in spicy foods. Consider a sweet riesling with spicy Thai or Indian cuisine. The wine's sweetness will complement flavourful spices and chilli heat, without being overpowered. 

Fruit: Sweet wines and fresh fruits are a classic pairing. A late harvest chenin blanc with ripe peaches or a botrytised semillon with apricots are a heavenly match. 

Charcuterie: Cured meats like prosciutto, salami and chorizo have just the right amount of salt (a lot) and spice to make sweet wines really sing. 

Image credit: Kimberley Low/Wine Australia.