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Expect the Unexpected from Sweeter White Wines

Posted on 12/21/2012 by Sharon Fenchak

If you think sweeter white wines only go with desserts, I challenge you to think again.

We handcraft Biltmore® Wines to appeal to many tastes, from beginner to collector. Our sweeter whites, including Biltmore® Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Century® White, and Pas de Deux Sparkling, are surprisingly food-friendly and provide great options for pairing with a wide range of foods.

What makes a wine sweet?

So…wine is made from grapes and grapes are sweet, right? What else is there to know?

Plenty! If you think that wine is nothing more than grape juice that sits in a barrel for a while, let me help you understand the process:

Grapes produce natural sugar, and depending on the varietal—and the growing season—the level can vary quite a bit. The yeast produced during fermentation converts the sugar in the grapes into alcohol. If we let this process continue until its natural end, it results in a wine with a more dry, lower sugar level, like a Chardonnay.

To create sweeter wines, we must either add sugar to the dryer wine or interrupt the fermentation process before all the sugar is converted.  There are several ways to do this:

  • Get the yeast out of the wine so that more residual sugar remains
  • Kill the yeast within the fermenting wine
  • Start with a high-sugar grape so that the yeast can’t convert all the sweetness before it dies. (Yeast is a living organism.)

Unexpected Pairing Suggestions

Because sweeter white wines often have a good amount of acidity to complement their higher sugar levels, they can stand up to spicier foods than you might expect. Our semi-sweet Biltmore Riesling is a great complement for the hot peppers and cilantro that characterize many Thai dishes, while Chinese and Vietnamese food, sweet and sour dishes, and Cajun spiced shrimp are excellent with our nicely-balanced Biltmore® Century® White.

Don’t overlook unexpected dessert pairings, either. Banana pudding is perfect with our Chenin Blanc—this medium-sweet, fresh and crisp wine enlivens the heavier vanilla and fruit flavors of this traditional Southern favorite.

In the mood to enjoy the slightly sweeter side of bubbly, as well? We suggest our Pas de Deux Sparkling with foods ranging from fresh fruit to Cajun spiced shrimp. Try it for your next light brunch and you’ll have your guests raising a toast to your good taste!


  • Sweeter white wines can be surprisingly food-friendly and bring out the flavors in many spicy dishes.
  • Be sure to chill sweeter white wines appropriately so that you can enjoy them at their best. Too cold and you lose a lot of taste; too warm and the wine seems overly sweet and strong. Serve between 39 and 50 degrees, depending on the varietal.
  • If serving sweeter wines with dessert, the wine should be a bit sweeter than the dessert itself.
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