Dessert Wines for Dinner Parties

Closeup of wine glasses toasting in celebration

Wine is a staple at most dinner parties, so taking the time to properly select the best bottle will help make your night a success. In its broadest sense, dessert wine is any wine that is enjoyed during or after dessert. More specifically, it is usually sweet with pronounced flavor and higher alcohol content. With a wide variety of dessert wines in our lineup, Columbia Distributing prides itself on being the premier beverage distributor in Oregon, Washington, and California. Here, we discuss some of the best dessert wines to enjoy at a dinner party, all of which can be found in our inventory.


The carbonation and high acidity in sparkling wine make it taste less sweet than it is. Certain grape varieties smell sweeter than others. This tricks our brain into thinking they taste sweeter, too. For instance, a Demi-Sec Moscato tastes sweeter than a Demi-Sec Champagne even though both may have the same amount of sugar.

Great sparkling wine options include:

  • Prosecco: This Italian sparkling wine can be both fruity and sweet.
  • Crémant: This French wine is similar to Champagne in that it uses the “méthode champenoise” second fermentation, but it’s less bubbly and can be made from any combination of grape varieties.


Semi-sweet wines are refreshingly sweet, which makes them perfect for a warm afternoon. Many of these sweet wines pair well with spicy foods like Indian or Southeast Asian cuisine. Lightly sweet wines are best enjoyed as close to the vintage date as possible. Expect these wines to be exploding with fruit flavors and well suited for fruit-based and vanilla-driven desserts. Consider the following:

Richly Sweet

Richly sweet wines are made with the highest quality grapes in an unfortified style. Many of these wines can age 50+ years because sweetness and acidity preserve their fresh flavor. There are several ways to produce richly sweet dessert wines, and you can gauge their sweetness levels and flavors based on how they’re made:

  • Late harvest: Late harvest means exactly what it’s called. As grapes hang on the vine longer in the season they become even sweeter, resulting in grapes with concentrated sweetness.
  • Noble rot: This process adds unique flavors of ginger, saffron, and honey to sweet wines.
  • Straw mat: Grapes are laid out on straw mats to raisinate (take on qualities of raisins) prior to winemaking.
  • Ice wine: True ice wine is extremely rare and expensive for two reasons. One, it only occurs in bizarre years when a vineyard freezes. And two, ice wine must be harvested and pressed while grapes are still frozen.

Fortified Wine

If you’re looking to kick things up a notch at your dinner party, try serving a fortified wine. This type of wine is made when a distilled spirit, usually brandy, is added to the wine. This gives it a much higher alcohol content of about 17-20% ABV. Over the centuries, winemakers have developed many different styles of fortified wine, including port, sherry, Madeira, Marsala, Commandaria wine, and the aromatized wine vermouth.

Get Your Dessert Wine from Columbia Distributing

Dessert wine is often an overlooked aspect of wine selection at a dinner party, but serving it is a great way to go the extra mile with your guests and can make the most of what dessert foods you choose to pair it with. To learn more about our dessert wine selection and how to find a retailer near you, contact Columbia Distributing today.