11 of the Best Fruity, Sweet-Tasting Wines Under $20
The Best Sweet and Fruity Wines
I was never much of a wine drinker—except for an occasional bottle of Arbor Mist, a brand a true wine lover might write off as juice rather than wine. Maybe I was only an "alcoholic juice" drinker? So I decided to do some experimenting to see what other types of wine I would enjoy (if there were actually any at all).
I tried as many sweet, fruity-tasting wines as possible without breaking my bank account. I was not about to drop a lot of cash on a bottle of wine only to find out that the sink drain would enjoy it more than I would. In my search, I specifically looked for rosé, blush, moscato, and dessert varieties, as they usually have the sweeter taste that is more pleasant to the taste buds of an "alcoholic juice" drinker.
My Criteria for What Makes a "Good" Wine:
- I made an account of all the wines I tried and rated them on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 meaning that the wine was not very good at all and 10 being so delicious I might consider a glass with breakfast.
- The list of wine you see below includes only those wines that I rated with a 7 or more.
- All of these wines are affordable and cost less than $20 Canadian (about $15 US) each.
11 Excellent Sweet, Fruity, Inexpensive Wines
- Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio White Wine. Rating 7. Not an overly sweet wine. But it has a nice "bite" to it. Hints of peaches and apricots.
- Gallo Family Vineyards, White Zinfandel. Rating 7.2. Tastes kind of like a flat fruit drink—not too dry and not too sweet.
Schmitt Sohne, Relax "Cool Red." Rating 7.5. This wine tastes best served very chilled. It is not too sweet and not too dry, but a nice mixture of both.
- Fresita Sparkling Wine. Rating 7.6. A nice sipping wine with a dominant strawberry flavor.
- Boone's Farm Sangria. Rating 7.7. Good fruit taste; slightly sweet.
- Schmitt Sohne, Relax, "Blue." Rating 8. A little bit better than the red version. Slightly sweet and fruity. Not too sweet and not too dry.
- NVY Envy Passion Fruit. Rating 8. Very fruity sparkling wine. Passion fruit is easily pinpointed. Fruit-infused, so don't be alarmed by the fruit floaties (they are supposed to be in there).
- Nova Tickled Pink Moscato. Rating 8. Slightly sparkling. Sweet but not too overpowering.
- Long Flat Red Moscato. Rating 8.5. This wine is for those of you who normally don't like wine. Similar to bubbly juice, but not too sugary. This is my go-to wine. I have yet to meet someone who does not like it.
- Emeri, Pink Moscato. Rating 8.5. Sparkling wine with a hint of fruit. Sweet but not too sweet.
- Wild Vines, Blackberry Merlot. Rating 9.2. Very juice-like without being too sweet. Fruity and smooth.
What Kinds of Wine Are Sweet and Fruity?
When looking for a sweeter-tasting wine, it is best to stick to these types:
- Port: Coming from Portugal, port wines are well-known for their sweet taste. During their making, brandy is usually added. This not only increases the sweetness of the wine but the alcohol content, as well.
- Moscato: Moscato (a.k.a. muscat, muscadel, or moscatel) is an Italian wine that often comes in peach and/or apricot flavors. Moscato is usually enjoyed with dessert and therefore has a sweeter taste.
- Zinfandel: A light, fruity, easy-drinking wine. Zinfandel is usually the first choice of those just getting started with drinking wine.
- Riesling: Coming from Germany, the Riesling wine can either be very dry or very sweet, so be careful about which one you choose and be sure to read the label before purchasing.
- Sauternes: From the Sauternais region in Bordeaux, France, sauternes (pronounced saw-turn) is made from grapes that have been affected by "noble rot," a specially cultivated type of mold that concentrates the fruit’s sugars and flavors, producing a golden, extra-sweet and fruity wine.
If you like sweet wine, then you'll want to know this term: "residual sugar" refers to the natural grape sugars (fructose and glucose) that are still present in the wine even after fermentation. If the process of fermentation ends before all the sugar is used up, the wine will contain more residual sugar.
Of course, residual sugar levels vary from wine to wine. It is measured in grams per liter, and the sweeter wines will have at least 35 grams of residual sugar per liter.
Many inexpensive wines try to hide the taste of low-quality grapes with added sugar. That's one reason why sweet wine has a bad reputation as being cheaper or somehow less desirable. However, many high-quality sweet wines achieve extremely complex and nuanced levels of sweetness during the fermentation process.
Words to Describe a Wine's Sweetness (or Dryness)
Sweet, jammy, juicy, honeyed; like pudding or dessert wine. Or, at the other end of the spectrum: dry, brut, tannic, or acidic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which red wines are the sweetest?
The sweetest wines are the ones with the most residual sugar: port, moscato, most zinfandels and rieslings, and sauternes are the types to look for in the liquor store.
Is merlot sweet or dry?
A typical bottle of merlot contains about the same amount of residual sugar as a cabarnet: very little. So merlots taste more dry than sweet.
Is pinot sweet or dry?
Pinot noir is usually fairly dry, although the fact that it is dry AND fruity might confuse your tongue into thinking it tastes sweetness.
What is dessert wine?
Dessert wines (aka pudding wines) are very sweet... so sweet that they might overwhelm a savory dish, so they are usually served only with dessert.
What is ice wine?
Ice wine is a kind of dessert wine made from grapes that froze while they were still attached to the vine. The lower temperatures concentrate the sugars and create a very sweet wine.
Why not call all sweet wine "fruity"?
It's important not to confuse sweetness with the taste of fruit. Many dry wines can also taste "fruity."
What to Eat With Sweet Wine
Sweet wines taste even better with food. Everyone knows they pair nicely with cheese (and creamy things in general), but their sweetness also accentuates the pleasure of other flavors—bitter, sour, or salty.
Great pairings for sweet wine:
- Salty snacks: We all know sweet and salty go great together, so a super-sweet wine is also the perfect counterbalance for your favorite salty dish, like savory almond and black walnut pesto.
- Spicy foods: For example, a glass of cold, sweet white wine that has low alcohol content pairs wonderfully with hot and spicy dishes like these Korean fried chicken wings.
- Acidic bites: Highly acidic sweet white wines, like Rieslings, go nicely with sour, vinegary foods, like tomato fresh tomato bruschetta.
- Bitter foods: Artichoke, citrus, pickles, radicchio, Brussels sprouts, and sauerkraut all have a bitter flavor that tastes even better with a sweet wine. In fact, bitter and sweet go so well together they form their own word: bittersweet. Try sipping sweet wine with candied citrus peels dipped in dark chocolate.
- Light meats: The deep flavors of dark meats might overwhelm a sweet wine, but white meats and protein (like chicken, veal, or tofu), with their lighter flavors, pair nicely.
- Sweet things: Sweet wines make sweet sauces like teriyaki or other Asian sauces with sugar, honey, or tamarind taste extra good.
- Desserts: There's nothing wrong with pairing sweet wines with sweet desserts. In fact, "dessert wine" is a category of extra-sweet wines intended to do just this: take dessert to another level.
Both bitterness and tannin will counterbalance and reduce the impression of sweetness in a wine.
What Kind of Sweet, Fruity Wine Do You Like?
If you have tried and loved any wine that is not on the list, please let me know because I am interested in trying it and possibly adding it to the list.
Questions & Answers
Is a red Moscato just as sweet as a white Moscato ?
Both are made with the Muscat grape. And all three, white, pink and red are known to be the sweetest of the wines. The colour depends on the hue of the Muscat grape used. Therefore, I find the sweetness between the red and the white Moscato depends more on the brand than anything else.Helpful 33
I tend to have a sweet tooth, and I drink wine that I like, regardless of price, timing of a meal, screw top or cork, it doesn't matter to me. I agree with most of your list, but was wondering if you have tried a Lambrusco? I would encourage you to try it if you are an "alcoholic fruit juice" lover like me.
I don't think I have tried a Lambrusco wine before. Thanks for the recommendation, I will for sure have to give it a try!Helpful 49