Surrender to the Sparkling Sweetness
Sweet, or demi sec, sparkling wine is a specialized category of bubbly with wide appeal. Although many make the mistake of thinking of them simply as wines for toasting or to serve with dessert, the best sweet sparkling wines have incredible versatility.
When they’re made right, sweet sparkling wines are wines with a balance that makes them refreshing enough to serve as an apéritif. However, they are also bold enough to serve with a meal. We particularly like serving them with ethnic foods or a cheese course, but truly the best sweet sparkling wines would be a wonderful accompaniment to any meal. Of course, demi sec sparkling wines also make great partners for desserts.
1. 2017 Marenco Scrapona Moscato d’Asti D.O.C.G.
Origin: Piedmont, Italy
Varietal: Moscato Bianco
Price: $17 for 750 ml.
When talking about sweet sparkling wines, you almost have to lead off with Moscato d’Asti. These delicate, low-alcohol sparkling wines come from northern Italy. They’re lightly effervescent, made in a frizzante style rather than méthode champenoise. (This means the wines don’t undergo a second fermentation in the bottle.) The result is a floral, lightly sweet style of wine with an almost ethereal effervescence.
Among the Moscato d’Asti available in North America, the Marenco Scarpona is a real standout both for flavor and value. It is, unfortunately, one of the harder Moscato d’Asti wines to find, so if you spot it for sale, consider snagging a few bottles. Made from the grapes of a single vineyard, the wine offers intense aromas and flavors of orange zest, passion fruit and honeydew melon. Its finish lingers long with notes of golden raisin and white peach.
For more information, visit Marenco Wines official website.
2. 2013 Domaine Carneros Vermeil Demi Sec
Origin: Carneros, California
Varietal: 63% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Gris
Price: $40 for 750 ml.
Domaine Carneros is an American sparkling wine house with a French legacy. The winery was founded in 1987 by Claude Taittinger, of Champagne Taittinger. Since its first release, Domaine Carneros has been recognized as a leader in American sparkling wine.
If you want a bottle of bubbly that will surprise and delight sparkling wine lovers, this is the wine to buy. Its sweetness comes in a rush of effervescence at the front of the palate and is quickly balanced by fresh, tropical fruit acidity. Best of all, this nicely balanced bubbly lingers long on the palate with tropical decadence.
For more information, visit Domaine Carneros official website.
3. 2017 Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine
Origin: Ontario, Canada
Price: $95 for 375ml.
Inniskillin is a leader in Canadian winemaking, noted particularly for its pioneering efforts with Canadian icewine. Their wines are known around the world as some of the best icewines in North America. So, it’s no surprise that if anyone was going to come up with a sparkling Canadian icewine, it would be Inniskillin.
Unlike the other wines on our Best Sweet Sparkling Wines list, Inniskillin’s Sparkling Vidal Ice Wine is a dessert wine. The wine is made using the Charmat method to give the winery’s stunning icewine effervescence. Like Inniskillin’s still Vidal Icewine, this wine is well balanced. Tropical notes of pineapple, lychee and dried mango dominate the wine’s aromas and flavors, but it’s the spark of citrus acidity that keeps your mouth watering for another sip.
(Not available in the U.S.)
For more information, visit Inniskillin Winery official website.
4. NV Anna de Codorniu Dulce Anna
Origin: Catalonia, Spain
Varietal: Sparkling wine blend
Price: $15 for 750 ml.
The winemaking history of the Codorniu family dates back to 1551. They weren’t making Cava until the 1700s, but they are credited with creating Spain’s first sparkling wines. Trailblazers on the Spanish wine scene since the beginning, the family was also among the first to advertise wine on television. Today, the brand is best recognized for the Anna de Codorniu line of affordable sparkling wines, one of which happens to be a sweet Cava.
The Dulce Anna Cava has more outright sweetness than most of the wines on our Best Sweet Sparkling Wines list. This Cava is good match for those who enjoy a very direct, sweet glass of bubbly. It offers a pleasant note of apple on the nose, with flavors of lemon pie and lingering vanilla on the finish.
For more information, visit Codorníu Raventós Group official website.
5. NV J Vineyards & Winery Demi Sec
Origin: Sonoma County, California
Varietal: 49% Chardonnay, 46% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier
Price: $45 for 750 ml.
This sweet sparkler is a fairly new wine for J Vineyards & Winery, but it makes a thoughtful addition to the lineup, considering the winery’s philosophy of enjoying bubbly with food. J was founded in 1986 by Judy Jordan, of the Jordan Winery family. Her dream was to create a distinctly American winery specializing in sparkling wines. As her vision became a reality, Jordan realized it was important to promote the harmony between sparkling wine and foods. She created a hospitality center for the winery in Sonoma County where visitors could enjoy the natural synergy of food and wine.
This demi sec is most definitely a wine to showcase that food-friendly philosophy. It makes it to our list of the Best Sweet Sparkling Wines because of its balance of crisp acidity to its sweetness. Made in the traditional Champagne method, J’s demi sec offers a fine stream of dancing bubbles. Its aromas are of citrus blossoms and hints of roasted nuts. On the palate, it offers flavors of pears and orange with a lingering note of honey.
For more information, visit J Vineyards & Winery official website.
6. 2014 Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec
Origin: Napa Valley, California
Varietal: 71% Flora, 16% Pinot Noir, 13% Chardonnay
Price: $42 for 750 ml.
Schramsberg is one of the oldest sparkling wine producers in the United States. Among their selection of memorable sparkling wines is a Crémant with a subtly sweet flavor.
The Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec offers balanced sweetness and maturity. It’s light on the tongue with a creamy texture. It’s made predominantly from Flora, a hybrid grape that’s a cross between Sémillon and Gewürztraminer. The result is a wine with stone fruit and pineapple flavor with more sophisticated butterscotch and spice at the back of the palate.
For more information, visit the Schramsberg official website.
7. Vins Gigou NV “La Bulle Sarthoise” Rouge Demi-Sec
Origin: Loire Valley, France
Varietal: Pineau d’Aunis
Price: $23 for 750 ml.
Joël Gigou is a bit of a cult name in the Loire. His white wines are sought for their expression of terroir, but it’s his deep, ruby red bottle of bubbles that has made GAYOT’s list of the Best Sweet Sparkling Wines.
If wines get points for “coolness,” this one’s off the charts. It’s a wine from an obscure appellation, made with unabashed sweetness. But to add intrigue to its sweet profile, the wine is filled with peppery, spicy aromas and flavors that will surprise and delight.
For more information, visit Domaine Gigou official website.
8. Graham Beck Bliss
Origin: Western Cape, South Africa
Varietal: 53% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir
Price: $17 for 750 ml.
Graham Beck is considered a leader in Méthode Cap Classique (MCC). This is the name for South African sparkling wines made in the Champenoise method.
Like a party in a bottle, the Bliss is a fun wine with honey sweetness. Aromas are pleasingly yeasty, like sweet pastry dough. On the palate, its flavors are reminiscent of praline and butterscotch.
For more information, visit Graham Beck official website.
9. Korbel Sweet Rosé
Varietal: Proprietary blend of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Gamay, Chenin Blanc
Price: $15 for 750 ml.
Korbel is one of the best-known names in sparkling wine. That’s because they know how to produce quality wines for the price — and their prices are generally very affordable.
The Sweet Rosé is one of Korbel’s newest releases — and one of our favorites from among the wines they produce. A low-alcohol sparkling wine, it offers pronounced sweetness backed up with solid acidity, making it a nicely balanced wine for the money. The red grapes in the blend add intensity and juicy berry flavors.
For more information, visit Korbel official website.
10. Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée
Origin: Catalonia, Spain
Varietal: 35% Macabeo, 25% Xarel-lo, 40% Parellada
Price: $12 for 750 ml.
Freixenet is a leader in affordable sparkling wines. The house was founded in 1914 but it really took off with the release of the first Cordon Negro in the 1970s.
One of Freixenet’s newest releases, the Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée is the kind of wine that will appeal to anyone who wants some body and sweetness in their Cava. It’s a very fun, fruit-forward bottle of bubbly with tons of citrus flavor.
For more information, visit Freixenet official website.
11. Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti D.O.C.G.
Origin: Moscato d’Asti, Italy
Price: $22 for 750 ml.
We began and ended this list with Moscato d’Asti. Of all the sweet sparkling wines, this is a style with a gentle sweetness and certainly one that deserves two spots on GAYOT’s list of the Best Sweet Sparkling wines. But unlike the first Moscato on the list, a slightly obscure wine, this one is one of the easiest sweet sparklers to find in America.
A beautifully fragrant wine, it offers balanced sweetness and low alcohol. Its flavors are delicately sweet. Peach and grapefruit dominate on the palate. On the finish, it is pleasingly fresh for a sweet wine.
For more information, visit Michele Chiarlo official website.