Nenad Trifunovic

A Beginner’s Guide to Sweet Red Wines – Part Two

Just how sweet is enough? There is an old expression saying: “People talk dry but drink sweet”. Regardless of your personal stand on this, every once in a while everybody can use a wine just as a regular drink to sip. Fruity and superficial, yet refreshingly chilled, with a noticeable level of residual sugar – it pleases many. 

However, off-dry is not sweet, and when talking about types of sweet reds, that category, is not what we have in mind.

You might think that levels of sugar in wine are what defines the type of wine. Although not entirely inaccurate, more important is the style. There is a tradition different for each of the wine regions, and the most famous ones are Italians, of course. Passito is the name for a practice of drying picked grapes on wooden racks for weeks in order to dehydrate and then pressing them.

The most famous ones are Recioto della Valpolicella (just imagine a fully ripe Amarone, only from raisins) and Brachetto d’Acqui, which could mean anything from fizzy to passito… Did somebody say fizzy? Perhaps the most prominent is Lambrusco, coming in all shapes and sizes but always – fizzy. 


Many other varieties in many other regions have proven themselves with balanced sweet red wines. If fortified is your game, Port is the answer. Ruby or Vintage, with many variations in between, it seduces with its berry and liquorice aromas just as much as with high alcohol. That very alcohol is added to Port in order to stop the fermentation, thus leaving the sweetness levels high.

But nothing can stop you from enjoying Prošek. Except for the fact that it is forbidden. Not because it will poison you; on the contrary, it was considered medicine in the old days. But because it might confuse the consumer who is trying to order some Prosecco. We all adore Prosecco, but we should drink a lot more of it to confuse one with the other. Prošek is a traditional Croatian sweet wine made from dried grapes, ideally still on the vine (!), and then picked and pressed. 

It can be made from either white Dalmatian varieties, or red as well, such as Plavac mali. Prošek can be amber or dark red in color, but never pale and sparkling. However, Croatia does have one sparkling wine that could seriously endanger Lambrusco 🙂 Griffin is the label, Dark Side is the name. It is actually Brut Sparkling, but in many ways comparable to some serious off-dry styles of Lambrusco, not the sweetened ones you might come across in the supermarket.


All good things must come to an end? No, meaning there are no more different types and styles of late harvest natural sweet red wines. Yes, meaning these wines make a perfect dessert or an after-dessert treat. Muscat Rose stands out, especially Croatia’s own clone originating from Poreč in Istria. The intoxicating smell of roses followed by red berries and oranges lifted by a balanced body.

Sweet is fine, sweet is the wine, 

white or red or something else instead. 

Matter not if sweet is what you got. 

More the sweet, more likely to repeat. 

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