Late Harvest Wine

Late harvest wine is a general term for wine which has been made from grapes that have been harvested late in the growing season, allowing them time to ripen fully and produce a considerable amount of sugar. The later the grapes are harvested, the more sugar and typically the sweeter the resulting wine. While most regular table wines ferment to dryness with little or no residual sugar in the finished wine, late harvest examples can be quite sweet. Generally, just harvesting wine late does not result in a very sweet wine. Other techniques such as producing ice wine or harvesting grapes concentrated by the "noble rot" botrytis cinerea are typically utilized produce the richest, sweetest desert wines.

Many of the classic examples of late harvested sweet wines come from Europe. For example, the Vendange Tardive (literally "late harvest") wines from Alsace in France tend to be off-dry to moderately sweet. Later harvested wines from Germany and Austria, of the Spätlese and Auslese designation for example, also tend to be off-dry to moderately sweet. These are generally utilized as table wines to accompany food rather than alone as a dessert wine. The even sweeter examples made from botrytized grapes, such as Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese in Germany/Austria, Sauternes in Bordeaux, or Selection de Grains Nobles in Alsace, are the sweetest dessert wines.

In younger wine producing regions such as the US, some wines are labeled as late harvest wine. There are white examples, such as late harvest Riesling or Semillon, as well as red examples, such as late harvest Zinfandel or others. The resulting wine can be a slightly sweet table wine or a very sweet dessert wine depending on the growing conditions, how ripe the grapes were at the time of harvest, the types of grapes used and the style the winemaker was going for.

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