THESE SIX WINES, all available at local PLCB stores, illustrate that "sweet" is relative and doesn't always equal cloying or sugary. Sweet can be complex, and since the alcohol level is in check, these wines pair great with meals, especially spicy Thai or Indian and sushi. All my recommendations are less than $20 per bottle.
Pio Cesare Moscato D'Asti 2009, Piedmont, Italy, $15.99, 5 percent abv (alcohol by volume).
The downside of moscato's sudden popularity is the amount of poor-quality wine out there. This one, by a famed Barolo producer, is on a different level. Delicate nose of herbs and mango, and well-balanced with acidity. Perfect for brunch.
St. Urbans-Hof Goldtröpfchen Piesport Kabinett Riesling 2009, Mosel, Germany, $22.99, 8 percent abv.
Yeah, say that name three times fast. Rich, elegant nose of ripe fruit. But in the mouth the sweet is balanced by acidic, fresh pineapple notes and a soothing, chalky, mineral finish. This is a Riesling that wants to be your loud best friend.
Dr. F. Weins-Prüm Estate Riesling 2009, Mosel, Germany, $17.99, 11.5 percent abv.
Classic Riesling that's affable but quieter and more subtle than the St. Urbans-Höf. Crisp, mineral, refreshing, but the hint of sweetness is still there.
Château de Montfort Vouvray Demi-Sec 2010, Loire, France, $ 14.99, 11.5 percent abv.
Made from the chenin blanc grape, the source of wonderful dry whites. This demi-sec is fruity but crisp. Served chilled, it would be nice to sip on the patio on a sunny afternoon.
Willm Gewürztraminer Reserve 2009, Alsace, France, $17.99, 13 percent abv.
Alsace is a producer of reliable off-dry and sweet wines, and the tongue-twister gewürztraminer grape is one of the region's mainstays. Clean and crisp but with rich lychee fruit — the classic telltale aroma of this grape. "When I drink this, I feel like a child of sunshine and energy," one of my hippieish friends exclaimed upon drinking this.
Château Bastor-Lamontagne Sauternes 2007, Bordeaux, France, $11.99 (375 ml), 13.5 percent abv (not pictured).
Sauternes is usually pricey, but this one, available in half-bottles, is an amazing value. An excellent introduction to the unique, complex wines made from "noble rot." We're talking about an old-fashioned kind of sweet, a taste from another era.