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Sweet wines are misunderstood

The sweetness in wine is a choice by the winemaker. As you may remember, fermentation occurs when yeast is added to grape juice–the yeast eats the sugar in the grapes, creating alcohol and carbon dioxide. Then, the wine sweetness is measured by the sugar level that is left in the wine after the fermentation process occurs. Some wine makers will even stop the fermentation of the wine by suddenly chilling it or adding alcohol to it. But more on that in a moment.

MOST SWEET WINE IS WHITE… but there are notable exceptions, of course.

Levels of wine sweetness

A woman looks at a sweet wine.

Wines with less than 10 grams per litre of sugar are considered “dry wines.” To put that into a more relatable context, that’s around 1.5 teaspoons of sugar per bottle.


Following dry wines, there are wines known as “off-dry” wines that are a little sweet, such as moscato and pinot grigio. Then, you get medium-dry wines that have a pretty noticeable sweetness to them. Examples of these juicy wines are chenin blanc and riesling.

Dessert wines are the sweetest of all. These include port and ice wine. Some have as much as four tablespoons of sugar per bottle! SWEET!

How is it made?

Sweet wines are made lots of ways. Some are made with mouldy grapes! Ew! I know! But it’s true. A grey fungus called Botrytis is used to make wines like sauternes (one of the most expensive dessert wines in the world!). Some are made using dried grapes. Essentially this is wine made with concentrated raisins. Some are made from frozen grapes picked at nighttime (ice wine). Others are made by adding alcohol to the wine in order to kill the yeast and stop the wine from fermenting further. These are called fortified wines.

Sweet wines are expensive to make because they are labor intensive and tend to only be made in small quantities.

Write SUGAR in the comments below if you are a fan of delicious sweet wines like I am! 🙂

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