Wine & Sugar

wine glassI’m no expert on wine…but I do enjoy a good glass every now and then.  Recently I’ve been noticing and discovering the effects of different types on my body, and started looking into why.  And wouldn’t you know it – the ones that didn’t sit well with my body where the ones that had sugar…most notably sparkling wines!

In general, the process of wine making allows for complete fermentation until all the natural sugar in the grapes is converted to alcohol.  By the time fermentation is complete, sugars in the must have all been turned into ethyl alcohol, glycerine and aldehydes. The result is a dry wine — and sugar-free.

However, not all wines are free of sugar content. The amount of sugar in a wine determines the type of wine it is:  0-3 grams of sugar is considered a dry wine, 3-10 grams is a medium dry or sweet wine, and 10-18 grams is a mellow wine.  The big sugar whopper are fortified wines, which have 40-200 g of residual sugar.

Sweet wines are created when:

  • Wines made of grapes are so sweet that either the alcohol level or the sugar, or both, prevents the yeasts from functioning
  • an artificial interruption of the fermentation process occurs by adding sulphur dioxide to kill yeast
  • sweetened grape juice (aka a “sweet reserve”) is added to the dry wine

Just to name a few — California Rieslings and Gewürztraminers, ports, vin doux natural, madeira, and other sweet white wines follow the method of incomplete fermentation.

Are you a wine connosieur? Share with us your sugar and wine wisdom!


Johnson, Hugh. Hugh Johnson’s Modern Encyclopedia of Wine. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983. Print.
Camarra, Caroline, and Jean-Paul Paireault. The World of Wine. New York: Mallard, 1990. Print.


photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

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