Sweet Wine vs. Dry Wine

Let’s start with how you make wine and alcohol

Alcohol is made by converting sugar(whether it’s the grapes natural sugar or added sugar) into alcohol during the fermentation process.

Dry Wine:

Dry means not sweet.  Dry wine is made by allowing all of the sugar to convert into alcohol during the fermentation process.

Sweet Wine: 

Sweet wine is well, wine that is sweet because of residual sugar, or sugar left over(not converted into alcohol) from the winemaking process.

There are varying degrees of sweetness levels:

  • Off-Dry
  • Medium-Dry
  • Medium-Sweet
  • Sweet

The degree of sweetness in wine is based on how much sugar is allowed to remain after fermentation.  The process of creating sweet wine is called halted fermentation.

Halted Fermentation is where you stop the fermentation before all sugar has converted to alcohol.

Therefore, depending on when you halt the fermentation will dictate how sweet the wine will be.

Another method to make wine is called Suisse Reserve.  Suisse Reserve is more connected with German winemaking.  This makes wine sweeter by adding unfermented grape juice to wine that has already been fermented.

Some wine makers will even add unfermented grape juice and sugar.

Chaptalization DOES NOT make wine sweet.  I only mention Chaptalization because people often confuse this process with making wine sweeter.  This method is where you add sugar to unfermented grape juice in order to create a higher alcohol level in the wine.

Wine Tip: All wine is DRY or NOT SWEET unless specified.  You can assume that unless you’re ordering off the dessert wine list or the dessert wine section in your liquor store that it’s all dry.

There are wines that are more fruit forward.  Fruit-forward wines can give the impression of sweetness, but they aren’t sweet;  they just have ripe juicy fruit qualities.

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