Virtually all wines have sugar in them. But the amount of sugar in wine is not always the same. It can be minimal in some wines, while others may have as much as a can of soda.
How can you tell the difference when you’re buying wine? In most cases, winemakers don’t list the sugar content on the label because it isn’t required.
We’re happy to answer all your questions on our Tuscany wine tours. In the meantime, here’s a quick guide on what you should know about sugar in wine, plus our recommendation for one of the best low-sugar wines.
Why is there sugar in wine?
The sugar in wine comes from the natural fructose and glucose in grapes. Climate plays a big role in the sweetness of the grapes. When the weather is warmer, the grapes ripen faster and accumulate more sugar.
The sugars in grapes can also be affected by a practice called “green harvesting.” Winemakers may remove extra grape bunches from the vine when they’re still green. This helps the remaining grapes to ripen and build up more nutrients and sugar.
During the fermentation process, yeast converts most of the sugar in the grapes to alcohol. Any remaining amount is called “residual sugar”. This is what determines the sweetness of the wine.
How much sugar does wine contain?
The amount of sugar in wine is measured in grams per litre (g/L). Chances are you drink wine by the glass, so let’s break down what that really means for still wines.
Dry wine: In general, if a wine is described as dry, this means that it has less than 10 grams per litre of sugar. For example, although it has fruity flavors, Chianti is a dry red wine. It has only about 1.2 grams of sugar, or less than a quarter of teaspoon, per glass. Dry white wines tend to be slightly higher.
A wine is called “sweet” when it has more than 45 grams of sugar per litre. For dessert wines, there can be as much as 8 grams, or 2 teaspoons of sugar in one glass.
For example, in Tuscany, we produce a dessert wine from dried grapes called Vin Santo. Although it can range in sugar levels, it’s typically very sweet, with aromas of caramel, nuts and dried apricot. You only need a small serving to savor.
Wines that fall between sweet and dry are called “off-dry”.
Why Prosecco is a great low sugar option
You might think that bubbly wines have more sugar than still wines, but that is not always the case. Prosecco, the Italian version of champagne, is our most popular wine outside of Italy. It can also be one of the lowest sugar and low-carb alcoholic drinks you can have.
If you want less sugar in a sparkling wine, choose one that uses the term “Brut,” which means it is low sugar. For example, an “Extra Brut” Prosecco has under six grams per litre of sugar. That’s even less than red wine. Oddly enough, sparkling wines that use the terms “dry” or “sec” actually have more sugar in them. The words, “doux” or “sweet” indicate even higher levels of sugar.
Prosecco has an aromatic and fresh flavor. It’s the perfect guilt-free wine to enjoy anytime.