Any wine – be it Riesling or Cabernet – can be either dry or sweet. Let’s explore popular wines listed from dry to sweet.
The maker of a wine determines its sweetness. Popular varietal wines and styles tend to share the same sweetness level. Wine sweetness ranges from virtually nothing to upwards of 70% sweetness (like a rare bottle of Spanish PX!).
When reading a tech sheet:
- Below 1% sweetness, wines are considered dry.
- Above 3% sweetness, wines taste “off-dry,” or semi-sweet.
- Wines above 5% sweetness are noticeably sweet!
- Dessert wines start at around 7–9% sweetness.
- By the way, 1% sweetness is equal to 10 g/L residual sugar (RS).
- 1% sweetness is a little less than 2 carbs per 5 oz serving (~150 ml)
By the way, the average wine drinker can’t detect sweetness levels below 1.5%. Shocking right? That said, trained tasters can guesstimate sweetness within about 0.2% – this is totally learnable!
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Where does the sweetness in wine come from?
Thousands of years ago, winemakers figured out how to stop fermentation (by various means), resulting in left-over grape sugars.
Unlike still wines, sparkling wines are allowed to add sweetness! Read more about Champagne sweetness levels (from Brut to Doux).