Wines Listed from Dry to Sweet (Charts)

Any wine – be it Riesling or Cabernet – can be either dry or sweet. Lets explore popular wines listed from dry to sweet.

The sweetness of wine is determined by the winemaker. Of course, 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!).

Red Wine Sweetness Level Chart by Wine Folly

Since wine ranges in sweetness, you have to do some research to figure out the actual residual sugar in a specific bottle. You can use wine tech sheets to find the exact number. (So useful!)

When reading a tech sheet:

  • Below 1% sweetness, wine 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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White Wines Sweetness Chart by Wine Folly

Where does the sweetness in wine come from?

Thousands of years ago, winemakers figured out how to stop fermentation (by various means) to keep a little leftover grape sugar in their wines. This is where sweetness in wine comes from.

Wine geeks call these leftover sugars “residual sugar,” because the sugar comes from the sweetness of grapes. There are, of course, some poor quality wines made with added sugar (called chaptalization), but this is generally frowned upon.

In truth, we humans are not particularly adept at sensing sweetness. For example bitterness, or tannins in wine, reduces the perception of sugar. So does acidity.

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Brut Champagne Sweetness Levels

Unlike still wines, sparkling wines are allowed to add sweetness! Read more about Champagne sweetness levels (from Brut to Doux).

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About Madeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly