Everyone has slightly different preferences when it comes to wine. There are five basic characteristics of wine: sweetness, acidity, tannins, alcohol, and body. Sweetness is one of the easiest to identify and many people have a strong preference for sweet vs dry wine. Understanding wine sweetness can help you more easily describe and find your favorite wines.
What Makes Some Wines Sweet?
During the winemaking process, sugar in grape juice is converted into alcohol by yeast. Sugar that is left after fermentation is known as residual sugar. Sweeter wines have more grams of residual sugar per liter than dry wines. This also means they typically have lower levels of alcohol, although this is not the case for fortified wines such as Ports. These wines have spirits added so they have a higher sweetness level as well as higher alcohol by volume (ABV).
Tasting for Wine Sweetness
In most cases, it’s easy to tell whether a wine is sweet, but some factors can make this more complicated. For example, a relatively dry wine may have notes of fruit or other sweet-tasting flavors. Wines with more bitterness from tannins may also taste less sweet. This is not necessarily important when it comes to selecting wine and how you personally experience a wine’s flavor is more important than its classification as dry or sweet. However, it can be helpful to know.
When tasting for wine sweetness, the first thing to check is the viscosity, which you can do before even taking a sip. Swirl the wine around the glass and see whether or not it leaves droplets on the sides. These are known as “legs” or “tears.” Sweeter wines tend to be more viscous, although this can also be an indication of higher ABV.
Once you take a sip, focus on the sensation on the tip of your tongue. This is the location of the tastebuds that are most sensitive to sweetness and you will often notice a tingling sensation here when drinking a sweet wine.
The Sweetness of Our Wines
White Wine Sweetness by Varietal
- Albariño: bone dry with lemon and mineral notes
- Garnacha Blanca: bone dry with baked fruit flavors
- Bella Blanca: bone dry, but with a light sweetness maintained during fermentation in stainless steel
- Verdejo: dry with savory flavors
Our Garnacha rosé wine is off-dry with luscious fresh fruit notes that give it a subtle sweetness.
Red Wine Sweetness by Varietal
- Tempranillo: bone dry with savory flavors
- Sangiovese: dry with rich earthy flavors
- Cabernet Franc: dry with savory and dark fruit flavors
- Syrah: dry with bold dark fruit flavors
- Petite Sirah: dry with flavors of spice
- Malbec: dry with crisp notes
- Zinfandel: dry with complex dark fruit flavors
- Graciano: dry, but with some sweeter fruit flavors
Our Fortified Dessert Wines
If you are a fan of sweet wines, we recommend our Ports. These fortified dessert wines are created by carefully arresting fermentation to balance residual sugar and flavor. We then add distilled spirits to stabilize the wine. For our flavored varieties, we add natural extracts. The end result is a delicious and decadently sweet dessert wine. We offer both red and white ports and our flavors include butterscotch, mocha, orange blossom, chocolate raspberry, and more.
Try Our Wines
Whether you prefer your wine sweet or dry, Wilhelm Family Vineyards has a variety of options for you to enjoy. You can shop online or visit us at either of our tasting rooms to find your new favorite.