The season of wine festivals is upon us and people all over the greater Cleveland area are celebrating. But during a recent festival, some new wine drinkers had some great questions that I have always taken for granted. So after thinking about their question, I figured of few of you may have similar questions.
The question that I received the most was why are some wines listed as sweet and some as dry? What’s the difference? And how can a wine be dry? Isn’t it a liquid? These are great questions and all valid topics for new wine drinkers (and even seasoned wine drinkers that need a refresher).
The sweetness of a wine is determined by a concept called Residual Sugar. Residual Sugar (sometimes listed as RS on wine lists) is the measure of the amount of sugars that remain unfermented in the finished wine. Measured by precision tools, the residual sugar is calculated based on the grams of sugar in a liter of wine. Usually wines that have residual sugar calculated over 45 grams/liter are classified as sweet.
If a wine has zero residual sugar there is very little sweetness or is classified as a dry wine. As the sugar level in the wine increases it is listed as being sweeter. Many sweet wines have residual sugar content around 5%. If you like Ice Wines (a very sweet wine that is harvested in the winter) can range anywhere from 12% – 20%.
One item to remember about residual sugar there it is rare to find a wine that is over 22%. So if you are wine hopping people may look at you a little strange if you comment that your favorite wines have a residual sugar of 75% – unless you are having a sip of wine with a tablespoon of sugar!