Sweet, fruity, off-dry, residual sugar? Sugar in wine explained

You will probably hear someone into wine explaining that wines are either dry, off-dry, medium sweet or sweet. There are no other options. While this may be true it makes sense to be a bit more nuanced. Let us first start with how sugars work in wine.

Sugar in Wine

Grapes start out unripe and gets sweeter with time and the amount of sugar inside the grape while picked often dictates what the final alcohol level will be. In a hotter climate with more stable weather such as in California overripening is often an issue while in Europe you may have the opposite problem with storms, hale, excessive rain that might cause more problems for grapes to fully ripen. When to harvest is a subjective decision made by the winemaker depending on a lot of factors such as upcoming weather forecasts but also what type of wine he or she wishes to make. For example, in red wine you will often fine these prune/raisin notes in very ripe grapes which often happens in Californian Zinfandel. In order to do a sweet wine you would often let the grapes “overmature” in a late harvest wine. Read more about this in our post here. These wines will have higher residual sugar 

Fruity Wine

If we agree that there is dry, off-sweet and sweet wine then you might run into someone to say that a pinot grigio is indeed “not sweet but it is dry, however it is fruity“. The percieved sweetness of a wine may be masked by acidity so you can have the exact same amount of sugar in two glasses but the more acidity one will likely taste less sweet. There are other factors that would also changed the percieved sweetness of a wine. This means that there are certain styles of wine that often get called sweet although technically are dry but fruity. A typical one would be most Italian Pinot Grigios that rarely have the body, the alcohol and the acidity to mask the sweetness.

Read related post  Pinot Gris and Pinot Prigio

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