Here is a guide to help you decipher the often-confusing wine label of sweet white wines. Using this will help you pick out a bottle of wine that has your desired sweetness level and flavors.
Sweetness Levels in Wine
Technically, every white wine can be made sweet, depending on when it was picked or how much sugar the winemaker added. Because of this, you can’t always depend on the varietal of wine to tell you how sweet the wine is. For example, Riesling can be made sweet or dry. Rieslings and Gewurztraminers are two white wines that age well. If you have aged your white wine, be sure to decant your wine before drinking, just like a red wine.
How do I know if a wine is sweet or not? The labels on the wine often indicate the sweetness level. The sweetness in a wine is derived from residual sugar (RS), or the sugar leftover in the wine after fermentation has been ended.
Bone Dry: Less than 1 g/L RS
Common Flavors: Lemon, citrus fruits
Common Varietals: Muscadet
Dry: 1-10 g/L RS
Common Flavors: Grapefruit, lemongrass, other fruit and savory flavors
Off-Dry: 11-35 g/L RS
Common Flavors: Honey, lemon curd, melon
Common Varietals: Gewurztraminer, Riesling
Semi-Sweet: 35-50 g/L RS
Common Flavors: Ripe tropical fruits, sweet melons
Common Varietals: Moscato
Sweet: 50-120 g/L RS
Common Flavors: Lemon curd, honey, candied fruit
Common Varietals: White Port
Very Sweet: 120-220 g/L RS
Common Flavors: Raisin, dried fig, candied fruit
Common Varietals: Ice Wine
Wines with the same amount of Residual Sugar or sweetness can taste very differently. Wines with a lower acidity will taste sweeter than those with a higher acidity. Higher acidity white wines have tart citrus and tropical fruit flavors, off-setting the sweet taste.
Sweetness Levels in White Wine Styles Infographic Chart
Sparkling Wine Sweetness Levels & Terminology
Sparkling wines and Champagnes have their own sweetness levels that are different than white wines. Sparkling wines, even the sweetest sparkling wines, have much less residual sugar than still wines.
For example, Doux (sweetest level of sparkling wine) only has around 50 g/L RS but has the same sweet taste as a very sweet white wine with 120-220 g/L RS. This has to do with carbonation and acidity levels.
Here are the words you will see on a bottle of sparkling wine to indicate its sweetness from bone dry to very sweet:
- extra brut: 0-6 grams of sugar per litre
- brut: less than 12 grams of sugar per litre
- extra dry: 12-17 grams of sugar per litre
- sec: 17-32 grams of sugar per litre
- demi-sec: 32-50 grams of sugar per litre
- doux: more than 50 grams of sugar per litre
This guest post was provided by ilovewine.com exclusively for Social Vignerons.
The above chart and explanations of sweetness levels in white wines was first published on Sweetness Levels of Sweet White Wine