You’re either one of two people: craving something for your sweet tooth or looking to avoid making your numerous cavities worse. Whichever it is, we’ve got the low-down so you know whether or not you’re picking a sweet vino off the shelf. Here are some clues: fermentation, alcohol content, varietals, and region.
Essentially, fermentation is the process where sugar converts to alcohol. A ripe wine grape has wild yeasts (also known as “bloom”) living on its skin which are full of natural sugars. When the skin of the grape is crushed during the winemaking process, fermentation begins and the yeast goes to work consuming the sugars inside the grapes and converting them into alcohol. So the less time your wine spends fermenting, the more sugary it’ll be.
Alcohol content can also be a factor in determining the sweetness of a wine. It is very common for a sweet wine to be low in alcohol content because the fermentation process stopped before most of the sugar converted into alcohol. This is why some of our favorite sweet wines, like Riesling or Moscato, tend to have lower levels of alcohol content.
Certain varietals are known for being sweeter than others. Riesling, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer (good luck pronouncing that) are some of the well-known sweeter vinos.
While this rule doesn’t hold true for every wine that comes from a recognized sweet varietal, it definitely holds up for most! Geographically speaking, particular regions tend to make certain sweeter styles of wine. Germany, for example, produces sweeter white wines, while Italy and France tend to stay on the less sweet side. New World wines, like those from California, are often fruiter and perceived as sweeter.
So the next time you’re stuck in the wine aisle at the grocery store trying to pick out the best vino for your sweet spot, just remember these hacks. They’ll make you feel like a kid in the candy shop (read: wine aisle).