residual sugar in wine

The BHW Real Wine Club Exposes Residual Sugar in Wine

There is a growing movement in the wine industry for more transparency, including details about residual sugar levels in wine. However, along the value chain from growers to retailers, few make it easy to know what is in a bottle of wine.

This lack of transparency has contributed to wine scandals, faked wines, a proliferation of bottom-shelf and branded wines, and the homogenization of wines.

At Big Hammer Wines, our fine wine experts share insider secrets of the wine industry, starting with a discussion about residual sugar.

Because our wines are carefully chosen according to strict guidelines, at Big Hammer Wines, you get honest wines of quality and value.

what is residual sugar in wine

What is Residual Sugar in Wine?

Wine is an agricultural product, much like table grapes, but decisions about grape growing and winemaking impact the wine that ends up in the bottle.

One element impacting how wine tastes and feels in the mouth is residual sugar (RS.) Residual sugar represents the amount of sugar remaining after alcoholic fermentation, when yeasts have converted grape sugars into alcohol. The higher the level of residual sugar, the sweeter the wine and the fuller or more viscous it can taste in the mouth.

The wine industry measures residual sugar as grams per liter (g/L) or as a percentage of weight to volume (%RS.) All wines have some level of residual sugar because not 100% of all sugars are fully fermented into alcohol. Very low levels are undetectable.

If you are concerned about the amount of sugar in your diet, you should know how much residual sugar is in your favorite wine. You will discover it is almost impossible to find out.

why produce wine with residual sugar

Why Produce Wine with Residual Sugar?

A wide range of wine styles exists beyond the typical designations of “dry” or “sweet.” There are no standard definitions for the different categories.

Some wines are promoted as dry even though they have residual sugar levels that would classify them as sweet.

Depending on the style of wine desired, a winemaker can stop fermentation before all the sugar converts to alcohol, for example, in making a dessert wine.

Other methods of managing sugar levels include:

  • lowering the temperature in the tank to stop fermentation when the wine reaches the desired sweetness
  • adding sulfur dioxide to stop fermentation
  • adding neutral grape alcohol to stop fermentation, such as in fortified wines like Port
  • adding unfermented grape must (the juice before fermentation) to the fermented wine to increase the amount of sugar

Another reason to manipulate residual sugar levels is to produce a wine that will sell. Some wine producers use consumer tasting panels to determine the styles of wine that consumers prefer and then make and market those wines. These wines are “created from the consumer backward.”

is residual sugar in wine a problem

Is Residual Sugar in Wine a Problem?

Residual sugar in wine is not a problem unless the wine is marketed as something it is not. Some companies market certain wines as dry and do not disclose their higher residual sugar levels. Given the information, consumers might perceive these wines differently and this could impact the price and/or sales of the wine.

In the U.S., many wine drinkers prefer sweeter wines than they think. Because the industry promotes dry wines as being “better,” consumers believe they should prefer these wines. However, they more often buy and enjoy sweeter wines. For example, many mass-marketed, popular wines, such as Moscato and many Rieslings, are medium-sweet or sweet wines.

no labeling requirements for residual sugar in wine

No Labeling Requirements for Residual Sugar in Wine

The U.S. does not have any regulations regarding residual sugar levels on wine labels, though wine labeling is under review. Rules exist only around the use of such terms as “Late Harvest” and “Ice Wine,” which are specific types of dessert wines.

If you want to keep track of your sugar intake, you cannot do so by relying on wine labels. You might find this information at a wine producer’s website or by contacting the distributor or producer. You can also find retailers who value educating consumers about the wines they sell.

bhw wine club provides transparency in wine labeling

The BHW Real Wine Club Provides Transparency in Wine

Big Hammer Wine’s BHW Real Wine Club carries only chemical-free wines lower in sugar and alcohol. Wines are lab and taste tested. The BHW Real Wine Club is for wine drinkers who believe in transparency and care about what they put in their bodies.

Our wines are:

  • lab tested to guarantee quality
  • not adulterated with dies, coloring agents, or unnatural chemical agents
  • lower alcohol levels (<14%)
  • low in sugar (< 2 g/L)
  • selected from small producers, often with limited availability
  • low in sulfites (<75ppm)

The BHW Real Wine Club is flexible, includes free shipping and you can cancel any time. Learn more about wine from BHW Real Wine Club.

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