Which Wines Have the Least Amount of Sugar?
Many of us try and lead healthier lives and be more conscious of our sugar intake, which leads to the question…Can I still drink wine? Yes! Compared to many other alcoholic beverages and cocktails, most wine has very low sugar and lots of antioxidants.
Here are some tips for shopping for your favorite wines while still staying within your daily sugar intake.
To start…here is a great graphic from Wine Folly comparing Residual Sugar levels.
(Credit to winefolly.com for this great chart!)
What is Residual Sugar?
Essentially, yeast eat sugar and produce alcohol. Residual sugar (RS) is the amount of sugar left after fermentation has ended or been stopped. The higher the sugar content of the grape at the time of harvest, the higher the alcohol potential is.
Some winemakers choose to stop fermentation early and leave a bit of RS in the wine. You will see this often in American made white wine like Riesling. Others let fermentation be completed and end once all the sugar has been converted.
Note: Keep in mind that fruit-forward wines are often confused with off-dry or sweet wines. Fruitiness in a wine is not always an indication of RS.
How to Spot a High Sugar Wine
- Low alcohol– A wine with low alcohol content often has higher amounts of sugar because fermentation was stopped early. Check the ABV part of the wine label…anything that is 11% or lower probably has a good amount of sugar.
- Off-dry, sweet, doux- Any wine labels that contain the words off-dry, sweet, or doux indicate that the wine has higher amounts of sugar. If international labels are not telling you, read the description of the wine to see if it indicated the sweetness level there.
- Wine that is under $10- Unfortunetely, your favorite Wine Wednesday bottle may be high in sugar. Often cheaper wines have actually ADDED sugar in them. Low-quality grapes that do not contain adequate amounts of sugar at the time of harvest will leave some winemakers adding heaps of sugar into the grape juice before fermentation. There is often lots of residual sugar left…even if you can’t taste it. Even just bumping up to the $15-20 range of wines will make a huge difference in the quality and sugar levels.
Note: Because of the tannins and acidity in wine, it is often hard to spot a wine with high residual sugar. If a wine tastes slightly sweet, be wary, as it probably has more sugar in it than you think.
Find your favorite wines!
Red- Most red wines are dry…yay! It is rare that you will find a bottle of red that actually has any residual sugar. But keep in mind that cheap wines do contain more sugar. So keep your purchases above the $15 range and you should be good to choose whatever red wine you like.
Whites- While most white wines are dry, there are some varietals and styles that you need to be aware of; Riesling and Gewurztraminer in particular. While German and French tend to make these varietals dry, it can be hard to tell for sure based on the label. American made Riesling and Gewurztraminers should indicate whether the wine is dry, off-dry, or sweet. Most other white wine varietals should be safe. If you are unsure, check the label.
Rose- Our favorite pink drink. While traditionally roses are made to be dry and tart, you will occasionally find an off-dry or sweet rose. Like many drinks in the American market, they cater to our sweet tooths. But anything that is made internationally should be dry unless otherwise labeled.
Sparkling- Sparkling wines have their own sweetness scales are more often than not labeled. Here is your guide to picking out a low sugar sparkling wine from Wine Folly.
Dessert/Fortified- I’m sure you guessed; most dessert wines contain a fair amount of sugar. If you are watching your sugar intake, it is probably best to stay away from Ports and Sherry’s unless you know for sure they have little to no sugar.
How can I still enjoy my favorite sweet wines?
Compromise! If you are tempted with sugary desserts, opt for a glass of sweet Champagne or Riesling instead. It is a delicious post-meal drink is and is bound to have less sugar than any dessert on the menu.