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Wine Chart: The Only Wine Sweetness Chart You’ll Ever Need

Wine Chart: The Only Wine Sweetness Chart You’ll Ever Need

Jonas Muthoni
wine chart

When you’re looking for an ideal wine you want something that offers the perfect level of sweetness, but what does that mean?

Well, it’s going to be different for different people.

You can choose a bottle of wine with a very sweet rating on the wine chart or one with a bone-dry score, or maybe you like something a little closer to the middle of the pack. If you’re not sure, this is a good time to start looking at different types of wine and how they rank and then trying out a few options.

(NOTE: You can download my Free Food & Wine pairing guide right here.)

 

Wine Sweetness Chart

It is important to note that the sweetness of wine is not a measure of sugar content, but rather the amount of residual sugar in a wine after fermentation. The chart below shows the sweetness of different red and white wines.

Wine Chart - Red and wine sweetness to dryness
The only wine chart you will ever need

Bone Dry vs. Very Sweet

You may not think of a beverage of any kind as being ‘bone dry’ but if you’ve ever had wine categorized this way you might change your mind. Some wines are actually capable of sucking the moisture directly out of your mouth and make you feel like you’re nearly dehydrated.

Others are so sweet that you can feel the sugar coating the inside of your mouth. Of course, there are always those wines that fall somewhere in the middle or slightly closer to one side of the wine chart than the other.

Only you can decide which way you prefer your wine.

What Makes Wine Dry?

So, why does wine taste dry in some instances?

Professional food scientists and wine writers have been looking at this for years, and they have come up with three different aspects of wine that decide whether it is dry or sweet, as to better place it in the wine chart.

These three aspects are:

  • the aroma
  • the tannins
  • the acidity

Of course, sweet wines have these as well, but in different combinations. Tannins that are high will produce a more drying effect in the mouth when paired with high acidity and an aroma that is less sweet it will create the drying impact even more.

Some of the driest red wines that you can look for include a bold and bitter finish or savory flavors, like Tannat, Bordeaux, Aglianico or French Malbec.

Dry white wines include lemon and mineral flavors primarily and include options like Italian Pinot Grigio, Gavi, Muscadet, Vinho Verde, and Arinto. These wines will give you the bone-dry taste that you may be looking for, but keep in mind that we’re not kidding when we say they’re going to completely dry out your mouth and your taste buds while you drink.

What Makes Wine Sweet?

By the law of opposites, we know that if the bone-dry wine has high tannins, high acidity, and low sweet aroma, a sweet wine must have low tannins, low acidity and a great sweet aroma, right?

Well, it’s just about that simple. Wines that taste sweet also smell sweet, and when you get a low level of acidity and a low level of the drying tannins, you’re going to get a glass of wine that tastes sweeter and sweeter, all the way up to that cloying sweetness of an exceptionally sweet wine.

If you’re looking for some of these very sweet wines you’ll find red wines that contain figs, raisins and dates are some of the best options. These include the Tawny Port and Vin Santo Rosso.

Very sweet white wines can consist of flavors of golden raisin, apricot jam, and fig. They include options like White Port, Passito wines, Moscatel Dessert Wine and Vin Santo. Each of these is going to give you the heavy flavor of sweetness that you’re looking for, and a great compliment to more acidic foods.

Unless, of course, you’re really looking for as much sweetness as possible.

Balancing it Out

In the middle of the wine chart there are options for off-dry or semi-sweet wines. These are great for those who want a little bit more balance but tend to lean in one direction or another.

For red wines, you’ll find semi-sweet options that contain candied fruit and floral flavors, like Brachetto D’Acqui, Recioto Della and Valpolicella. 

In a white wine, you’ll discover off-dry wines with honeycomb and lemon flavors, like Chenin Blanc, Kabinett Riesling, and Torrontes. You’ll also find semi-sweet options that include tropical fruit and perfume flavors, like Moscato.

These are going to give you a little more of the balance you may want for a dinner party or happy hour.

Finding the Flavor in the Wine Chart

Different aspects affect the flavor of a wine, as we mentioned in the wine chart. The tannin, acidity, and aroma of a wine will give it a distinct lean toward dry or sweet, so take a look here.

1. Tannins are related to the way that the wine feels on your tongue. They make the wine feel dry or not by changing the level of bitterness and astringency to the wine. For some, it doesn’t take a lot of tannins to recognize the effect, but others don’t have the same level of sensitivity.

2. Acidity is another area that you’ll notice a difference toward sweet or dry. That’s because higher levels of acid cut through sweet aspects of wine or anything else for that matter. If you have sweet, you want to add at least a little sour to balance it. Not enough and you get something very sweet; too much and you get something very sour, or acidic, which makes it taste drier.

 

3. Finally, the way something smells can play tricks on your mind.

If it feels sweet, your body thinks that it must taste sweet and that works in favor of sweeter wines. And remember that you want to use a wine aerator when pouring red wine.

See Also
Is Pinot Noir Sweet

On the other hand, if it smells sour, you’re going to feel the sourness as soon as you take a sip. Your mind can play tricks on you in that way, or it can enhance the intended flavor of the end product.

No matter what type of wine you’re looking for, you can find it in red or in white, with a dry or a sweet option. You can also try out several different choices that lean in either direction.

Sweet wines vary from semi-sweet to very sweet and dry wines differ from one off-dry all the way to bone dry. Just use the wine chart as assistance.

What Are the 4 Classifications of Wine?

  1. Red Wine: Made from dark-colored grapes and fermented with the skins and seeds. Red wine is usually fuller-bodied and has a range of flavors from light and fruity to rich and complex.
  2. White Wine: Made from light-colored grapes and fermented without the skins and seeds. White wine is typically lighter in body and has a range of flavors from crisp and refreshing to rich and creamy.
  3. Rosé Wine: Made from a blend of red and white grapes or from red grapes that have been pressed and fermented for a short time with the skins. Rosé wine is usually light-bodied and has a range of flavors from dry and crisp to sweet and fruity.
  4. Sparkling Wine: A wine that is carbonated, such as Champagne or Prosecco. Sparkling wine can be white or rosé and is usually served as a celebratory or festive drink.

In addition to these four main classifications, there are also many different subcategories and variations of wine, such as fortified wine, dessert wine, and organic wine.

What Are the Sweetness Levels of Wine?

Wine sweetness levels refer to the amount of residual sugar in the wine after the fermentation process. The sweetness of a wine can affect its taste and pairing with food. The following are the most common sweetness levels of wine, listed from driest to sweetest:

  • Extra Brut or Brut Nature: This is the driest level of sparkling wine, with no added sugar.
  • Brut: A dry sparkling wine with a hint of sweetness.
  • Extra Dry or Extra Sec: This is a slightly sweeter sparkling wine than Brut.
  • Sec: This term is used for still wines, and it refers to a slightly sweet wine.
  • Demi-Sec: This term is also used for still wines and refers to a medium-sweet wine.
  • Doux: This is the sweetest level of sparkling wine, with a high level of residual sugar.

It’s essential to note that sweetness levels can vary even within the same category of wine. For example, one brand of Brut may be drier than another. Additionally, some wines, such as Riesling, may have sweetness levels that fall outside of these general categories.

Which Kind of Wine is Sweetest?

Dessert wines are typically the sweetest type of wine. These wines are made with grapes that have higher levels of residual sugar or have been fortified with additional sugar or alcohol during the winemaking process.

Some of the sweetest dessert wines include:

  1. Late Harvest Wines: These wines are made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer, causing them to become overripe and have a higher concentration of sugar.
  2. Ice Wine: This wine is made from grapes that have frozen on the vine, concentrating their sweetness.
  3. Botrytis Wines: These wines are made from grapes that have been infected by a beneficial mold, which dries them out and concentrates their sweetness.
  4. Fortified Wines: These are wines that have had extra alcohol or sugar added to them, such as Port, Sherry, or Madeira.

It’s important to note that sweetness levels can vary even within these categories, and some wines may have higher or lower sweetness levels depending on the specific winery or vintage.

Which Red Wine is Sweetest?

In general, red wines tend to be less sweet than white wines, but there are some red wines that are sweeter than others. Here are some of the sweetest red wines:

  1. Ruby Port: Ruby Port is a fortified wine from Portugal, with a sweet, fruity taste and a deep red color.
  2. Brachetto d’Acqui: This is a sweet, sparkling red wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. It has notes of raspberry and strawberry and is often served as a dessert wine.
  3. Lambrusco: Lambrusco is a sweet, slightly sparkling red wine from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It has fruity and floral notes and is often served as a refreshing summer wine.
  4. Recioto della Valpolicella: This is a sweet, full-bodied red wine from the Veneto region of Italy. It is made from partially dried grapes and has a rich, intense flavor.
  5. Banyuls: Banyuls is a sweet, fortified red wine from the Roussillon region of France. It is often served as a dessert wine and has notes of dried fruit and chocolate.

It’s important to note that sweetness levels can vary even within these categories, and some wines may have higher or lower sweetness levels depending on the specific winery or vintage.

What Are the Different Wine Regions Called?

There are many different wine regions around the world, each with its own unique climate, soil, and winemaking traditions. Some of the most famous wine regions are:

  1. Bordeaux: Located in southwestern France, Bordeaux is known for its world-renowned red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other grape varieties.
  2. Burgundy: Located in eastern France, Burgundy is known for its high-quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.
  3. Napa Valley: Located in California, USA, Napa Valley is known for its full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux-style wines.
  4. Tuscany: Located in central Italy, Tuscany is known for its Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino wines made from the Sangiovese grape.
  5. Rioja: Located in northern Spain, Rioja is known for its rich and full-bodied red wines made from Tempranillo grapes.
  6. Mosel: Located in Germany, Mosel is known for its light and aromatic Riesling wines.
  7. Barossa Valley: Located in South Australia, Barossa Valley is known for its full-bodied Shiraz wines.

These are just a few examples of the many different wine regions around the world. Other notable wine regions include Champagne, the Rhone Valley, Piedmont, and the Douro Valley.

Conclusion

A wine vintage chart will visually show you the quality and traits of a specific region and year. These charts help you make good buying choices by showing you the best years and regions together. When you ask yourself if the 2018 Chardonnay from Napa or the 2019 is better, simply use a wine vintage chart to find out. The one that I find the best is by famous wine expert Robert Parker, you can find it here.

That’s a wrap!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post.

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