CAROLYN EVANS HAMMOND Carolyn Evans Hammond is a long-standing wine critic. She hosts The Wine Find Talks on YouTube and The Wine Find travel TV show on ROKU on the Access Luxury channel. Each week, she contributes a wine column to the Toronto Star (syndicated) and regularly conducts private tastings in person and virtually. As a seasoned wine educator, judge and media personality with 20+ years of journalism experience, Carolyn makes it her mission to find you your next great glass.
Though it’s tempting to think you can trust your taste buds in determining how sweet—or dry—a wine is, that might not actually be the case.
I f you love wine but are trying to control your sugar intake, read on. This cheat sheet might change your life—or at least your wine selections. Here’s why. Though it’s tempting to think you can trust your taste buds in determining how sweet—or dry—a wine is, that might not actually be the case. Wines with sugar can taste dry because acidity, which all wine contains in varying amounts, hides sweetness incredibly well. For example, Brut styles of Champagne, Crémant and other sparkling wines may taste dry yet contain up to 12 grams per litre (g/l) of sugar. The acidity simply hides the sugar, but that’s not all it does. Sugar also polishes the wine’s mouthfeel, making it taste smooth and well-balanced while retaining the lift and crispness so important for sparkling wine. The result is a quenching refresher that, without the inclusion of sugar, would likely taste searing or shrill. Riesling, Vinho Verde and dessert wine can pack significant levels of sugar without tasting sweet or cloying, thanks to high levels of acidity. That acidity balances the sweetness, creating the tension needed to create lip-smacking appeal.
Still wines can also contain more sugar than you might think. Some big, bold reds and rich, ripe whites can seem dry while clocking several grams of residual sugar. In these cases, the sugar adds a certain lushness that appeals to many wine drinkers. For reds, sugar can create a pleasant jamminess, often balancing more savoury nuances such as toasty, nutty notes, tobacco, earth or peppercorn. For white wine, sweetness can fill in the midpalate to add a certain creamy texture that many wine drinkers find appealing. So, if you’re watching your sugar intake, best not to rely on taste alone to guide your selections. Instead, find out how much sugar is actually in a chosen bottle of wine. Here’s how.
Go to bcliquorstores.com and search for a wine by name. When the wine appears on the screen, click on its name to reach its product page. On the right side of the page, the sweetness will be assigned a numeric code or sweetness icon, which corresponds to the residual sugar level (the natural sugars remaining in wine after the fermentation process) in grams per litre. See the chart below. Here’s the math to establish what these numbers mean in amounts you can visualize. If a wine has 5 grams per litre of sugar or less, it will have less than 1/4 tsp (1 g) of sugar per standard 5 oz (150 ml) glass. So, if you’re trying to minimize the amount of sugar you’re consuming in wine, choose those with a zero (00) or “Dry” sweetness code.
Sweetness Code Description
0 to 5 g/l
01 to 02
6 to 24 g/l
03 to 07
25 to 79 g/l
08 to 10
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