When we talk about sweetness in wine, a little goes a long way. Simply put, sweetness in wine is the amount of sugar remaining after the wine has fermented. The sweetness of a wine can have a major impact on the taste and plays an important role in the overall balance of a wine.
With a small addition of sweetness it will serve to reduce the acidity of a white or reduce the harsher tannins in a red, allowing fruit notes to show.
Wines are often described with three basic levels of sweetness: dry, off-dry, and sweet. The majority of wines are not sweet, but a bit of sweetness is often used to balance the flavour profile.
Dry wines have very little or no sugar remaining in the wine. It’s often quite difficult to taste any sweetness in a dry wine, even for experienced wine drinkers.
Off-dry wines have a small amount of sugar remaining. When you taste an off-dry wine, you’re likely to taste a little bit of sweetness — but that sweetness is often balanced with the other characteristics of the wine.
Sweet wines are less common with only a few mainstream varietals, and the amount of sugar remaining in the wine ranges from medium to high. Dessert wines would also fall in this category. When you taste a sweet wine, you will taste the sweetness.
It’s important to note that different people taste sweetness at different intensities, so while an off-dry wine might taste too sweet to some, it might not be sweet enough for others.
Pairing Food With Sweetness Levels
When pairing your wine with food, the sweetness level is one of the first considerations. As a general rule of thumb, your wine should be sweeter or as sweet as your meal. If your wine is more dry than your food, the wine flavours are harder to taste and can come off a bit more bitter or acidic.
For dry wines, they pair well with savoury meals. Try pairing a dry red wine with a nice Sunday roast, or a steak on the BBQ — while a nice dry white will go great with that grilled salmon and asparagus.
For off-dry wines, they pair best with food that has a touch of sweetness. An off-dry white or blush wine pairs great with a salad, fresh fruit, and pecans. You can always fire up the grill and use a maple or honey glaze, or make your own sweet and spicy sauce to pair with your off-dry wine.
For sweet wines, you’ll want to pair with food that’s also got some sweetness — or you can use the sweeter wine to balance the flavour of something else you’re eating. For example, a spicy meal may pair well with a sweeter wine as the flavours works together. You can also try pairing with food that has more acidity, higher salt content or with lighter meats that won’t challenge the flavour.
Pairing with sweet wines, like with any wines, can be an adventure and the best way to learn what you like is to experiment. Take a bite of food, chew a bit, then follow with a sip of wine. If the flavour is better than without the wine, you’ll know you’ve found a good pairing.
Wine Works Sweetness Scale
When your wine is made at Wine Works, we can adjust the sweetness to the levels you enjoy most. Whether you’re looking for a touch of sweetness in your dry wine to add some balance, or want to turn your favourite sweet wine into a dry one — we can adjust the sweetness as needed.
We communicate our sweetness levels using a simple scale of 1-5. We can adjust your wine by 0.5 or more depending on what you’d like.
A sweetness level of 0 would be considered dry.
A sweetness level of 0.5 – 1 would be considered off-dry.
A sweetness level of 2 or higher would be a sweet wine.
If you’re interested, ask us about the sweetness in your next wine. We love to talk about wine!