Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How much sugar is in wine?

Once again we turn to our favorite wine blog Wine Folly to help our customers become better versed in wine tasting. Here is one question that always seems hard to pin point even for season wine drinkers. How much sugar is in my glass of wine?


Wines range from 0 to about 220 grams per liter sugar, depending on the style. Dry wines can contain up to about 10 grams of sugar per bottle but still taste dry.

Bone Dry less than 1 cal per glass
Dry 0-6 cal per glass
Off-Dry 6–21 cal per glass
Sweet 21–72 cal per glass
Very Sweet 72–130 cal per glass
The terms above are non-official and simply show a common range in still wines. Currently, most countries (including the US) aren’t required to label actual sweetness levels in wine.

Where Does Sugar in Wine Come From?

The sugar in wine is called residual sugar or RS. RS doesn’t come from corn syrup or granulated sugar like you might think, it primarily comes from the fruit sugars in wine grapes (fructose and glucose). Of course, there are a few instances where cheap wine producers will use sugar or grape concentrate to sweeten a wine–all the more reason to seek out quality!

How come some wines are dry and some are sweet?
Basically, when winemaking happens, yeast eats sugar and makes ethanol (alcohol) as a by-product. A dry wine is when the yeast eats all the sugars and a sweet wine is when the yeast is stopped (usually by chilling the fermentation) before it eats all the sugars. This is why some sweet wines have less alcohol that dry wines. A great example of this is German Riesling, which usually have about 8–9% ABV when sweet and 10–11% ABV when dry.


How Does One Determine the Residual Sugar in Wine?

The most accurate way to identify sweetness in wine is to look for a tech sheet about the wine in question. Many producers offer the technical notes on each vintage of their wine as a courtesy. RS is usually displayed in 1 of three ways: in grams/Liter, in grams/100ml, or as a percentage.

Why we suck at tasting residual sugar in wine

Exact levels of residual sugar are actually quite difficult to taste with our “naked tongue.” Even highly trained wine tasters often have trouble identifying RS in wine–but you can learn with practice. The main reason we can’t taste sweetness that well is because other traits in the wine, including the acidity level and tannin, distort our sensitivity to sweetness.

You can test this oddity yourself by tasting plain sugar and then tasting the same portion while biting into a lemon. The acidity will cancel out all or most of the sweetness on your tongue.

Real-World Examples

Several people requested a few real-world examples of red wines that contain residual sugar as examples. Here are a couple for historic reference only:

Alta Vista Classic Malbec (2013): 2.8 g/L
Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel: 3.4 g/L
Menage a Trois California Red: 12 g/L
Yellow Tail Shiraz: 12 g/L
Apothic Red: 15 g/L
Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz: 57 g/L

What if there’s no information about a wine?

If you can’t find a technical sheet, or if the RS is not listed, here are a few tips:

Cheap wine usually has residual sugar. It’s safe to assume that most affordable (sub-$10) wines from the US contain some residual sugar, perhaps anywhere from 2–15 g/L. There are, of course, excellent exceptions to this rule so look for more information first.
Buy better wine. If you spend a little more on a bottle of wine, say around $15–20, producers tend to feature less residual sugar (if any at all). Grapes are higher quality so the wines don’t need sweetness to taste fruity.
Drink less. Even at 15 g/L RS, a wine will only add about 7.5 sugar calories. Like with all things, your best bet might just be moderation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top Ten BBQ Wines for Summer

The warm weather is upon us and it is time to kick the grilling into high gear. The only question that remains is what wine to pair that rich, grilled food with. Now whether it is a big porterhouse or just a stuffed portabella mushroom, the same wines will apply. So here is our Top Ten BBQ Wines List:

#1 Il Tauro, Salice Salentino $8.99
One of the tricks to pairing wine with BBQ is to look for big, bold wines that are very easy drinking. This wine has deep, dark flavors of blackberry, blueberry and a nice Italian spice palate with a super, soft and silky finish. It also has a touch of sweet fruit on the finish that pairs well with BBQ sauce!

#2 The Velvet Devil, Merlot $12.99
Another rich wine that is silky soft on the finish which makes you beg for another glass. A Washington State wine that has plum, cassis and cherry flavors with just enough dry tannin to balance out the wine. A great wine that pairs well with or even without food.

#3 Portada, Red Blend $9.99
This is our newest Hit of the Year being voted by popular demand as the most sought after under $10 bottle of wine. This wine is everyones favorite because it is supple and complex without any hint of pretension. A great, delicious wine that just begs to be shared with friends and a nice fire!

#4 30 Degrees, Cabernet Sauvignon $12.98
A perennial favorite around here due to it's bold flavors and soft finish. This wine come from Paso Robles where is develops some really ripe, rich fruit flavors but without the mouth puckering tannins of its neighbor to the north (Napa).

#5 Mr. Blacks Little Book, Shiraz $15.99
Australia has been sitting on the sidelines of the wine world for a number of years after the bubble burst about ten years ago. This old producer weathered the bust by producing some of the tastiest wines coming from down under. Today this Shiraz stands out as a phenomenal wine at a great price!

#6 Vina Palaciega, Old Vine Malbec $10.99
Some of the oldest vines in Argentina produce the best wines because of their concentrated, complex flavor that are developed in their grapes. This bold Malbec has a blast of dark fruit flavor followed by a nice punch of tannins that really shine when paired with a big, juicy piece of meat.

#7 Klinker Brick, Old Vine Zinfandel $18.99
In California, most of the really old vines planted by Spanish missionaries have been long since torn out. Those grape growers that left the Zinfandel grapes survive are now rewarded by intensely flavored wines like this one. It has juicy, jammy flavors of concentrated raspberry, blackberry and cinnamon with a backbone of sweet oak that will blow your taste buds away. A must try!

#8 Isle Saint Pierre, Red Blend $9.99
This organic wine from the South of France is what they drink with Summer fare right off the grill. This blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and 10% Arinarnoa is big enough to stand up to the biggest flavors while still keeping a nice balance and harmony of flavors.

#9 Can Blau, Red Blend $12.99
A stand out red blend from Spain made up of Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah have such luscious, smooth flavors that it is hard to put down. Think of blackberries and boysenberries mixed some sweet oaky spice flavors on a torrent of juicy sweetness without all the added sugar.

#10 Mas de Gourgonnier, Red Blend
The last but not least of our Summer picks. This blend from the South of France is classically French in style but with an American sensibility. The Grenache, Syrah and Cab give this wine a nice richness without being heavy. The hints of cedar, tobacco and baking spice make it a very cool and complex wine. A great wine that comes in one of the most fun bottles we have seen lately.