Tag Archives: Residual Sugar

Weekly wine defined: Residual Sugar

We hesitate when writing about certain styles of wine with a certain five letter word for fear people will quickly dismiss the wine based  without ever giving it a chance.

That word is sweet.

We think the wine term Residual Sugar might also get a bad wrap, which is why we’ve opted to define it.

Traditionally, the term Residual Sugar refers to the sugar that remains in wine after fermentation is stopped, or in the process of stopping. Residual Sugar is in all wines. Some have a lot and some have very little. We think you can figure out which ones.

Of course there are wine making techniques that can also play with the residual sugar levels by added unfermented must (we recently defined this term here), or table sugar (chaptalization).

Wikipedia states the stereotype best when it says: “Medium and sweet wines have a perception among many consumers of being of lower quality than dry wines.”

But what those consumers may be surprised to hear is many of the world’s best wines — including those French Sauternes — have high levels of residual sugar.

It’s how those high levels balance with the acidity of the grape that determines how harmonious the end result will be. The sugars and acidity levels must balance, along with the alcohol levels and the amount of tannins present in the wine.

A dessert or late harvest wine that balances these elements can be quite appealing and even more fun to drink as your taste buds try to determine if the wine is acidic or sweet.