How Much Sugar in Wine? All About Sugar and Wine

Vintage Roots
how much sugar is in wine

With the popularity of low sugar and low carb diets, and people just wanting to eat and drink healthier things in general, you may be wondering how much sugar is in your wine. That’s what we’ll answer in this blog post here.

Sugar and wine key facts:

  • If you’re after wine with the least amount of sugar, choose something dry. Most of the organic wines we stock are indeed dry, and this includes reds, whites and rosés.
  • A glass of dry wine (or even one that’s off-dry/sweeter) has a lot less residual sugar than cola or other soft drinks
  • Sugar in wine can be hard to taste/detect sometimes
  • Alcohol contains more calories than sugar, so if you’re after something low cal, choose a wine that’s dry and has lower alcohol too

How much sugar is in wine?

To answer this question, the short story is that it really depends on the wine you’re drinking. When wine is made, the yeast consumes the naturally present sugars in the grapes and converts it into alcohol. So, if you drink a bone dry red or white wine, it will mean that pretty much all of the sugars from the grapes have been converted into alcohol. If you drink something sweeter, it means there’s more naturally present sugars from the grapes (or in some cases, for cheaper wines, additional sugar has been added).

Although most of the organic wines we ourselves have available are dry, there are plenty of wines available in the UK (and at supermarkets especially) with higher levels of sugar. These are often more mass-produced, higher-volume wines.

How much sugar in wine – grams per litre and glass

sugar and wine - how much sugar in wine?

Let’s break down the numbers – for all you sugar counters out there! Generally, when it comes to sweetness in wine, there are five categories: dry, off-dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet and sweet. However, between all the countries and wine regions the world over, there are not agreed upon rules regarding how much sugar each of these categories can contain. There are certain rules in specific regions, like for Rieslings in Germany and Champagne in France. The EU also has labelling rules for sweetness levels/residual sugars in sparkling wines, which are as follows:

  • Brut Nature/Zero Dosage: 0-3g of residual sugar /l
  • Extra Brut: 0-6g of residual sugar /l
  • Brut: 0-12g/l
  • Extra-Sec/Extra Dry: 12-17g/l
  • Dry/Sec: 17-32g/l
  • Medium Dry/Demi-Sec: 32-50 g/l
  • Sweet/Doux: 50+g/l

Note, confusingly, for English speakers, sparkling wines that contain more residual sugar/litre can be labelled as ‘Extra Dry’ or ‘Dry’. One sparkling wine that uses these terms often is Prosecco, so if you have one that’s labelled ‘Dry’/’Extra Dry’ it should contain more sugar than one labelled ‘Brut’ for example.

Back to the numbers…so how do these numbers equate per glass?

If we use the numbers above for sparkling wines, and let’s say you have a 175ml glass (a standard ‘medium’ pour in a bar/restaurant in the UK) of dry red or white wine, you can expect to have between 0-6g residual sugar/litre, which works out to between 0 and 1 gram of sugar per 175ml glass.

For a 250ml glass of dry wine (a ‘large’ pour in a bar/restaurant in the UK), you can expect between 0 and 1.5 grams of residual sugar per 250ml glass. 

In the UK, the NHS recommends that adults have no more than 30g of free sugars per day (about 7 sugar cubes or teaspoons). Thus, if you choose to drink drier wines, which most wines are, then you most likely don’t need to worry about consuming too much sugar from wine.

Also compare this to the average can of cola or soda, which can have as many as 9 cubes of sugar (=36 grams), more than the recommended daily limit for adults.

Here are some examples of popular dry white wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay

And popular dry red wines: Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz

Popular dry rosé wines: at Vintage Roots, all of the organic rosé wines we stock are dry

If you’re after dry organic sparkling wines, try our most popular: Giol Prosecco Frizzante, Il Grillo Spumante Brut, Wild Thing Prosecco, Champagne Fleury Blanc de Noirs, Champagne Faust Cote D’Or

What about off-dry and medium dry wines?

Some wines we sell/ that are available on the UK market are sweeter and can fall into categories like dry and off-dry. The fact is, some people just don’t like wines that are too dry. Winemakers can control how much residual sugar they leave behind in the wines.

If we use the numbers for EU sparkling wines as a guide, a wine labelled off-dry to medium dry can have about 6-17 grams of residual sugar per litre. This would equate to between 1-3 grams per 175ml glass, and between 1.5 and 4.25 grams for a 250ml/large glass.

So again, if you’re consuming wine responsibly, there shouldn’t be much to worry about when it comes to sugar in wine, and this is still a lot less than cola or other sugary soft drinks.

If you like sweeter wines, we recommend these two popular whites: one made from Gros Manseng in Gascony, France, and the other a medium sweet Kabinett Riesling from the Mosel Valley.

Sugar in sweeter wines / dessert wines

Dessert wines like Sauternes and fortified wines like Port contain more sugar. But how much? Sauternes, for example, can have between 120-220 grams of sugar/litre. If we go with the middle number of 170g/liter, this would work out to around 13 grams of sugar per 75 ml glass (dessert wine glasses are typically smaller). When it comes to dessert wines, the sugar levels are significantly higher, but it’s all about moderation, and dessert wines are typically served in smaller amounts as well. For fortified wines, like Port, sugar numbers vary depending on the style.

A quick note about tasting sugar in wine

Tasting and detecting sugar in wine isn’t always easy, and can take years of practice. Wine is all about overall balance, and factors apart from residual sugar left in the wine can have an impact on whether a wine tastes sweet or not. One particular factor is acidity, as acidity can mask sweetness, which is why sweeter sparkling wines don’t always taste sweet (they’re usually high in acidity).

Calories in wine/ sugar calories in wine

Did you know that alcohol contains more calories than sugar? Sugar contains around 4 calories per gram and alcohol 7 calories. Thus, if you’re looking for lower calorie wines, choosing a wine that’s lower alcohol too could be the sweet spot.

In some situations, this can be a bit mindboggling since some lower alcohol wines (such as Kabinett Rieslings) are also somewhat higher in residual sugars. You may need to get out your calculator if you’re after an exact number, but hopefully this post here has given you a general idea about how many calories and sugar should be in your wine.

You can find out more about how many calories are in wine here.

How to know the precise amount of sugar in a wine?

Here at Vintage Roots almost all of our organic wines are dry, and if a wine happens to be off-dry, medium-sweet or sweet we will say so in our descriptions.

For our organic white wines, we also have a scale from 1-9 denoting sweetness levels.

To date, wineries aren’t legally required to list sugar levels in their wines on their labels. Sugar levels in a wine can also change from year to year/vintage to vintage. Some wineries do choose to publish that information on their own websites though.

However, for wines produced in the EU after December 8 2023, ingredients/nutritional info is mandatory via a QR code (which will include sugar content for the case of sparkling wines only). As plenty of wines in the UK are imported from the EU, consumers here will likely start to see QR codes filtering through as it will be more cost-effective for the winemakers to use the same back label for different markets.

We hope this blog post has helped to answer all your questions about sugar and wine. An organic cheers 😊

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