Residual Sugar in Wine: Sweetness Chart, Calories in Wine

There is a lot of confusion about the terms 'sweet' and 'dry' wines and how much sugar, residual or added, is in your favorite wine. Most wine varieties that people drink are technically regarded as dry, that is the wine contains less than 1% residual sugar, after the fermentation process has consumed most of it and turned it into alcohol. To add to the confusion some sugar is added to wine, especially cheaper varieties to improve its taste.

Yeast added to the grapes during fermentation, consumes most of sugar in the grape juice yielding alcohol and carbon dioxide. Wine is fermented to consume most of the sugar because this reduction in the amount of residual sugar preserves the wine and prevents other microbes from degrading the wine in the bottle. However, the amount of residual sugar in wine varies between varieties and is often shown on the wine label. The sugar is an important contributor to the amount of calories in wine. Alcohol itself contributes to the calories. The alcohol content and sometimes the amount of calories are sometimes shown on the labels.

This article review the amount of residual sugar in wine and how it relates to the common sweet to extra dry, dry, semi-sweet, sweet and very sweet classification of wines. It includes charts summarising the sugar content of wines and the calories in the common wine varieties.

Residual sugar and calories in wines of various sweetness categories
Residual sugar and calories in wines of various sweetness categories | Source
Typical wines in each sweetness category showing their residual sugar contents compared with soft drink.
Typical wines in each sweetness category showing their residual sugar contents compared with soft drink. | Source

Residual Sugar Versus 'Sweetness' Classification of Wines

The standard amount of residual sugar for most common table wines ranged from 0-3%. However sweet dessert wines can range from 1.2% to even as high as 20% residual sugar.

Oddly the fermentation process stops when the amount of sugar in the wine reaches about 15% alcohol.

For Port wines, extra alcohol is added to the wine to stop the yeast fermentation and the wine contains a lot of residual sugar.

There is a general misunderstanding that the 'sweetness' of a wine reflects the amount of residual sugar in it. Dry wines, with low residual sugar can taste quite sweet.

The sweet taste of a wine depends on other factors such as alcohol, glycerol, acidity and the amount of tannins in the wine. The temperature at which the wine is served can affect how sweet or dry it tastes.

Even an extra-dry wine, such as a 'bone-dry' white wine can taste sweet even when it has a residual sugar level of less than 0.2%. A relatively high level of alcohol and the amount of glycerol in the wine can increase its 'sweetness'.

To address these issue, this article includes charts and tables summarizing the residual sugar and calories in wine varieties. The residual sugar is often shown on the label of a bottle in one of three ways:

► grams/100ml,

► grams/Liter,

► or as a Percentage.

In the case of Port wines, alcohol is added to the wine to stop the yeast fermentation from consuming all of the sugar.

Sometimes, extra grape sugar is added back to the wine after the fermentation process has completed to create sweetness to disguise the inferior quality of a cheap wine.

Sweetness Classification of Wines and what it means
Sweetness Classification of Wines and what it means | Source

Calorie content of wines in various sweetness categories

Classification
Calorie Content
Extra or Bone Dry
<1 cal per glass
Dry
0-6 calories per glass
Off-Dry
6–21 calories per glass
Sweet
21–72 calories per glass
Very Sweet
72–130 calories per glass
Residual sugar content of wines in various sweetness categories
Residual sugar content of wines in various sweetness categories | Source

Calories in Wine Types

The typical number of calories in a glass and bottle of various wine types is shown in the table below. Residual sugar only contributes part of the calories in wine. Alcohol also contributes significant calories.

Calories in Typical Wine Varieties with Lowest Cals at the top (click headings to sort in other ways)

Calories in Wine Varieties
Glass of Wine 5 fl oz (148 ml)
Bottle of Wine 25.4 fl oz (750 ml)
Type
Carignane
109
553
Red
Muller Thurgau
112
568
White
Gamay
115
583
Red
Lemberger
118
599
Red
Chenin Blanc
118
599
White
Riesling
118
599
White
Gewurztraminer
119
604
White
Pinot Blanc
119
604
White
Sauvignon Blanc
119
604
White
Pinot Noir
121
614
Red
White Table Wine
121
614
White
Fume Blanc
121
614
White
Semillon
121
614
White
Cabernet Sauvignon
122
619
Red
Merlot
122
619
Red
Cabernet Franc
122
619
Red
Claret
122
619
Red
Syrah
122
619
Red
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
122
619
White
Chardonnay
123
624
White
Muscat
123
624
White
Barbera
125
634
Red
Petite Sirah
125
634
Red
Sangiovese
126
639
Red
Burgundy
127
644
Red
Zinfandel
129
654
Red
Mouvedre
129
654
Red
Gewurztraminer (Late Harvest)
164
832
White

© 2015 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 3 comments

Buildreps profile image

Buildreps 18 months ago from Europe

Great lists and very informative Hub, Janderson. I like the dry wines the most :)


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 18 months ago from USA

This is great information, and just what I've been looking for. Thank you!


Rachel L Alba profile image

Rachel L Alba 18 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

About 50 years ago, my husband's family used to make wine. They had the barrels and a huge press. They only used grapes and nothing else and it was excellent, according to the other people. It was your typical Dego Red. Excuse the expression, but that's what they called it. For myself I like a sweeter wine like white zinfandel and even a little sweeter then that. I didn't know about the other ingredients like yeast, sugar or extra alcohol. That was very informative. Thanks for sharing, voted up.

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    Dr. John Anderson (janderson99)753 Followers
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    John uses research skills in Biochemistry & Physiology (PhD) to develop authoritative reviews of calories in foods, calorie counting, diets



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