Residual Sugar in Wine

You may have heard the terms Bone Dry, Dry, Off-Dry, Sweet, and Very Sweet as descriptions for wines before.  But what does it mean?

In the wine world, sweetness is graded based upon grams per liter of juice, or g/L.  Here is our handy guide to understanding what these terms mean, and helping you navigate your next wine list or wine shop.  This can assist in helping you order correctly or ask informed questions of your Sommelier on your next restaurant or retail outing to find a wine you will truly love.

Bone Dry: <1 g/L of sugar:  generally Bone Dry wines are the likes of Muscadet, German Trocken wines, Sancerre, Extra Brut Champagne, Bourgueil, Chinon, Médoc, Hermitage, Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, and Chianti Classico.

Dry: 1-10 g/L of sugar:  roughly 80%+ of red wines produced fall in the Dry category, whites also hold a large portion of production in the Dry category, but a few good examples are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio (Gris), German Halbtrocken and some Kabinett wines, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, and Chenin Blanc.

Off-Dry: 10-35 g/L of sugar:  also called demi-sec in France, wines that can fall in this classification are German Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese wines, most white wines from the Alsace region of France, Moscato d’Asti, Merlot, Pinot Noir, CA Cabs, Zinfandel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Italian Lambrusco, and Shiraz.

Sweet: 35-120 g/L of sugar:  Generally wines with the ‘Late Harvest’ or ‘Botrytized’ title fill the sweet category.  Sauternes, Barsac, German Trockenbeerenauslese wines, Vin Santo, Muscat, and Late Harvest Zinfandel are good examples.

Very Sweet: 120-220 g/L of sugar:  generally speaking, Tokay from Hungary falls in this classification alongside Cream and PX Sherry, as well as most fortified wines and German wines labeled Süss (Süß).

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