Everything There is to Know about Residual Sugar in Wine
Since 2015, the sugar level of the product must be indicated on the price label of the bottle in SAQ stores and on the website, alongside the technical sheet. In this same period, the nutrition expert Isabelle Huot wrote on this subject to inform everyone of the low levels of sugar that are actually present in a glass of wine. To illustrate this, I opted to use her example that she presented in an article published in the Journal de Montréal due to its simplicity and its effectiveness: “A glass of wine of 140 ml at 19 g of residual sugar per liter contains 2.7 g of sugar, which equates to half a teaspoon of sugar. Not so bad when you consider that a sugary carbonated beverage of 355ml contains eight full teaspoons of them”. Is this a trend that will pass or is the healthy trend something that is now more important than many other factors in the selection of a wine by consumers? It is important to note that the residual sugar level of a product is one of many factors that should be kept in mind when analyzing a wine. Other important criteria are acidity, body, tannins and alcohol. The residual sugar is the quantity of sugar left in the wine after the fermentation process. To summarize, a dry wine contains from 0 to 4 grams of sugar per liter, a semi-dry wine from 4 to 12 grams per liter, a semi-sweet wine from 8 to 45 grams per liter and a sweet wine contains more than 45 grams per liter.
If you enjoy Riesling, you certainly love the ones originating from Germany. Some of these products are in a league of their own, even if it is not always easy to distinguish the sugar levels of these products. The label of these bottles is usually enough to make you question yourself, as it is quite difficult to differentiate the products with the very complex classification system in place, coupled with the foreign language and the large number of regions and appellations. Concerning the residual sugar levels, the wines identified as Qualitatswein mit pradikat are ranked according to the density and the amount of sugar contained in the must. In ascending order of maturity, there are six total levels: Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, TrockenBeerenauslese and Eiswein. The styles of wines vary from low amounts of sugar to more bodied or sugary products. What complicates the task of consumers is that the producers have different ideas of these various styles, which makes some Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese dry, some semi-dry or even sweet. Even with high levels of residual sugar, the excellent acidity of German Rieslings can fool even the best wine tasters by toning down the sugar with a beautiful balance of sweetness, acidity and alcohol that all bring a strong body to the wine. No matter what you prefer, do not let yourself be intimidated by these various classifications and dive into the world of these Rieslings blessed with strong freshness and tension. Most of the time, the acidity of Riesling is so powerful that a residual sugar level of around 12 grams per liter can still make it seem like you are tasting a dry wine!
Amarone della Valpolicella is a prestigious appellation located in Italy that is often highlighted in blind tastes because of its opulent style, its high alcohol rate and its residual sugar levels. To obtain the certification of this appellation, the grapes (Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara) must go through a process called appassimento in Italian, which equates to a drying process. After the harvest, the grapes are left to dry naturally; this has the effect of concentrating the aromas of the grapes by dehydrating them, which increases its sugar levels. This method produces a wine with a strong body, powerful tannins, exuberant aromas and a high alcohol rate (often more than 14%).
Behind this robust core, the Amarone is a wine with strong cellaring potential, in which it will develop complexity and finesse. For all the amateurs that have the patience to wait a few years, the Amarone della Valpolicella is a balanced wine with complex aromas that truly reveal all the tradition behind its elaboration.
Here is a Riesling and an Amarone available in SAQ, perfect to experience different levels of residual sugars in wine!
I hope that, with this article, I will have convinced you to enjoy wines that seem interesting to you, no matter what their sugar levels may be. Happy tasting and enjoy your discoveries!