Technically, every white wine can be made sweet, depending on when it was picked and how much sugar was left after the fermentation. Because of this, you can’t always depend on the varietal of wine to tell you how sweet the wine is. For example, Riesling can be made sweet or dry. Rieslings and Gewurztraminers are two white wines that age well. If you have aged your white wine, be sure to decant your wine before drinking, just like a red wine.
How do you know if a wine is sweet or not? The labels on the wine often indicate the sweetness level. The sweetness in a wine is derived from residual sugar (RS), or the sugar leftover in the wine after fermentation has been ended.
Sparkling wines, even the sweetest sparkling wines, have much less residual sugar than still wines.
For example, Doux (sweetest level of sparkling wine) only has around 50 g/L RS but has the same sweet taste as a very sweet white wine with 120-220 g/L RS. This has to do with carbonation and acidity levels.
Here are the words you will see on a bottle of sparkling wine to indicate its sweetness from bone dry to very sweet:
- Pas dosè/Brut nature: 0 g/L of residual sugar;
- Extra brut: 0-6 g/L of residual sugar;
- Brut: 0-12 g/L of residual sugar;
- Extra sec/Extra dry of residual sugar: 12-17 g/L of residual sugar;
- Sec/Dry: 17-32 g/L of residual sugar;
- Demi-sec/Medium dry: 32-50 g/L of residual sugar;
- Doux/Sweet: more than 50 g/L of residual sugar;
Image credit: Anthony Delanoix.