How Do They Make Some Wines Sweeter Than Others?

Sugar in a spoonWe kick off this week with a question about sweet wines — which most wine drinkers enjoy, even if they’re reluctant to admit it…

QUESTION: My wife loves dry red wines, but I prefer wines that have some sweetness to them. She knows what kind to buy for me (Moscato, Riesling, etc.), but here’s what I want to know: How do they make some wines sweeter than others?

ANSWER: With the exception of fortified wines, which are an entirely different style, sweet wines like Moscato and Riesling are made by halting the fermentation process while there still is some sugar remaining.

Part of the fermentation process involves “burning off” the sugars of the grape juice. If you stop the fermentation before it is completed, some of the sugar is retained, and the finished wine will be much sweeter than those dry reds that your wife prefers.

Generally speaking, and factoring in other considerations in the winemaking process, the sooner the fermentation is stopped, the sweeter the finished wine will be.

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