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A glass of wine can be fitting for any occasion - with a tasty meal, celebrating with friends, or just a refreshing glass after a long day at work.
However, it can be difficult to know which wines are best if you’re watching your sugar intake as many brands don’t include much nutritional information on their labels.
Some wines can be surprisingly high in sugar, and others cans contain barely any - it all comes down to the fermentation process.
Keep reading to learn more about the winemaking process, why there is sugar in wine, and what to look out for when looking for sugar content in wines.
Like many tasty beverages, wine has sugar - but not all wines have the same amount of sugar. It all comes down to the fermentation process, and how much sugar remains afterwards.
All fermented beverages are made using a high carb plant, whether it be grain in beer, potatoes in vodka, and of course, grapes in wine. The winemaking process is essentially fermenting the grapes with yeast.
Little yeasts (e.g saccharomyces cerevisiae) will eat the sugar that naturally occurs in the grapes, and this creates heat, CO2 (bubbles!) and alcohol, creating the beverage we know and love.
However, some winemakers (usually cheaper and commercial) will add more sugar to speed up the fermentation process. This process is called chaptalization and is illegal in some places.
Quality vintners will avoid doing this, as extra sugar can overpower the natural aromas and flavours of the wine. There is pretty much always an amount of sugar left over from the fermentation process, which is called residual sugar.
This remains in the wine and increases the sugar and carbohydrate levels, as well as sweetening the taste - and different wines will have different levels.
For example, dry wines will have less residual sugar than sweeter dessert wines.
The amount of residual sugar in a wine is measured using g/l - grams per litre. It’s rare to find wines that have less than 1g/l of residual sugar, and not all sugar will be consumed by the yeast.
Some wines will have over 45g/l, and dryer wines will have less.
The good news is that you can still enjoy a glass of low carb wine if you’re limiting your sugar intake - but it’s important to know what terms to look out for when browsing the shelves of your local supermarket.
Dry wines will contain less sugar than dessert wines and will contain between 1 to 3 g/l of sugar whether it’s a dry red or a dry white wine.
Not all wine is made the same, so different types and brands of wine will contain different levels of sugar.
Sparkling wines surprisingly don’t contain much sugar - with most having between 0.6 % and 2% of sugar.If Champagne or Prosecco are your favourites, then look for the terms ‘brut’, ‘extra brut’, and ‘extra dry'.
Extra brut is the driest option and will contain the lowest amount of sugar. Brut essentially means dry, so keep that in mind next time you’re choosing a bottle.
Semi or off-dry wines are also an option if you’re looking to lower your sugar intake, but semi or off-dry wines contain more sugar than brut or dry wines.
This type of wine falls between dry and sweet, so you can enjoy the sweet taste without consuming too much sugar.
You’ll generally find that semi or off-dry wines have around 1% to 3% of sugar or 10 to 30g/l. When it comes to sugar levels, wine is often a better choice than other popular beverages.
A typical glass of wine will contain around 0.8g of sugar, whereas a glass of Coke contains a whopping 9g of sugar, a glass of orange juice contains 8g, and a serving of Jagermeister can contain 6g.
Wine labels can be confusing and often don’t contain the right nutritional information - in fact, wineries aren’t legally required to list the amount of sugar in a bottle of wine.
However, don’t worry as we’re going to make it easier by letting you know which types of wine to avoid if you want a low-sugar option.
Fortified wines such as Port, Sherry, or Marsala can contain a whopping 15% of residual sugar, which is around 150g/l.
They contain so much sugar as they contain more alcohol, meaning there was less yeast during the fermentation process to consume the natural sugars.
Another type of wine that has high sugar levels is late harvest wine. Although they taste great and pair perfectly with many desserts, they can contain upwards of 20% of residual sugar, which equals around 200g/l.
The grapes used in late harvest wines have spent longer on the vine than other types of wine, which means there was more naturally occurring sugar in the grapes during the fermentation process - leaving more residual sugar.
Eiswein or ice wine is a sugary and sweet wine that can pair perfectly with sweet treats and desserts.
However, ice wine is made from pressing frozen grapes which creates a super sweet taste, and ultimately more sugar - containing between 160-220 grams of sugar per litre.
Although not always the case, it’s usually cheaper wine that contains more sugar - with most bottles under £10 containing around 2-15 grams of sugar per litre.
If you’re still unsure how much sugar a wine contains, opt for a more expensive bottle as there’s likely to be less residual sugar as the grapes are higher quality, and won’t need extra sugar to taste sweet and fruity.
Although wine can be delicious, it’s important to be mindful when drinking it - especially if you’re lowering your sugar intake.
A typical glass of wine only contains around 7 sugar calories, and won’t make much difference, but drinking a bottle or two can not only give you a killer hangover but can have other negative effects on your health.
Likewise, it’s important to not get too caught up in tracking your sugar intake - you still need sugar and carbs for your body to function, and you may feel unwell if you limit your intake too much.
It’s all about drinking in moderation - according to many studies, drinking red wine in moderation can be beneficial to your health. However, according to these studies, ‘moderation’ generally means a glass of wine a week.
In terms of sugar, dessert wines and late-harvest wines should be kept for special occasions as they’re full of sugar, and dry or extra dry wines should be your regular go-to wines.