Which Wine Has the Least Sugar?

Enjoy a glass by choosing wisely

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Not surprisingly, sugar is the demon for all dieters. And for good reason. Sugar's empty calories wreak havoc on insulin levels, may aggravate health issues and can play a part in sleepless nights, let alone aid in the accumulation of extra pounds. So when a wine lover decides to monitor sugar intake, it's only natural to want to figure out which wines contain the least amount of residual sugar.

Sugar in Wine

Wine is made from the process of converting the grape's innate sugar to alcohol via fermentation.

Simply stated, if a wine's fermentation is stopped well before all of the sugar is converted to alcohol, the wine will contain more residual sugar and taste sweeter on the palate. Many sweet dessert wines, late harvest wines, fortified wines and many regional Rieslings with lower alcohol levels (under 11 percent alcohol by volume) contain elevated sugar levels.

Sugar Levels in Wines

Whether you prefer red over white wine or go for a glass of bubbly, there are certain types of wine that have lower levels of residual sugar. An important fact to note is that the drier the wine, the lower the sugar content since most of the sugar has been removed (hence being a "dry" vs. "sweet" wine) during fermentation. Next time you are wine shopping or ordering a glass at the bar, keep these tips in mind. 

  • Dry Wines: Both dry red wines and dry white wines will tend to be lower in residual sugar levels, weighing in at 0.1-0.3 percent sugar per liter (or 1 to 3 grams of sugar per liter of wine).
  • Semi- or Off-Dry Wines: These wines are in the middle, with sugar amounts falling between dry and sweet wines. Typically, these wines have a residual sugar range up to 1 to 3 percent sugar (or 10 to 30 grams of sugar per liter). Because of this, semi- or off-dry wines are a little sweeter on the palate.
  • Champagne: When it comes to sparkling wines, opt for extra dry, brut or extra brut sparkling wine and Champagne. The residual sugar levels will be in the 0.6 - 2.0 percent sugar per liter range (or 6 to 20 grams of sugar per liter of wine), with extra brut being the driest wine and lowest in sugar content.
  • Fortified Wines: Fortified wines (like Port, Sherry, and Marsala) can weigh in as high as 15 percent residual sugar (or 150 grams of sugar per liter) but often run a little lower in the 5 percent range.
  • Late Harvest Wines: While certainly known for being a sweet treat, and often served as dessert, late harvest wines can run as high as 20 plus percent residual sugar with a whopping 200 grams (or more) of sugar per liter.