Hello! Welcome to Castle Glen!

I’m Ralph, and I’m back for a second entry in what, for lack of a better term, is our wine blog!

Frequently my customers will ask me,

“What do you mean when you describe a wine as either sweet or dry?”

Sweet and dry are general terms used by winemakers to provide a ballpark estimate of how much sugar is left in a wine after the fermentation process is completed.

The sugar left behind is called residual sugar.

Here’s what happens.

The winemaker throws some yeast into a vat full of fruit juice, usually grape juice. The yeast begins feeding on the sugars dissolved in the juice, producing more yeast, alcohol, carbon dioxide, and a trace of water. It also produces phenol and esters, which change the wine’s taste. But that’s a subject for another day. This is the fermentation process, and it will continue until either the winemaker stops it, the yeast dies from alcohol poisoning, or the yeast consumes almost all the available sugar, and goes dormant.

The amount of residual sugar will determine how sweet the wine will taste. So, we’re back to sweet and dry. Sweet is simply the taste imparted by sugar. Dry means “not sweet.”

The longer the fermentation process continues, the less sugar will be left behind, or the drier the wine is. Also, the drier the wine is, the more alcohol is present. The sweeter the wine is, the less alcoholic it is.

The Winemaker.

So, if a winemaker desires to make a sweet tasting wine, he simply stops the fermentation process before the yeast consumes all the available sugar. The wine will be high in residual sugar and low in alcohol. On the other hand, when the winemaker allows the process to continue to the end, the wine will be high in alcohol and low in residual sugar.

Both the alcohol content and the residual sugar are expressed as a percentage. The alcohol by volume can be found on the label of the bottle. Sometimes the residual sugar is too.

That’s all for now, friends.

If you have a subject you’d like me to address, send us an email. Better yet, come down and see us. We’re only eight minutes from King’s Dominion, in Doswell, VA.



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