Q. Some wineries add sugar to dry red wines after fermentation to make them “smoother” for an American palate. How do I know how much sugar is in what I drink?
BUT. To find out how much sugar may have been added to a given wine, it is best to contact the manufacturer directly.
Winemakers use a number of methods to achieve the desired properties and flavor profiles. The addition of sulfites used as a preservative must be listed on the label to notify people who may be allergic, however over 60 different additives can be used legally without disclosure. When it comes to sugar, the rules vary by state. In California, for example, the addition of sugar is prohibited at any stage of the winemaking process. There, winemakers may rely on unfermented grape juice to add sweetness to the drink.
“Wine is inherently somewhat sour, and adjustments can help balance elements of sweet and sour,” Nancy Light, vice president of communications for the Wine Institute, California’s wine industry’s premier advocacy association, said in an email. “Government regulations allow winemakers to make adjustments to sweetness after fermentation to achieve the desired style of wine.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a five-ounce glass of red table wine typically contains about 0.9 grams of total sugar, while a glass of chardonnay contains about 1.4 grams. A sweet dessert wine, usually served in a smaller two to three ounce glass, contains as much as 7 grams of sugar. Depending on where the wine was made, the total may include added sugar or sugar from unfermented grape juice, as well as sugar naturally found in grapes.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugar to no more than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake, which is about 12 teaspoons or 50 grams. The American Heart Association recommends limiting intake even further: no more than six teaspoons (about 25 grams, or 100 calories) per day for women and no more than nine teaspoons (36 grams, 150 calories) per day for men.
Along with adding sugar to sweeten wine, some producers add sugar before or during fermentation to achieve a certain level of alcohol. This process is called chaptalization and is more common in cooler wine regions like Oregon where the grapes ripen more slowly. Alcoholic fermentation occurs when yeast metabolizes a sugar source (glucose, sucrose, or fructose) into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide. In beer, sugar comes from the starch in the malted grain of cereals, usually barley. In wine, it comes from grape juice. Ripe grapes have higher sugar levels, but if the available grapes are not as ripe, the winemaker can add sugar to help ferment and get the desired amount of alcohol.
According to Tom Hogue, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Taxes, wine producers can provide information about the nutritional information of their products on a voluntary basis, as long as they adhere to established rules. rules from the bureau. So while winemakers are not required to disclose nutritional information on the label, for those who choose to do so – be it sugar or other ingredients – the rules apply.