How Much Sugar is in Red Wine?


Sugar. Delicious, but controversial. If we had to name our favorite kinds of sugar, they'd be Sugar Fish and Lips Like Sugar (the song, but now that you mention it, sugar lips sound good as well). We're not big on drinking sugar. That's kind of our M.O. seeing as we purposefully made Bev with zero sugar. (Get used to us giving ourselves little plugs as Bev references are peppered throughout this blog)  

Sugar’s Role in the Wine Making Process 

All wine has some sugar because wine is made from grapes that have sugar (unless you're Bev, which has ZERO sugar...more on that later). But the reason wines differ in the amount of sugar is because of the fermentation process. 

During fermentation, yeast uses its superpowers to turn natural sugar into alcohol. To make a dessert wine, winemakers stop before the yeast has its way with all of the sugar, leaving residual sugar that allows the wine to be sugary sweet. However, dry wines allow the fermentation to be completed, and while there is still some sugar, it is very little. These are usually your table wines. 

What is Residual Sugar? 

So we just talked about fermentation and how yeast is kind of like the Dumbledore in the winemaking process (aka only someone as cool as Dumbledore can turn sugar into yeast). As mentioned, residual sugars are those that are leftover in a wine after fermentation finishes. Sweeter types of wine have more residual sugars, while dry wines have very little. Just to be clear, we're talking about natural sugars here, not added sugars or sweeteners, although some winemakers do add sugar. 

One thing to keep in mind about dry wine is that you can still have fruit flavors in your wine. Some often confuse sweetness with fruitiness, but the two are not the same. 

Different Wines, Different Sugar Levels 

Sugar, we're going down swinging! Dry wines have 1-3 grams of sugar per liter of wine, while sweet wines typically have 8 grams of sugar per 5 ounce GLASS (aka a serving size)! 

At the end of the day (or bottom of the glass), regardless of how much fermentation occurs, sugar will always be in red wine. The truth is some sugars cannot be digested. So, fructose and glucose's complete fermentation is nearly impossible to accomplish, and honestly, without sugar, a bottle of wine won't taste all that great. All of this to say, different red wines have different sugar levels. Here is what you need to know about the most popular types of red wine: 

Pinot Noir: Light and delicate, this is a dry red wine with very little sugar. It's made for people who might be intimidated by the sometimes overwhelming red wine taste. Each five-ounce pour of Pinot Noir is typically around one gram of sugar.  

Merlot: A fruity French wine that doesn't make your mouth pucker due to the tannins. With low levels of residual sugar, this earthy pick is around one gram per glass of wine.  

Malbec: An Argentinian wine that has plum and cherry flavors. It is medium to full-bodied wine is higher alcohol content and, because of that, is low in sugar. Very close to being almost entirely fermented, Malbecs are a dry wine that offers fewer than 1.5 grams of sugar per glass of red wine. 

Zinfandel: In addition to having a fun name, Zinfandel is exploding with flavors of sweet fruits. Because it is classified as a sweet wine and sometimes even a sweet dessert wine, it can contain around 20 grams of sugar per glass. (Gasps for dramatic effect) For comparison purposes, the American Heart Association suggests that the maximum amount of sugar you should eat in a day is 37 grams of sugar for men and 25 grams of sugar for women. So a glass and a half of Zinfandel will have you well over the suggested sugar intake for the day.  

Let us guess; you're curious which wine has more sugar: white or red. The main difference between red and white wines is in how they are created. Well, that and obviously their color. White wines are produced from white or black grapes. The grape juice is separated from the grape's seeds and skin, leaving only the juice to make the wine. In contrast, red wine is made from both red and black grapes, and not white grapes.

Additionally, the grape's juice is not separated from the grape's seeds and skins. Instead, they are kept with the juice during fermentation, creating all those delicious tannins. The skin and seed are what give red wines its richer flavor and color, not to mention all those antioxidants. All this to say, there isn't a difference in sugar content between red and white wines because the sugar content only changes due to fermentation. 

What if You’re on a Low-Sugar Diet?

We're proud of you! Look at you, taking care of your health! Good news for those of you on a low-sugar diet, drinking wine is still an option for you, whether you're an avid dieter or you're watching your blood sugar! Contrary to popular belief, you CAN drink your wine and diet too. As we mentioned, you'll want to reach for the dry wines that have very little residual sugar. Or, you can always reach for a Bev that has NO sugar. 

We'll let that sink in. Yeah, we have no sugar so guess you can say we changed the drinking culture on its head with our dry white wines. Plus, it's still delicious; our California girls are crisp, dry, and a little fizzy, if you're into sparkling wine. If you're not sure what kind of wine suits you, don't worry, we got you. Try our variety pack that includes Bev Gris, Bev Rose, and Bev Blanc.  

But back to the topic at hand: red wine in sugar. 

One other important aspect of sugar in wine that might make you feel better about dieting and drinking wine is that, in most cases, its natural sugar. According to nutritionists, the term sugar can mean sugar added unnaturally to a product or naturally occurring sugar. For the latter, nutritionists and dietitians suggest that we don't need to restrict ourselves.  

Because wine is a fruit product, it almost always only contains natural sugars! We're not saying go ahead and go crazy because the FDA recommends that carbs only make 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories. Therefore, you still need to be mindful of how much you're drinking due to the carbohydrates....but we're still taking this as a major win for wine everywhere!