How Much Sugar is in Wine?

As I’m sipping on this glass of wine, my mind starts to wander to how much sugar I am drinking.  Normally I avoid pop or soda as everyone knows there is a ton of sugar in a can. But what about wine? So I went and did some research because that’s what one does when drinking wine.

The amount of sugar in wine can range from 0.15g to 30g in a 5oz glass.  At the bottom end of the scale are the dry reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, or the dry whites such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.  While at the top end are the late harvest wines such as a Late Harvest Riesling or a Late Harvest Gewurztraminer.

Different Types Of Wines And Their Sugar Levels

Dry Wines

These are the wines with the least amount of sugar.  There is roughly 0.15g to 0.45g in a 5oz pour. This is even less than even half of one of those sugar packets (which typically contain 2 to 4 grams of sugar).  We are talking about both the dry red and white wines here. And there are around 0 to 2 sugar calories in each glass (this is assuming 4 calories per gram of sugar).  But of course don’t forget that the alcohol itself also contains calories.

Semi-dry wines

There is a little more sugar in these wines.  1.5g to 4.5g of sugar. So depending on how much sugar you put in your coffee, these guys might have a lower sugar content than your daily cup of joe.  Now we are at about 6 to 18 sugar calories per glass.


Most wines from this popular French region are dosed as brut.  So that means quite a small amount of sugar, only about 2g per 5oz glass or about 8 sugar calories.  If you pick up an extra brut, it will have the least sugar. Keep in mind, for Extra Brut Champagne, the amount of sugar in each 5oz glass drops to less than 0.9g.

Fortified Wines

Now fortified wines, like Port, contain substantially more sugar.  The fermentation is stopped with the addition of alcohol and so a lot of sugar remains in the wine.  These wines can contain as much as 23g per glass or about 92 calories just from the sugar. They also do taste substantially sweeter if you can get past the strong alcohol taste.  But normally a Port Wine, for example, is served in smaller quantities, like 3 oz.

Late Harvest Wines

Wines that were left on the vine for longer than usual also have higher content of sugar than other wines.  These can have as much as have 30g of sugar per glass. And now we’re talking about as much as 120 calories.  These wines are normally drunk as a part of dessert, so you wouldn’t be normally drinking an excessive amount of these… Normally…

Where does the sugar in wine come from?

Residual sugar.  That’s what the sugar in wine is called.  There are naturally occurring sugars in the grapes that the wine is made from.

During the winemaking process, the yeast will eat the sugar and ethanol or alcohol is created as a byproduct.  So wines that are known to be “dry” are made when the yeast consumes nearly all the sugars. But no wine is ever completely dry as once a certain high level of alcohol is reached, all the yeast that is consuming the sugars and converting them into alcohol is killed.

Also the fermentation can be stopped, by chilling the fermentation for example, before the yeast can have a chance to consume all the sugars.  When this happens, there is a lot more residual sugar left in the wine.

An additional way for sugar to make its way into your wine is that some winemakers add sugar to some of their wines to enhance the sweetness of their wine.

Sugar in wine compared to other beverages

It may be helpful to compare the sugar content in a glass of wine and the sugar content in other beverages.

In a 5oz glass of Coke (if you do drink Coke that way), you can find 16g of sugar.  Only fortified (23g) and late harvest wines (30g) have more sugar than coke in the equivalent quantities.  But typically one does drink a whole can of coke and not just a glass. A can of coke is 12oz and has about 39g of sugar.  So depending on how much you drink, it does get close.

A Google search for amount of sugar in orange juice yields 2.6g/oz.  So for a 5oz glass of juice that comes to 13g. So again, only fortified and late harvest wines contain more sugar.  A 12oz can of orange juice will contain about 31.2g of sugar.

Normally people drink small amounts of fortified or late harvest wines, so having one or two servings of wine will typically be less or equivalent to a sugar drink.  And, in my opinion, taste so much better. And if you are drinking the wines with lower sugar content, then it doesn’t really compare.

Sugar Free Wines

I did some more research and there is a wine that claims to be the first zero carb, zero sugar wine:

If you were on the ketogenic diet, I can see the need to stay away from fortified or late harvest wines.  Experts do say to stick to wines that contain little to no sugar. So having a wine that contains no carbs or sugar is very enticing.  One also gets drunk faster when on the ketogenic diet, so be wary. But I call that better for the budget ;).

Sugar Sugar Sugar

In general if you’re looking for lower sugar content, but don’t want to back away from wine, dry and semi-dry wines are your best bet.  A Cabernet Sauvignon or perhaps a Sangiovese would be a choice I would probably go with if I wanted a red. I don’t drink white wine as much, but an Italian Pinot Grigio might be an interesting choice.  Or go pop open a bottle of Champagne if there is something worth celebrating. And there is always something worth celebrating. And if you can find those sugar free wines I talked about above, they might also be a less guilty choice.  But the residual sugar in some of those dry wines are so low that it might be a moot point anyways.

I actually met with a nutritionist the past week and sugar was one of the topics. She recommended that 38g of sugar a day would be the upper limit that I should look at. Which incidentally happens to be 1g less than a can of Coke. So with that limit, I think I will stick to the more dry wines rather than the fortified or last harvest ones.

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