5 Ways to Tell a Wine is Sweet
Before you sip, how- to know if it's sweet
If sweet wine is where you draw the line, here's how to avoid sugary sips.
1. The Wine List- If it is listed under dessert wine, it's sweet. The rule of thumb when drinking wine with dessert is that the wine should be as sweet as or sweeter than your dessert. So restauranteurs and chefs place the sweetest sips here, including Ports, Sherry (except Fino which is a dry Sherry and shouldn't technically be under dessert wine anyway), and Sauternes.
2. The Germans- If you like a hint of sweet such as that found in some Riesling and are thinking of trying on some Germans anything that reads Auslese, Beerenauslese, and Trockenbeerenauslese (or TBA) will range in order of how they appear above, from sweet to outrageously sweet. If you want it dry look for the words Kabinett- and even they can be a little on the sweet side.
3. The Label- Anything labeled late- harvest, or ice wine will be sweet. Vin Santo is an Italian sweet wine and Tokay Aszú is a sweet sip from Hungary. Any traditionally red wine, i.e. Zinfandel or Merlot, that is labeled "White", for example White Zinfandel, will be a sweet pink colored wine.
4. For Bubbly- Astí and Moscato d' Asti are particularly sweet. Doux or Dolce means "sweet" in French. Demi- sec means half dry, which actually means half sweet. Extra- dry or Extra- sec are both confusing terms since they are actually not as dry (dry means not sweet) as Brut- which is the key word you want to look for when seeking out wines sans the sugar.
5. Senses and Sensibility- When all else fails rely on your senses. You've seen wine lovers swirl their glasses, and no this is not just for show. They are looking at the juice and smelling it. Looks are usually not deceiving when it comes to wine. If you swirl it and you notice thick long lingering drips of wine (a.k.a. legs) slowly oozing back into the bowl of the glass, it is a sign of two things- high alcohol or high sugar. If the legs are thin and runny your wine will be drier than the one with thick legs. If you're not confident in your capability to judge legs use your nose. Stick it right in the glass and inhale. If you smell honey, molasses, butterscotch and sticky sweet tropical fruits, you're in for a sweet sip.
*Remember if sweet wine is not your thing, be sure to tell your server or barkeep that you want something dry, something very dry to drink.
Do you like sweet wines? Hate 'em? Tell us about it in the comments.