Sugar in Red Wine?

Is there sugar in red wine?  It’s an interesting subject and the short answer is yes, but let me give you the background to the question.  A few weeks ago some friends were having a conversation about calories and sugar in wine, particularly red wine, since they were looking to lose some COVID pounds.  Most felt red wine was the best option since it is always dry and low in sugar.  There was some disagreement with that point of view; so, they decided to ask the wine guy.

Here’s the answer.  There is some residual sugar in all wines, even dry red wines.  Usually, a dry wine can contain 0.1 to 10 g/L of residual sugar.  Most dry reds are well below 10 g/L.  Now here is the problem – there are many popular, mass marketed red wines that give the perception that they are dry when in fact they are not.  To complicate the matter, you will not taste the residual sugar in these wines since they have medium to high acidity that hides it (you’ll have to take my word on this since acidity is a topic onto itself). Let me give you a well-liked example: Apothic Red from California has 16 g/L of residual sugar.  In wine parlance, this wine is off dry, but your palate perceives it as rich, fruity, and dry.

Now that you know that not all wines are created equal, how do you find out the residual sugar content of your favourite without emailing your wine guy?  It’s actually easier than you think.  Just look up the wine on the LCBO website and scroll to the bottom after the description.  There you will find the residual sugar content in g/L.  Now you can enjoy your next glass safe in the knowledge that you know how much sugar is in it!

As usual, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.

Rosehall Run Chardonnay Liberated 2019 ★★★½   $14.95 (LCBO)

Made by Rosehall Run in Prince Edward County, however, the VQA Ontario designation suggests it may be a blend of Niagara and PEC fruit. Rosehall has allowed the unadorned personality of the cool climate Chardonnay fruit to shine through by fermenting in stainless steel with no aging in oak. In the glass, you can look forward to green apple, lemon peel, pear spice, and just the barest hint of cream. A crisp, clean, medium bodied take on the world’s most popular white grape; it’s very good wine and a great value. Serve it with pasta alfredo, white fish, shellfish, turkey, or citrus marinated ham.

Cleebourg Gewürztraminer 2017 ★★★+   $17.95 (Vintages)

Alsace is one of the warmest microclimates in France and has its own unique wines.  Alsatian Gewürztraminer is an experience if you haven’t tried it.  It’s unctuous, off dry, and full bodied, filled with intense honeyed spice, rosewater, lychee, apricot, ginger, and stony, mineral notes.  It is my go to wine for spicy fare such as Thai and Szechuan dishes, Jerk chicken, or your favourite Curry.  The sweetness moderates the heat and the spiciness complements the cuisine.

Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2019 ★★★★  $21.95 (Vintages)

This Niagara white from the Short Hills Bench is a different take on cool climate Chardonnay than the Rosehall mentioned previously.  This one is barrel fermented and has seen some oak aging, but it does not overpower the fruit. Medium to full bodied in character and dry, it has fresh pear, Meyer lemon, yellow apple, nutmeg spice, and vanilla with a fine mineral backbone.  An excellent wine match for roast chicken, salmon, or old cheddar.

Kendermanns Organic Rosé Trocken 2019 ★★★+   $12.95 (Vintages)

This wine comes to us from one of Germany’s premier wine regions, the Rheinhessen.  The German term Trocken means dry.  It’s a lighter bodied, pale pink Rosé that is indeed dry. The flavours are lighter as well focussing on fresh red fruits and lemon.  A simply pleasurable wine to chill for sipping on the patio or pair with light fare like salads.

The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier 2019 ★★★★  $18.95 (Vintages)

This blend hails from two of Australia’s iconic wine region’s – McLaren Vale and Padthaway. It’s unusual to co-ferment a white grape, Viognier, with Shiraz (except the Northern Rhone in France where it is done routinely), but you can’t argue with the results. Full bodied, well balanced, and dry with smooth tannins, it exudes blackberry, black plum, dark chocolate coated cherry, cassis, cedar, nutmeg, and vanilla. Even though it’s a big Shiraz, the Viognier gives it a lifted lightness that makes it stand out from others. It’s excellent and recommended for pairing with BBQ steak or grilled vegetable skewers, or, even better, both.

 Fin del Mundo Patagonia Malbec 2018 ★★★½+  $15.95 (Vintages)

This is a wine from the ends of the earth. Seriously, it’s from a winery in Patagonia in southern Argentina with an amusing name, Fin del Mundo.  It is one of Argentina’s cooler wine regions, but you would not know that from this full bodied Malbec.  It has an intensely fruity, wild berry infused dark core with a spicy edge and smooth tannins.  Serve it with burgers – beef or veggie will work equally well.

Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Merlot 2018 ★★★★  $17.95 (Vintages)

Merlot has not received as much attention as Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère, but it should not be missed; this one may even make you a Merlot fan.  A red that’s medium bodied and minty, with pronounced black plum, red currant, cigar box, and wood tinged vanilla.  Fire up the BBQ with your choice of steak, mushrooms, sausage, or lamb chops and enjoy.

Domaine Bousquet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ★★★★ $18.95 (Vintages)

Argentina wine offerings are so much more than just Malbec and this organic Cab (blended with a little Malbec) demonstrates that point beautifully.  This is from one of the best regions for reds: Tupungato in the Uco Valley, Mendoza.  The low yielding vineyards give a firm wine with elevated cassis, spice, blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, and just a little tobacco leaf on the long finish.  Try it with a rack of lamb, roast beef, or mushroom risotto.