shaliza somani wine tasting terms the sweet level

As the heat of summer descends into the briskness of fall, there is nothing more satisfying than cozying up outside with a glass of your favorite wine.

For wine lovers looking to soak up as much of the beautiful weather as possible, a fun activity to do as a group is exploring the local vineyards. While there is no pressure to sound like an expert around your family or friends, it would prove valuable for you to have a better understanding of how to analyze wine and how to talk about it, no matter who your audience is.

This knowledge will not only help you discern why you prefer certain wines, but it will give you a way to communicate your wine preferences to others who are looking to expand their own tasting preferences. There are four major ways to describe wine – the fruit level, the sweet level, the body profile, and the finish. Last month, I explained wine tasting terms common within the fruit level. This month, I want to delve more into the second category – the sweet level.

Here is what experts refer to when they talk about the sweetness of wine, as well as various terms that can be used to describe the sweetness level of a wine:

The Sweet Level

Sweetness levels arise when glucose from the grape juice used to make the wine wasn’t fermented. The amount of leftover glucose will affect the sweetness of the wine. When we sip this wine, our taste buds will interpret these sweet notes based off of four different levels:

Bone Dry

Just as the term implies, when there is no residual sugar that can be found within the wine. After taking a sip of bone dry wine, an individual will experience a feeling of astringency, the dry sensation – often followed by subconscious puckering – that occurs after every sip.


A dry wine will have a similar mouth feel as a bone dry wine, but the reaction will not be as extreme. Dry wines range from either having no residual sugar or having up to 1 gram of sugar per every 5 ounce serving.

Off Dry

The presence of sweetness is easier to detect in this level, with wines having between 2-3 grams of sugar, as compared to drier wines. Off dry wines tend to be inherently white wines, however, there are a few instances when a higher quality red wine would qualify as off dry as well.


Sweet wines encapsulate the remaining types of wine, which can have anywhere between 3-28 grams of sugar for every 5 ounces of wine that are poured. Wines that fall into this category are often referred to as Dessert wines due to their high levels of sweetness.