Difference between Dry and Sweet wine
By Theydiffer - July 14, 2015

The distinction between dry and sweet wine is very confusing for most people to grasp. This is especially because people’s sensitivity to sweetness varies. It is also due to the fact that dry wine can give the impression that it is sweet due to the fact that the grapes used were overripe, or the barrels used gave them a certain sweetness. If you love wine, this article will help you understand the differences between sweet and dry wine.


Dry wine refers to wine that has less than one percent residual sugar. A ‘bone dry’ wine will have less than 0.5% residual sugar in it. This level of sugar cannot be detected by human taste buds.

Sweet wine, on the other hand, is wine that has relatively higher residual sugar levels, mostly 20% or more.

Comparison Chart

Dry wineSweet wine
Has less than 1% residual sugarHas more than 20% percent residual sugar
Made by grapes from immature grapes or completely fermented grapesMade from ripe, frozen, or sun-dried grapes, and also from fermentation that has been halted and sugar added.

Dry Wine vs Sweet Wine

What is the difference between dry and sweet wine? The difference lies in the level of residual sugar that the wine has left from its fermentation process. The following are the types of fermentation processes used to make dry or sweet wines to help you understand how each is made.

Basically, a wine is made by picking grapes which are then pressed to produce a juice that is fermented. During fermentation, the fruit’s sugars turn the juice into wine. The type of grapes used or the level of fermentation reached determines whether the wine turns out to be sweet or dry by influencing the level of sugar left. The following is how dry or sweet wine is made:

  • Grapes are allowed to ripen in order to boost the amount of sugar in them. Ripe grapes produce sweet wines. Consequently, grapes grown in warmer areas produce relatively sweeter wines whereas grapes grown in cooler areas produce dry wines.
  • After grapes are harvested, they are sun-dried in order for the sugars in them to be concentrated. This produces sweet wine, and is commonly used to produce dessert wines. Also, grapes left to freeze while on the vine before they are harvested have concentrated sugars that make sweet wine.
  • Another way of making sweet wine is by adding sugar to the grape juice before fermenting it.
  • Lastly, sweet wine can be made by regulating the fermentation process. Wine makers cut short the fermentation processes to make ensure a certain level of sugars are left in the wine. The longer the fermentation process, the drier the wine that will be produced. During fermentation, the sugars turn into alcohol. Before fermentation is complete, it is halted to preserve some sugars that will make the wine sweet.