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You always hear people saying that they either like sweet or dry wine. Oftentimes these words come from the 65% of people aged 55 and older who drink liquor, beer, or wine and seem very wise about these things. While you can easily discern that this preference is based on whether that person likes a sweet taste or, well, a dry one, you may be left wondering how the two flavor profiles ever even came into existence. Having an answer to this question can come in handy when you’re wine online shopping.

Luckily for you, we have that answer. Tuck in, pour yourself a glass, and let’s discover what gives a wine its lovely flavor.

The Fermentation Process

A large factor to whether a wine is sweet or dry is the level of residual sugar left in the wine after fermentation has been completed. During fermentation, the natural sugars of the grapes are transforming into alcohol. To get sweet wine, some makers will stop the fermentation process before it has finished its entire cycle, leaving more sugar in the wine. Other winemakers will let grapes dry in the sun or freeze on the vine to intensify the sugar concentration, depending on what the climate allows.

Another common way to produce sweet wine is to harvest the grapes late. More mature grapes have more sugar and less acidity, making the sweetness more pronounced. This allows mature grapes to complete the fermentation process but keep their residual sugars. Conversely, winemakers can produce a dry wine with younger grapes.

Our Personal Perception

Factors such as acidity, tannin, and alcohol will heavily influence whether you think a wine is sweet or dry. A highly acidic wine will often be considered dry by the general public, despite the amount of sugar in it. Tannins are contained in grape skins, seeds, and stems. They bind to the proteins in our saliva, causing a dry sensation. This feeling will vary from person to person, making a wine seem dryer to some than it is to others.

Now that you’re armed with this information you can continue wine online shopping. With a better idea of how your online wine shop came to get the wine you’re purchasing, you can make a more informed decision. And whether you decide on a wine that is sweet, dry, or anywhere in between is completely up to your taste buds.