Every wine on the shelves of BC Liquor Stores has a sweetness code indicated on the shelf label. This code helps identify the level of sweetness you can expect from your wine selection.
The sweetness code is based on the amount of residual sugar left in the wine after the fermenting process is complete. The residual sugar level can range from 0 to more than 100 grams per litre! The chart below is the standard to which sweetness codes are assigned in BC Liquor Stores.
0 Very dry 0-5 grams of sugar per litre of wine
1-2 Off-dry 5-25 grams of sugar per litre of wine
3-4 Medium 25-45 grams of sugar per litre of wine
5-6 Sweet 45-65 grams of sugar per litre of wine
7-10 Very sweet 65-105+ grams of sugar per litre of wine
The perceived sweetness of a wine can be different from the assigned code. Alcohol content, carbon-dioxide content, acidity, tannin levels and the serving temperature can all affect how sweet a wine tastes.
Winemakers strive to create balance in the wine by managing the alcohol, acidity and tannin, but ultimately, nature determines the resulting sweetness. A wine with a sweetness code of zero would have a relatively low amount of residual sugar, but high alcohol content may make it taste sweeter. Alternatively, a wine with a high sweetness code (signalling high amounts of residual sugar) could taste dry when the acidity is high.
Here are some examples of what kinds of wines fall into the sweetness codes above.
Code Description and Types
0 The very dry wine category would include many Chardonnay, Cabernet varietals, Chianti, Shiraz and Zinfandel.
1-2 Some of the wines in the off-dry category would include many Sauvignon Blanc, many sparkling white and ros´s.
3-4 The medium category will start to reveal summery whites.
5-6 In the sweet category you'll find some Late Harvest wines and other fortified wines. This level of sweetness is most closely associated with ports and aperitifs.
7-10 The very sweet wines include Late Harvest, Icewine, the noble rot and many Sauternes.