Sugar Free Wine Guide: How to Shop High Quality, Low Sugar Wines
Love wine, but want to avoid a sugar hangover? Which wines are low in sugar? Here’s the scoop on how to shop no added sugar and zero sugar wines.
By Logan Davis
May 01, 2023
Do you find yourself scanning for the word “dry” when deciding whether to buy wine you’ve never tried before? Been burned by one too many grocery store wines with a ton of added sugar? You’re not alone.
Wine is our spirit animal; it’s the perfect compliment to a dinner party, girls night, or beach bonfire, but the next day can feel rough when you’re not drinking the good stuff.
Little known fact — nearly all dry wines from reputable small producers have little-to-no residual sugar and correspondingly few carbs.
Read this guide to learn which wines are naturally low in sugar, and how to shop zero sugar wines.
What is dry wine, anyways?
"Dry" is often misused as a wine descriptor — it does not refer to a wine that is “drying.” A dry wine is the opposite of a sweet wine, it’s a wine with no residual sugar. Per our Maker wine terms glossary, grape juice becomes wine when all the natural sugars from the fruit are “eaten up” by yeast and converted to alcohol and CO2 through a process called fermentation. In a dry wine, fermentation has been allowed to complete fully, and there is no residual sugar left in the wine. Check out our limited edition Red Wine Mixed Pack for award-winning dry wines with zero grams of sugar per can – including our best-selling low sugar Pinot Noir.
Even more confusingly, just because we perceive a wine as “sweet”, does not necessarily mean it isn’t a dry wine! Ripe fruits and floral notes can create the perception of sweetness even if there is no residual sugar, especially if the wine doesn’t have the acidity or tannins to balance that fruitiness.
The “clean” wine fallacy
While “clean-washing” is a term that is known in the beauty and hospitality industry, it’s a little bit newer to wine. There are many trendy, marketing-led wine brands labeling themselves as “clean”, implying others are... dirty?
Similar to "health-washing" in the food industry, clean wines will often claim to be “all-natural,” “lab-tested,” “low carb,” and “zero sugar,” but what they don’t tell you is that all dry wines from high quality producers fit that criteria, too.
And, dare we say it, the wine from “clean wine” companies is typically not up to par with quality wines from small producers that love their craft. So, it turns out you can have it all: delicious, small batch red wine, and dry, no residual sugar wine — all in one.
Maker's Cabernet Sauvignon by family-led Gilbert Cellars is dry with 0g sugar, and less than 4g of carbs per 5 oz. serving.
Dry red wine types
Now you might be asking, which red wines are dry? Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Merlot are typically dryer, with less than 3 g/L of residual sugar.
Dry wines with low-to-no residual sugar will also have correspondingly fewer carbs (see our keto wine guide for the deets). And while all wine can cause hangovers and headaches when consumed to excess, the main culprit of a “wine headache” is dehydration. Sugar in wine can make this worse, ‘nuff said.
If you're looking for a no sugar added red wines, there are a few wines to avoid. Grapes like Malbec, Grenache, Lambrusco, and Zinfandel tend to be higher in residual sugar because they are not usually fermented to dry. Dessert wines like Port are on another level at 100 g/L of sugar. And, finally, mass-produced grocery store wines can often have added sugar to make wines more palatable to the masses. No reputable small production winery will add sugar to their wines – so support small production wineries to drink the good stuff.
What to look for when shopping for no carb, no sugar wine
While sticking to the commonly dry varietals is a good rule of thumb, any wine producer you consider purchasing from should be able to tell you how much sugar is in their wine.
Maker Wine dry red wines:
Because we believe in transparency, here’s a list of the sugar content, calories, and carbs in our dry, red wines:
Maker Pinot Noir — *0g sugar, 121 calories, 3.8 carbs per 5 oz. serving.*
Maker Cabernet Sauvignon — *0g sugar, 137 calories, 4.3 carbs per 5 oz. serving.*
Maker Zinfandel — *0g sugar, 150 calories, 3.4 carbs per 5 oz. serving.*
Maker Carbonic Red – *0g sugar, 113 calories, 3.5 carbs per 5 oz. serving.*
Maker Cabernet Pfeffer – *0g sugar, 120 calories, 3.3 carbs per 5 oz. serving.*
We're proud to say that we have the most dry red wines of any canned wine co out there, all of which have 0 g/L of residual sugar, less than 5 g carbs, and no more than 150 calories per 5 oz. serving. Here's a quick view of sugar and carbs in our best-selling cans.
When it comes to dry red wines, stick to small producers
Mega wine producers use more sugar and unnatural ingredients in the wine to create volume and make for sweeter, more approachable wines. Small producers, however, are much more likely to use a natural winemaking process and no added sugar.
At Maker we work with small, independent wine producers that take pride in their premium wines. Here’s the 101 on how we find world-class winemakers to partner with.
So next time you're scanning the shelves looking for a dry red wine, look for wines with less than 3 g/L residual sugar, some of the dry red wine varietals listed above, or best of all, small, premium, producers.
Better yet? Shop Maker, which checks all the boxes.
*Updated July, 2023.
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