Wine School

The Dry Red Wine Guide: Spilling the Tea on Low Sugar, Dry Red Wines

Love red wine, but want to avoid a sugar hangover? Here’s the scoop on which red wines are dry, and how to shop low-sugar, low-carb red wines.

By Logan Davis

October 11, 2021

Maker Cab Pfeffer and Chocolate


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. 

Red 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.  Read this guide to learn which red wines are dry, and how to shop dry red 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 on the opposite end of the spectrum to 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 C02 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. 

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. 

And what should you call that “drying” sensation in your mouth with some wines? Fun fact, that’s actually caused by tannins, which are naturally occurring compounds from grape seeds and skins.  

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?

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 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, pouring into a wine glass.

The Maker Cabernet Sauvignon by female-led Sutro Wines is dry with 0g sugar, 137 calories, and 4.3 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 3g/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. 

Wines to avoid, if you’re staying away from the sweet side? Grapes like Malbec, Grenache, Lambrusco, and Zinfandel tend to be higher in residual sugar. And 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. No reputable small production winery will add sugar to their wines. So support small production wineries and drink the good stuff.

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.

Because we believe in transparency, here’s a list of the sugar content, calories, and carbs in our dry, red wines. We're proud to say that we have the most dry red wines of any canned wine co out there, all of which have 0g/L of residual sugar, less than 5 carbs, and no more than 140 calories per serving. (Seriously! Check out our post comparing dry wine to White Claw!). 

Maker 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 Merlot — *0g sugar, 140 calories, 4.6 carbs per 5 oz. serving.*

Maker Zinfandel — *0g sugar, 150 calories, 3.4 carbs per 5 oz. serving.*

Check out our Bestsellers Mixed Pack or Join the Can Club to taste the difference for yourself. 

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. 

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