How to Sweeten Wine
What can I use to sweeten my wine?
So, you have opened the first wine bottle from a new batch, and it's too dry for your liking. It isn’t unusual for a homemade wine to be a little dry because we simply add wine yeast and let it ferment. A winery will take measurements throughout the fermentation process and stop the fermentation when they believe the wine is at the correct sweetness level. If your wine is a bit dry for your liking, then we’ll show you how to sweeten it up.
How to Use Wine Conditioner
Wine conditioner is a product that is very easy for wine makers to use because you don’t have to worry about any sugars. Wine conditioner is simply a non-fermentable sugar, water, and sorbate. Look at it as an all-in-one solution for your wine. You want to use this product just prior to bottling for best results. We do not recommend adding any sweeteners until you are almost ready to bottle. The reason is because wine will change dramatically from month to month when it is very young. The alcohol bite that some people believe is making the wine dry will mellow out, and the wine might be just fine for you. Adding the sweetener in too early could leave you with a very sweet wine later on.
Winemaker Tip: Re-rack your wine to a new fermenting bucket or carboy before adding the wine conditioner so you don't need to worry about stirring up sediment. All you do is add a little wine conditioner at a time, stir, and taste the wine. When it tastes good to you, go ahead and bottle. There is no set amount to add as every person has a different idea on what a wine should taste like.
How to Use Grape Concentrate
Midwest Supplies carries Red Grape Concentrate and White Grape Concentrate that you can use to sweeten your wine kit as well. There is one major difference when using these versus the wine conditioner, grape concentrate still has fermentable sugars in it. You want to make sure that you use metabisulphite before using this product as the sugar can activate the yeast, which will ferment the sugars and remove the sweetness to your wine. Some wine makers will add a second dose of metabisulphite to try and kill all of the active yeast cells in their wine. Both of these concentrates can be added just before bottling time. They are already filtered, and will not leave sediment in your wine. Just add a little at a time, stir, and taste. Just like wine conditioner, each person’s taste will vary, so add as much as you like.
Using Sugar to Sweeten Wine
Yes, you can use sugar to sweeten your wine in a pinch. We don’t recommend it because even with the use of metabisulphite it is possible that there are still some active yeast cells left. Sugar is easy for the yeast to ferment, so it might lead to a carbonation issue in your wine. But, if you properly store the wine after it has been bottled, then you should be OK. Again, just add a little at a time, stir, and taste.
Using Fruit Juice for Wine Sweetening
If making a fruit wine, or you just want to try a blend of your own, fruit juice will help sweeten a wine. The juice off the shelf will work because it already has preservatives in it that will prevent the sugars from being fermented. Actually, most fruit juices use metabisulphite, which is the same ingredient you use in your wine anyway. Guess what? All you have to do is add some in, stir, and taste. Kind of sound familiar?
You now have several ideas for how to sweeten your wine when it turns out dryer than you expected. Any of these will work for you, but most of us here like to use a sweetener with a flavor profile that resembles the predominate flavors in the wine that we are making. For a grape wine, the wine conditioner or grape concentrate work well. If you have a raspberry wine, raspberry juice or sugar will work. Don’t be afraid to experiment as you go along. Some wine makers will bottle part of a batch without any changes, and then sweeten up another part just to try something different.
For more information on How to Make Wine check out the rest of our Bottle Knowledge archive.