Dry vs. Sweet Wine: How Are They Made Differently?

Dry vs. sweet wines – that sparks a debate among many people and even wine-loving friends! It is quite a simple explanation, but people will debate the issue time and time again!

Let’s break down how dry and sweet wines are made.

Dry vs. Sweet Wine: The Wine-Making Process

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Simply put, all wines pretty much start out as a dry wine. Wine begins as a vat of juice from a food source. It has natural sugars that yeast will eat, which causes fermentation as it’s digested. Sugar can also be added to the juice to make the process even faster; more sugars lead to faster yeast growth so the alcohol level rises more quickly.

When the alcohol level of the batch gets to be more than 9%, it is declared to be a PA table wine. At this point, fermentation can continue while there is still sugar available to the yeast, or chemicals can be added to stop fermentation, thus killing the yeast. There are usually some residual sugars, but mostly it is dry at this point. A true super dry wine would be tested to make sure there is very low residual sugars. Many dry wines can be aged for several years at this point, too, without further fermentation happening.  

(Side note: Wines are filtered to remove the yeast.)

Dry vs. Sweet Wine: The Vintner’s Special Touch

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At this point, the art of a vintner, or winemaker, comes in. The raw wine is balanced according to their liking, or better yet, the customer’s liking! This is what makes wine from various wineries unique to them.

For a sweeter final wine, a sweetener is added back in. This must be done after the yeast have been killed off, or fermentation would start up again. This can still happen when using low sulfites. That’s why young wine and fruit wines are not meant to be kept for years, but consumed within 6 month or so.

Sugar is the main sweetener added to wine to get the desired level of taste. Concentrated fruit juices can be added for more flavor, as well as sweetness. Artificial flavorings and sweeteners can be added as well. Here at Deer Creek Winery, we never use artificial flavoring, sweeteners, or coloring in our wines.


In reality, 80% of PA wine drinkers like a semi-sweet and sweet wine, so that is how we make the majority of our wines. If you’re not sure what kind of wine you would like, come in to any of our locations and take the Vintotype test, and we can show you first hand the wines you will love! Then visit our wine page or any of our locations to shop our wines by your Vinotype! 

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