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Residual Sugars

April 25, 2012
Question by: Jeff, Floral Park, USA

Q:

We have a friendly discussion amongst fellow port lovers and are wondering what are the residual sugars of the SFE line up for 2007 Vintage Ports.  Would it be possible to divulge that information?

A:

Hi Jeff, The exact laboratory analysis of our wines is proprietary information which is shared only with the IVDP, so we cannot quote the residual sugar numbers for you.  What we can do, however, is direct you to the Baumé readings which in recent years have generally been published as part of the release notes for our top brands.  On that basis, the numbers for the 2007 Vintage Ports are as follows:

The Baumé scale is a way of measuring the density or specific gravity of grape must as compared to a standard of distilled water being equal to zero, and as the must "weight" is driven by the amount of dissolved sugars (which constitute typically 90% of dissolved solids), this reading will give you an indication of relative sweetness.  

These numbers bear out the stylistic differences between our wines, namely that Graham's is typically the richest and sweetest of our Port brands, and Dow's the driest, with Warre's and Vesuvio falling between at the sweeter end of the spectrum.

Bear in mind that your perception of the sweetness or dryness of a wine will be influenced by the balance of sugars versus tannins versus acidity.  You can easily experience a wine as sweeter when technically, in the laboratory, it may not be, because perhaps it is less tannic or less acidic than another wine, so the sweetness makes the overwhelming impression.  There are two useful discussions of this in Wikipedia articles on Ripeness in Viticulture (scroll down to the section "Evaluating Ripeness") and Sweetness of Wine.  Alternatively, consult any winemaking reference or textbook.

Update:  Fundamentally, most sweet Ports will be around 100 grams/litre residual sugars - the range tends to be from 95 to 105 and is driven by how dry or wet the season generally was - naturally, a dry season will concentrate the sugars, a wetter season with plumper berries will lead to a little dilution.

Take a look at the chart on the IVDP website which may be of use for reference, showing their parameters for various styles of port from extra dry (e.g. the dry whites) to extra sweet (lagrimas).



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