Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Which wines are unsweetened, unfortified and have no herbs or spices added?
—Andi, Stanley, N.D.
The vast majority of wines are unsweetened and unfortified without added spices or herbs. It’s easier for me to tell you which wines do have those qualities than list all the wines that do not.
A fortified wine is one that has spirits added to it; examples of fortified wines include Port and Sherry. Vermouth is also fortified, and it’s also aromatized, meaning some herbs and spices have been infused into it.
In most wines, the sugar content comes from the grapes themselves—the riper the grapes, the more sugar they have. In some cooler areas, where it’s hard to get the grapes as ripe as a winemaker would prefer, a small amount of cane or beet sugar might be added, a process called chaptalization. There’s also a process in sparkling wine production where sugar might be added, in the form of the dosage, to encourage the secondary fermentation that creates all those bubbles. Both chaptalized wines and bubblies with added sugar do not necessarily taste sweet, because that additional sugar is being converted to alcohol.
Speaking of sweet, I should mention “wine products,” which are inexpensive, candied, colorful and sugary alcoholic beverages that, in addition to wine, contain any number of additives like juice flavorings, sugar, citric acid and more. They aren’t real wines in the same sense that “cheese product” in a can or jar is less than 51 percent real cheese.