The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 17 – Should I Add Sugar?

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What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! 🙂


Do I add sugar?

Adding sugar can fall into two categories. If sugar is added prior to fermentation, it is called chapitalization and will increase the Brix (sugar level) of the must, resulting in a higher alcohol by volume wine. The yeast will process this sugar in addition to the grape sugars and will turn it into alcohol. Chapitalization is an important step for under ripe grapes, lacking in sugar.

Another form of sugar addition to wine is post-fermentation. This must be done with much care as to not restart fermentation. Adding the sugar after fermentation may reactivate yeast by offering them another food source and cause them to ferment that sugar as well. This can be prevented by adding sulfites to at least 50ppm to kill off the yeast. Adding sugar after sulfites will effectively back sweeten the wine, giving residual sugar and a sweet flavor to the wine. The winemaker can also add potassium sorbate to the wine, provided that the wine has not gone through malo-lactic fermentation. Potassium sorbate cannot be added to a wine that has undergone MLF as it will result in an off aroma of geranium taint. Potassium sorbate is strongly suggested for white wines that the winemaker would like to add residual sugar to. The sorbate will encapsulate any yeast particles, prohibiting them from metabolizing the sugar that was added for sweetening.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.