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Dryness/Sweetness Scores


Was wondering last night whether the 1-9 scores for white wine were based solely on somebody’s palate, or a number of palates, or whether they were based on an absolute measure of the amount of sugar in the wine. This came from my feeling that I didn’t fully agree with some of the ratings and then wondering about their objectivity.
Does anybody know how the ratings originate?


Hiya Andy!

Good question. :smiley: I just checked with one of the buyers, @freddy, and he’s given this reply:

They are not to do with actual amount of sugar, more the perception of sweetness and richness. The buyer of the region generally has the final say, however we will often taste as a team and settle on a number that we all agree is correct.
Also, when we have the Wine Champs tastings we take that opportunity to update the sweetness codes if any don’t seem correct when lined up against other wines.

So there you have it!

Feel free to share your opinions on any of the wines you didn’t agree with - I find this kind of thing really interesting and I’m sure there will be others who have opinions on wine sweetness levels too.


Thanks Laura. Interesting that perception is the key factor, and I’m sure experience is very helpful too. I’m wondering now if TWS grades for any particular wine differ from grades given by any other organisation.
What started this train of thought was the first 2 sparkling wines at the tasting last night. MiruMiru Brut, rated 2, followed by Hambledon Brut, also rated 2. My first impression of the Hambledon was that it was much drier and I was surprised it had the same rating.
I think I’m also struggling to accept Cloudy Bay SB, Domaine Pichon viognier, and Chateau de Mersault all having the same rating, though perhaps I’m confusing the dryness with the very different tastes and mouth feel.
But now I know it’s a perception based system I can happily give everything my own scores! :slight_smile:


Great question!

It’s a difficult one, as impression of dryness is a combination of residual sugar versus acidity affected by where grapes are grown and grape varieties.

Also, whether one is eating or having wine on its own; its all perception.

With Champagne the local classifications, Extra Brut/Brut/Extra Dry etc are legally regulated by the amount of grams of sugar per litre and as the wines all come from the same region there should be some consistency.

In comparing a NZ with English sparkling wine, I would guess that the more extreme climate would make the English grapes less ripe and thus give the impression of being dryer. And I guess the buyers for each wine who rated them are not the same person

Dry Riesling has a surprsing amount of residual sugar but the Rielsing variety is so acidic that they taste dry.

A 9 point scale can’t offer preciseness imo


I struggle with the Riesling dry scale. In Australia, dry Riesling is dry (ie less than 2g/L). In Germany, dry Riesling can be up to 9g/L depending on the level of acidity. My palate has been conditioned to expect dry meaning dry, so I’ve not got on with German Riesling’s as of yet.


Hah! It gets worse - potentially at least - in Alsace. Whilst some growers have taken to putting a sort of scale on their back labels, plenty don’t. And riesling is the least of your worries there - try finding dry Pinot gris or Gewurztraminers.


Yeah not really got on there either! Although I do have a PG and Riesling from Alsace to go at. Thinking it needs the right sort of food before opening.


So is there a difference between richness and sweetness? I would say I like rich pinot Gris and not too sweet, but I’ve had odd looks from a wine merchant when I said this.


That’s perfectly reasonable, wines can be rich but finish dry or in contrast featherlight and sweet. Good Pinot Gris is usually rich, but not necessarily sweet. Old style German Rulander and some Alsace Pinot Gris is both rich and sweet, which is interesting but unfashionable.


I think it might be based on residual sugar, however you could have a sweet wine in terms of residual sugar however it could be balanced with higher acidity making it taste less sweet. I think the scale is probably a balance between the two. There is also the difference between actual sweetness from residual sugar and then flavour profile of sweeter tasting fruit characters etc where you might perceive a dry wine being sweet.


@winechief @M1tch
The International Riesling Foundation scale is based on the ratio between sugar and acidity and as affected by PH, so

Dry. wines… have a sugar-to-acid ratio not exceeding 1.0. For example, a wine with 6.8 grams of sugar and 7.5 grams of acidity would be in the same category as a wine with 8.1 grams of sugar and 9.0 grams of acid. Similarly, a wine with 12 grams of sugar and 12 grams of acid would be classified as dry.

wines that are totally or “near-totally” dry (such as 4 grams per liter) will have a much lower ratio. For instance, a wine with only 3 grams of sugar and a total acidity of 6 grams per liter will have a ratio of .5, and clearly the wine is dry.

See https://drinkriesling.com/tasteprofile/thescale


My Riesling experiences are more in the latter style that you describe but are probably best described as ‘bone dry’
See the pewsey vale and contours as examples


I tend to agree with or at least understand the scale by TWS, and I find it useful esp for aromatic whites. I appareciate that it’s by perception rather than harder metrics since it gives an insight to the wine but agree it is more helpful if you know the style of wine first. Id never thought about it but suppose it makes sense it is determined by the buyer.

I find it less useful for sweeter wines, I’m not sure about the variances between 6-8. I don’t think the scale necessarily lines up with other merchants either. Perhaps my understanding just comes from experience buying wines from TWS. I know, for instance, that I like German Rieslings at 4.


Yes, I couldn’t think offhand of any wines in the 6-8 range. I had a look at Sauternes on TWS site and discovered that the Exhibition Sauternes was 7, though all others were 9. That seemed a bit strange but I haven’t actually tried it so have no idea if if it’s correct. Conceptually it seems odd that a wine that typifies a type is rated differently from the other wines of that type. :thinking:


In Buy wine you can filter for sweetness / fullness… filter for words not numbers, mind you. The scale looks like this.

1 Bone dry
2 Dry
3 Dry rich
4 Medium / off dry
5 Medium sweet
6 and 7 Dessert sweetness
8 Very sweet
9 Intensely sweet