Fruit-forward vs. Sweet wines – what are they?

Sweetness and fruitiness are often interchanged by honest mistake, in the same way a sparkling Cava might be called “Champagne”… honest mistake. In these particular cases, a fruit-forward wine is perceived to be the equivalent of a sweet wine. The more one discovers about wine, the more it is understood that this is not the case. However, these ideas behind differentiating one vs. the other might not be as straightforward and obvious in the beginning.

While breaking down these differences can be split in a variety of scientific ways and cover pages upon pages of analysis, we’ll be focusing more on the broader notion of perception between fruit-forward vs. sweet wines. 

Let’s Talk Fruit-forward

On the most basic level, fruitiness in a wine generally highlights fruit-natured tastes and aromas.

There are a lot of reasons for the fruit-forwardness of a wine. One of which could be attributed to the influence of where the wine itself is from. Does it come from a warmer climate? The wine will likely focus on a fruit characteristic. Where the confusion lies between fruit-forward and sweet is that a wine could impart the impression of what could be sweet because of perceived ripeness of fruit. In another instance, oak aging could influence the wine to have a vanilla-like note. 

Fruit-forward is a stylistic term. Something can be fruity but not sweet. Think when you call something salty. Something can be called salty without the salt. Other ingredients have the ability to stimulate some of the very same sensory receptors as salt would.

The fruit-forward nature of a wine makes you think of the fruit first, even before terrior. Wheras, a more savory wine would speak more to earthy characteristics. Fruit-forward wines exhibit such a high fruit profile, whether that means a jamminess, ripeness, or something in-between.

Let’s Talk Sweet

One simple way to see if what you’re experiencing is sweetness in a wine is to close your nose and take a sip. What does it taste like? What does it feel like?

Disregard the your initial reaction to any fruit element and focus on the finish. The finish of a wine is a key factor in determining if a wine is really a sweet vs. just a fruit-forward wine. That sugarish texture you get in your mouth from having something sweet is fairly hard to dismiss!

There are several ways a wine can be sweet. Not to mention sweet sensitivity ranges differently between each person. Generally speaking, sweetness comes from leftover natural grape sugars when fermentation stops. Sweet wines also tend to be dessert-style wines. 

It is important to note that the physical presence of sugar isn’t the only determining factor of sweetness, and there are also ways that perception is swayed. Acidity plays a big role in that. You might perceive a wine as less sweet even though it may have the same sugar level as another sweeter-tasting wine, simply because of the level of acidity in each wine.

Just know if you’re finding it difficult to describe if what you are experiencing when you taste is a fruit-forward or a sweet profile, it is normal. Experts aren’t made in a day!

Liked today’s content? To continue to learn more about wine, be sure to check out this Shall We Wine Blog weekly and subscribe to our monthly newsletter!