I am a diabetic, but my doctor has suggested 2 glasses of wine a night. Can I use artificial sweeteners to sweeten my wines after the fermentation has stopped? Will it affect the aging after bottling?
There is nothing that suggest that artificial sweeteners affect the aging process, or aging-chemistry, of a wine. So from this perspective it is fine to add artificial sweeteners to sweeten wine at bottling time. But there are some other factors that come into play, depending on what kind of artificial sweetener you are planing on using to sweeten your homemade wine.
Not all artificial sweeteners are the same:
- Sweet’n Low™: the main ingredient is saccharin. Saccharin will artificially sweeten your wine, but it will not permanently mix with the wine. If given enough time, such as when aging, the saccharin will drop to the bottom. When commercial products, such as Tab used saccharin as a sweetener, they also added a binder to keep it suspended. Us home winemakers do not have this luxury available to us.
- Equal™: the main ingredient is aspartame. This artificial sweetener will sweeten wine as well as it will sweeten coffee or tea. It does have an Achille’s heel, however it does not stay stable for longer periods of time. Once in a liquid, it will slowly start to lose its sweetening effect. This is why sodas sweetened with aspartame will sometimes taste bitter if they are too old or stored in the heat. While you can store your wine in extremely cool places to slow down the lose of sweetness, this extremely cool temperature will also slow down the natural aging process of the wine. A more minor consideration is that Equal™ also contains a small amount of dextrose (corn sugar) and maltodextrin. Both of these ingredients can cause a very small fermentation with in the wine bottle. Not enough to be a direct problem, but possibly enough the give the wine a detectable amount of effervescence. For this reason, if you do decide to use Equal™ to sweeten your wine, I would also recommend adding potassium sorbate to eliminate any re-fermentation within the wine bottle.
- NutraSweet™: again the main ingredient is aspartame so you have the same stability issues as with Equal™, but NutraSweet™ also as a second artificial sweetener, neotame. This artificial sweetener is a little more stable than aspartame, so between the two, NutraSweet™ would be your best artificial sweetener to sweeten wine. It would stay sweeter longer in your wines.
- Splenda™: the main ingredient is sucralose. Sucralose is a molecularly modified form of sugar. The sugar is altered in a way that makes it very hard for the body to metabolize. It’s main strength is that it is stable. If used in your wine, it will always remain just as sweet as the day you added it. It binds with the wine, so you don’t need to worry about it separating out such as with saccharin.The main downfall is that, if given enough time, the enzymes that are left over from your wine’s fermentation can break down some of the sucralose into a simple sugar. If there are still residual yeast cells in the wine, you could have a slight fermentation in the wine bottle because of this. Also, like other artificial sweeteners, Splenda™ has dextrose and maltodextrin added as bulking agents to keep if fluffy. Just like with Equal™, these can also contribute to the possibility of fermentation in the bottle, so again potassium sorbate is recommend to keep the wine stable.
- Stevia: This is a natural ingredient derived from a plant. There are some winemakers that are claiming great success with sweetening their wine with this product. I do not know how stable it is, but I’ve heard no complaints with losing sweetness over time, nor have I heard complaints of re-fermentation in the wine bottle. Having said this, price seems to be a major issue. There are many brands that offer this product in varying forms. Some cut with sugar; some cut with maltodextrin. You want to get the stevia as pure as you can — at least 95%. Currently, brands that offer this form of stevia are commanding prices in the range of $0.80 to $1.00 per ounce. Depending on how much stevia you need to use to sweeten your wine, this could be cost prohibitive.
The best advice I can give you is to go ahead and use any artificial sweetener to sweeten wine you like, but don’t add it until you are ready to drink the wine. The effects on the wine are identical and you don’t have to worry about all the potential problems these artificial sweeteners can bring. If you have your heart set on sweetening the wine at bottling time, then I might consider stevia as a trial. Take a portion of the wine off, say a gallon, and sweeten that to see how you like it.
Thanks for the great question, Frank. Hope everything works out for you.
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.
We’ve used Sweet n Low in a couple of our fruit wines with good results but to be honest, our wines don’t last long with my wife around. I wouldn’t suggest Stevia since I’ve recently read health warnings on it, but that’s up to each person to decide.
I have been seriously considering sweetening a wine with the sugar free DaVinci or Torani syrups after fermentation. They contain Splenda but since I sorbate and sulfite my finished wines, I should be okay. My main “concern” is how much it will take to reach the sweetness I am looking for and whether it will be cost prohibitive. However, I can get them for about $4 at the local cash and carry so even if it take 4 bottles, that wouldn’t be too bad.
The main reason I have been contemplating using the sugar free syrups is because I am doing a strawberry lemonade wine for summer and would like to carbonate some of it. My plan is to ferment dry, add sugar free syrup to taste, prime with sugar and bottle in beer bottles. I will keep an eye on the level of carbonation now since you mentioned that Splenda can break down and cause additional fermentation. I hope it works!
I have been making old fashioned yeast-carbonated soda (mostly ginger beer and root beer) for years. Sweetening yeast carbonated soda with sugar leads to broken bottles. So, even before dietary reasons compelled me to go the sugar free route, I was looking for sugar alternatives. I did some experiments with artificial sweeteners, and came to some conclusions.
First off, I did an experiment. I had written to the makers of Splenda, asking them about sweetening wine. I was told that Splenda doesn’t ferment. That was rather easy to test.
I added 1/2 cup of Splenda to 1 quart of water. I stirred in a teaspoon of yeast, and bottled the concoction. Splenda, does indeed ferment, and vigorously.
I tried sweetening yeast carbonated soda with Equal/aspartame. For some reason the fermentation process took away the sweetness entirely.
I have tried Stevia with great success. I found a pure form of it, Now Better Stevia. 2 teaspoons are equal to 1 cup of sugar. The soda I make gets drank rather quickly, so I can’t attest to Stevia’s long term effectiveness.
I’m a winemaker as well. I’ve found that the best way to go as far as sweetening wine, is to simply acquire a taste for dry wine.
I used Splenda to sweeten my wine @ bottling and after researching it a little more I found out that the Splenda is engineered not to break down into a usable sugar for a long enough period to allow it to exit the body and thereby not cause a sugar spike in diabetics. However, given a little time on the shelf (in the wine) the Splenda does break down into a usable sugar and any residual yeast will then restart the fermentation and, YES, cause busted bottles, cork missiles and a big mess. Experience is always the best teacher!!! LOL
Splenda and other artificial sweeteners does cause a spike in my blood glucose, my body simply does not know the difference… Just throwing this out there, testing before and after is the only way to know…
A suggestion to avoid all these complications is to allow fermentation to complete to .999 or whatever and simply add your favorite sweetened in your glass or your opened bottle.
I have been making my own wine for the last 9 years.
HOW MUCH OF THE STEVIA OR SPLENDA IS NEEDED TO MADE A SWEET WINE I MEAN ABOUT 5 GALLONS. I HAVE A FREIND WHO LOVES WINE AND I WOULD LOVE MAKE HIM SOME HOMEMADE WINE. THANK YOU RICHARD ELLIFF
Richard, we cannot tell you how much to add because each persons perception of sweetness is different. What we recommend doing is to take out a measured amount of the wine and keep track of how much sweetener it took to get to a sweetness level that you like. Then you would just multiply that by the remainder of the batch. Doing it this way will help to prevent over-sweetening because if you get it too sweet, you can put it back in the batch and start over again.
Never thought about it interesting subject.
Great article Ed! You really do a great job with your feedback for us home winemakers! You helped me with my cranberry wine that went cloudy and for that I’m very grateful!
Remember that you can always sweeten wine at the time you drink it. This is good if one person likes dry wine and one likes sweet(er) wine and they are sharing a bottle. Then some of the wine can be sweetened to the taste of the one who like sweeter wines. That eliminates the issue of degrading of the sweetener over time. Remember the rule for wine: “Find what you like to drink, sip it slowly and enjoy every sip.”
Any info about back sweetening with erythritol or monk fruit?
Does Splenda (sucralose) yield the same S/G as sugar in the same volume of wine? For example: If I have a wine with a given S/G that suits my taste, let’s say 1.2, can I back sweeten another identical wine with Splenda to the same 1.2 S/G and have similarly sweet wine?
John, We have actually never tested splenda versus sugar on the hydrometer. We would assume that it would be close but not exactly the same. You can do your own test in water using the same amount of splenda and sugar in each. That should give you the answer you are looking for.
Has anybody tried the monk fruit blend to back sweeten wines? The bag says you can use it 1 to 1. I make fruit wines and I am doing the keto diet so I have not had a glass of any of my wines for 4 months. Thinking of trying a batch of apple wine and back sweeten with this monk fruit and see if it tastes ok.
Ed; thank you for a great run down on sweeteners. We have a dry carbonated wine I did not get bottled last year. Due to future wines we are making, and the resulting line up, I am wanting to sweeten. We have 140 gallons presently residing in a brite tank. I did a series of trails and arrived at a basic sweetening level to get the desired result using saccharin, after reading your article above I will use Stevia. I am contemplating taking the head co2 pressure off the brite tank momentarily very gently, stirring in the sweetner based upon trials, then running some carbonationion back thru the carb stone to get a higher carbonation level. The wine has been EK filtered, potassium sorbate added and has 30 PPM free SO2. We will then bottle in old style 750 Ml. flip top bottles with a counter pressure bottle filler I have made. Do you see any problems with this approach? Appreciate any comments or thoughts.
Hello can i add sweeteners before fermentation ?? Does it affect fermentation process ? I am thinking to use aspartame