How To Fix Homemade Wine That Is Too Sweet

Homemade Wine Is Too SweetI need some help. My homemade wine is too sweet. I made 2 batches of wine one of Blackberry/Raspberry and the other Blueberry/Raspberry/Cranberry. Although they have a great flavor they are way to sweet, can I add some more yeast to get them to ferment some more of the sugar out?

Karey C. – OR
Hello Karey,

Both of your wines sound like great fruit combinations. So sorry to hear they are causing you a little problem. Keep reading to learn how to fix homemade wine that is too sweet.

There are 2 possible reasons why a homemade wine is too sweet:

  1. Too Much Sugar Was Added To The Wine Recipe
    There is a limit to how much alcohol a yeast can tolerate. Once a fermentation produces alcohol to this level, the yeast will simply slow to a stop. If you know that your fermentation has already produced 13-14% alcohol, but the wine is still too sweet, then you’ve added too much sugar to the wine must. You can determine the wine’s alcohol level by taking beginning and current alcohol readings with a wine hydrometer and comparing the two. If this is the reason your homemade wine is too sweet, there is not a whole lot you can do to reduce the sweetness, or make it more dry, other than blend it with a dry wine. Shop HydrometersFor example, you can make blackberry/raspberry wine next year that comes out dry, and then blend this years wine with that. This year’s wine will store just fine in bulk. Just remember to add sulfite to the wine and to eliminate any head-space that may be in with the wine. Hopefully, this will help make your sweet wine taste better.
  1. The Fermentation Did Not Complete
    It very well could be that you added an appropriate amount of sugar to produce a reasonable amount of alcohol. It’s just that the fermentation did not fully ferment the sugar into alcohol as it should have. This is known as a stuck fermentation. This could happen for a number of reason. The most common one is temperature. The fermentation got to cool. Yeast are very sensitive to temperature. There are many other reasons as to why your fermentation may have stopped short of its full potential – too many to go over here. I would suggest going through the Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure. This will help you to ferret out the exact cause of such a predicament. Once you know the reason, you can take corrective action to get the fermentation active, again.

Again, the key to knowing why your homemade wine is too sweet is the wine hydrometer. If you did not take a beginning hydrometer reading, you will not be able to tell whether you have 7% alcohol and a fermentation that needs fixing, or if you have 15% alcohol and have simply added too much sugar to your wine.

As to your suggestion of adding more wine yeast, this is rarely a solution to a problem. This is because there is still yeast in the wine. It’s just that it has gone dormant. It is more likely to be an issue of getting the wine yeast in a situation to where it will start fermenting again.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
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.

46 thoughts on “How To Fix Homemade Wine That Is Too Sweet

  1. If the SG was too high (issue #1), it’s a good opportunity to use the batch for blending. Take another batch that has similar characteristics but is completely dry and use some bench trials to find the optimal mix. You might end up with wine that is the best you’ve ever made! Just remember to add the proper amount of Potassium Sorbate to prevent re-fermentation since you are introducing new sugar to the other wine.

    • Hi scott
      I have ended up with same problem (too sweet) in my mango wine 140 litre batch. Now can I dilute the finished wine with water to control bris and then increase the alcohol by making dry sugar wash?

  2. Ed, I think in the first situation you write about you mean take the sugar reading instead of the alcohol reading

  3. Under ” possible reason number 1″, how do you take “beginning and current alcohol readings and compare the two” to determine the alcohol level ? Isn’t the beginning alcohol level of any “must” equal to zero ?

    • Hello Michael, the hydrometer does not actually read the alcohol. It reads the amount of sugar in the must. Sugar is what’s fermented into alcohol. So by knowing how much sugar was fermented, you can know very accurately how much alcohol was made. When you take a beginning reading the alcohol scale might say 13%. What this means is that there is enough sugar currently in the must to make 13% alcohol — if it all ferments. At the end of the fermentation the alcohol scale normally says 0%. This means there in enough sugar in the must to make 0% more alcohol. The fermentation is complete and 13% alcohol was made (13 minus 0). If the fermentation stops and the hydrometer reading says 2%, for example, this means there is still enough sugar in the wine to make 2% more alcohol that did not ferment, and this is what’s making your wine too sweet.

      • This is half true.
        A hydrometer is used to take a reading from the must and a 2nd reading once brewed.
        The difference between the two can be used to calculate alcohol levels. The hydrometer does NOT measure the sugar levels as such as more dense must will have a higher initial reading than a less dense one (perhaps more fruit is present) which has nothing to do with sugar levels.

        It is the difference between the two readings which is used. This makes it impossible (sadly) to estimate alcohol levels using a hydrometer AFTER fermentation.

      • I have started brewing wine out of pineapple with a potential alcohol content of 10% in the wine hydrometer. And after fermentation for 18 days, I decanted the slurry and stored the wine in a airtight storage jar with the hope that the yeast remaining the wine after filteration would continue to ferment the remaining 4% potential shown by the wine hydrometer at the end of 20 days of wine brewing. But, even after 4 months of storage the wine remains sweet with nearly the same levels of potential alcohol (3-4%) and in that situation can I add more yeast to re-ferment the wine.

        • Adding more yeast is rarely a solution to a stuck fermentation. Although, there is no reason not to. It is much, much more likely that the environment the yeast is in is the issue. I would urge you to go over the “The Top Ten Reasons For Fermentation Failure” to try to determine the reason your fermentation did not complete. It is not until you figure out the reason that you’ll be able to come up with a solution.

          Top Ten Reasons For Fermentation Failure

          • What about using a yeast that is tolerant of higher levels of alcohol, such as Red Star’s Premier Cuvee? It’s a very clean fermenting yeast with minimal production of esters so as to limit any coloring of the flavor profile. I am running into a similar problem myself, I found three recipes for blackberry, one calling for 2.5lbs sugar per gallon, and the other two both called for 3.5 (and no, they were NOT the same recipe just printed in different locations) Like an idiot I used 3.5 all at once like the recipe called for – and promptly stalled using a normal mead yeast, so I added a double dose of Red Star, and it started moving.

            I think contributing to my problem was that I used more fruit than called for (OSG was 1.17), the recipe called for adding water to the must to bring it up to the proper volume, but gave no volumes of water. Considering the extra berries, I am thinking that it was not enough water… so mine may be a good candidate for dilution, I think I’ll wait till secondary is done, and check the sweetness and concentration of flavor, and decide then if water is warranted, if so, I may try jump-starting into a tertiary fermentation to consume more of the sugars.

            Your thoughts?

    • Roger, the standard dose we recommend for this purpose is 1/16 teaspoon per gallon. This applies to both potassium metabisulfite and sodium metabisulfite. If you are using Campden tablets, then it is one tablet per gallon. The tablet should be crushed, and preferably dissolved, before adding to the batch.

      • Ed Kraus? Are you saying here that you don’t have to use potassium sorbate here before bottling if you use Campden tablets? Like you can use one or the other?

        • James, campden tablets and potassium sorbate are two different things. Adding campden tablets at bottling will help prevent spoilage of the wine. Potassium sorbate will prevent a re-fermentation from occurring if you back-sweeten the wine. We recommend always using campden tablets at bottling. If you sweeten the wine, you will also add potassium sorbate.

  4. As always I enjoy reading all the blogs, Even the ones that do not pertain to me. They could prevent or help any future wine making. Thank you for the Blogs

  5. I have always been one of those people who has to try doing what most people tell me cannot be done. In this case, you cannot ferment wine beyond 13-14%. I made a wine called Fireball and proved my point. I forced 15 pounds of sugar into suspension is water. To this, I added 15 cinnamon sticks. All of my chemicals were those I would use for a normal fruit wine. It has been a few years since I have actively made wine so forgive me for not knowing the number but I used Lavalin’s champagne yeast. I stirred it daily and after the first week, racked it off of the old yeast and added 15 new sticks of cinnamon. At the end of fermentation, I removed the old cinnamon sticks and replaced them with 15 new ones. I had pushed the alcohol to 21%. After it cleared, I bottled it and let it age. In taste it was similar to Goldschlager and I was quite pleased. Additionally, I had proven you can push the norm.
    The point I’m making is that if you are patient, and use the right products, sometimes you can take things beyond normal.

    • Rhodeturtle I’m with you. I make what all my friends call shinewine and it will knock you on your butt. A couple can have a real good time on just two fifths. I’m always working on this, I like the taste and I like the kick and it keeps me locally famous for my wares… This experiment I tried on this last batch did not payoff, at least not yet. I’m gonna keep tinkerin with it and who knows what will come of it. It is very strong, warm goin down but way too sweet and the yeast react in my stomach when I drink it so I know it’s just dormant in the carboy. Anyway, keep bubblin!

    • You can get to around 20 % but generally it will require a high alcohol yeast and temperature control, adding the sugar progressively also helps, this is necessary if you have low fermentable fruits such that the specific gravity must be very high, to the point of killing much of the yeast that is pitched.

      I would suggest as a way to improve your product fermenting to 15 % or so and then fortifying with a cinnamon infused brandy; you could make this by distillation of your product then steeping in cinnamon or cassia and oak chips. A little black or cubeb pepper or cardomon could be nice too.

      If you want to get fancy you can control the free sugar by adding the brandy during fermentation to shock the yeast and stop fermentation, retaining any sugars unfermented; this is the process for port production.

  6. RhodeTurtle ,
    I consistently make high alcohol wine (17-19%). You ‘lucked out’ adding all the sugar at the beginning! Too much sugar initially makes it hard for the yeast to get started. Other times this method will often result in a stuck fermentation in the teen-thirties range that can’t be restarted. I get consistent results by starting around 1.102-1.107 and adding 2-2.5 lbs.of sugar per 5 gal. of wine every time it approaches 1.000 S.G. If the last addition sticks the slight residual sweetness is offset by the higher alcohol.
    I use Lalvin EC-1118 and D-47. There is a ‘turbo yeast’ that is suppose to produce in excess of 20% for distillers but I’ve never used it as I feel too much alcohol leaves a wine unbalanced.

    • How long do you have to keep this must sugar-cycle going before you can rack it? and do the extended times cause other problems?

  7. I need to keep better notes, but I’ve found that some types of yeast will turn out slightly sweeter than others. My rule of thumb is 2lb fruit & 2lb of sugar per gallon. I boil the fruit for the juice, dump it into my fermenter, add the sugar to boiling water, dump it into the fermenter, boil more water to top off my 5 or 6 gallon batch, then seal it up with the airlock. After it sets for about a day I pull the airlock, add a packet of yeast & replace the airlock. It usually starts bubbling in 24-48 hours. I let the fermentation go until it’s done (usually 6 months) then let it age another 3 months. My wine always turns out 20-21% using the D-47, Pasteur Red, or Montrachet. Is there a way to speed up the aging process or should I take a if it ain’t broke don’t fix it approach?

    • Doug? As far as I know and understand about wine being dry or sweet. The yeast itself has no baring on that what so ever. Either the fermentation completed or it didn’t. But hey; with wine that high? Who can taste sweet anyway?

      • For the first time my homemade grape wine isnt dry its too sweet. However it tastes really good. Is it safe to drink if not ready to bottle according to hydrometer

  8. I have wine which is too sweet. It is and has been in the barrel (60 gal.) 2 years “aging”. Can I restart fermentation to reduce the sweetness or am I stuck, notwithstanding adding a drier varietal to offset this sweetness and do a better job next time?
    Essentially, is it what it is , just move on and do somethings differently next time to avoid a similar outcome?

    • Patrick, if the wine is still sweet that would normally indicate that the fermentation did not complete. To get the fermentation to complete you need to determine why. Another reason could be that too much sugar was added and the yeast has made all of the alcohol it is capable of. The article posted below will discuss this in more detail and provide suggestions.

      My Wine is Too Sweet

  9. Hi Ed,

    I bought the first winekit in this year at Costco and I start like the instruction paper was I get with all the other stuff (corks e.t.c.) into this package.
    I’ve start all of it like the instruction and I didn’t ad extra sugar on it but right now my thinking about the wine it is to sweet. Right now the wine is still in one carboy but I’m not sure what I have to do to get more sugar out.
    It will be nice to get some hlepfull informations from you.
    Thank you so much,

    • Andreas, if the wine is still sweet then the fermentation is not complete. Either you just need to allow more time to complete or you have a stuck fermentation. I would recommend taking a look at the article on the most common causes of fermentation failure to see if any apply to your situation.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure

  10. Ed,
    My wine making friends and I spent a lot of money on amarone juice at a high end Italian restraint and market. We were told by the wine master, not a somaliia, not to use yeast, just let it naturally ferment. Big mistake, all wine came out too sweet. It is drinkable, but not the amarone I really love. What are your thoughts on not using yeast?

  11. if i add again yeast after 20 days because its sweeter , what can happen to my wine?

    • Jerome, adding more yeast is fine, it will not harm the wine. However, if the wine is still sweet and the fermentation did not complete, additional yeast may not be the solution. I would take a look at the article posted below on the most common causes of fermentation failure.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure

  12. I have been making wine for 20 years never had a problem. I crush and de stem the grapes in a vat and take a hydrometer reading usually reads 13 to 15 percent, I let it ferment in the vat for 8 to 14 days until hydrometer reads 0 then I press it and put it in a car boy. I never add sugar or yeast. This year the hydrometer reading at the beginning was 14 after 18 days it .wouldnt go down past 4 so I pressed it and put it in the car boy hoping it would ferment the rest of the way on its own. I racked it the other day and it tastes too sweet like grape juice… is there a way to correct this ….I never had this problem before.

    • this is a very interesting question ,i am in the same situation and my wife is making me crazy ,never happened to me in 35 + years since i started to make my wine -someone help please !!! thanks Drago

  13. My wine is too sweet as well. Would it be a good idea to let it stay in a less cool place, or actually almost warm so it starts to ferment again?

    • Mary, the temperature for fermentation should be 70-75 degrees. This is the temperature that wine yeast likes. If it is too cool or too warm the yeast can go \dormant and this will result in a stuck fermentation.

  14. my home made date wine is too sweet.
    during primary fermentation i added yeast and sugar .
    after 15 days i fitlered and kept in bottle
    but it is sweet

    pls advise

    • bmshetty, if the wine is still sweet it sounds like the fermentation did not complete. The fermentation is complete when the hydrometer reaches .998 or less. If you filtered the wine, you probably took out most of the yeast so a new packet is needed. I would add a new packet of yeast along with nutrient. If you still have problems getting the fermentation to complete, I would take a look at the article posted below.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure

  15. I made your recipe for ginger wine. It was way too sweet. If i make it again and cut the sugar in half – will it still ferment properly, and will it be much dryer then?

    • Not know the recipe, I would guess it was too sweet because the fermentation never finished all the way. A sucessful fermentation will leave a wine that is dry or just off-dry, never sweet.

      If it is too dry, then you add a sugar along with potassium sorbate, to taste. Here’s more on this:

      What You Should Know About Sweetening A Wine…

  16. Opps I did it again, too much sugar.

    The ferment is going at a snails pace went from 1.170-1.150 in three weeks. I don’t want to add water, because I do not want to dilute the flavour. My mash was assorted blue, straw and cran-berry with non-concentrate apple juice as a filler, then added one too many 2kg bags of sugar, lost count. Surely I can dilute the sugar content with more apple juice and re-take my hydrometer readings, the difference right now is only 2-3%. Additionally, I used lavalin 118, yeast energizer for secondary and yeast nutrient for primary.

    Should I add the juice? also I’m in an isolated community and can’t go down to my local winery.


    • Cory, unless you have sugar free apple juice, it will just add more sugar to the must. With a sugar level that high, diluting it may be the only solution.

  17. I have prepared home made grape wine it is too sweet i added grape juice for it but it is still sweet what can i do?
    Can i add some more yeast to make a proper wine

    • Viraat, If the reason that the wine is too sweet is because the fermentation did not complete, adding more yeast may not be the answer. There are a number reasons that can cause a stuck fermentation. The article posted below will go over the most common reasons.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure

  18. We made a blackberry wine , went through the fermentation process (we thought) and were getting ready to bottle it. Tasted it and it was basically just blackberry juice. I took specific gravity and it was 1.000. I understand it should be at 0.998 or less. Now we are wondering if we could rack it into the primary, add sugar and yeast and start the fermentation process again- to increase the alcohol content (of which there appears to be very little or none!). Is this do-able? Thank you!

    • Yes, this can be done. But since the wine already has some alcohol, the yeast will have a harder time fermenting the new sugars. Expect a slower fermentation. Also realize, that yeast has limits as to how much alcohol it can produce. If you put in more sugar than the yeast can consume you could end up with a wine too sweet to drink. I do not know how much sugar to add is safe at this time. This is because I do not know how much alcohol you have made already.

  19. Ed, you have given clear direction on what to do if fermentation has stopped but in my case I added .lbs instead of cups when back sweetening, how can I lower the sugar content at this point? P.S. I didn’t discover my error until after bottling.

    • There’s really nothing you can do the take the sugar back out. The only option is to make more wine and use these bottles to blend back into the newer wines before bottling.

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