Ask Wine Wizard

Do you know anyone who has used non-fermentable sweeteners like stevia for adjusting a wine post-fermentation?



Dear Wine Wizard,
Our local winemaker (at Galena Cellars) can detect potassium sorbate in wine, after it is used to prevent refermentation in sweetened-back wines. I’d like to substitute a non-fermentable sweetener for sucrose and am considering using stevia, a widely used sweetener in Japan. Although it is expensive, one needs only about 1/10 the amount of sugar. Do you know anyone who has experience with this, or can you suggest something else?

Ray Ruthenberg
Woodbine, Illinois

Wine Wizard replies: Indeed, stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is a natural sugar substitute and one that is gaining in popularity with home winemakers. I have certainly heard of people using it with great success as it seems to dissolve instantly if used in its powdered form. It also remains stable in solution, doesn’t cause “off” flavors and, as far as I know, is a non-fermentable compound, so no yeast or bacteria will be able to eat it and cause fizziness or sediment in the bottle. It seems to be used in levels around 50–150 mg per 750-mL bottle, depending on the level of sweetness desired. In fact, I’ve heard of many home winemakers winning awards with their stevia-sweetened wines, so it’s worth a try! As it’s not fermentable, perhaps all of the folks above who have experienced secondary fermentations in the bottle should use stevia for sweetening rather than sugar,honey or wine conditioner. Another popular sweetener that’s coming into its own as a home winemaking adjunct is sucralose, commercially known as Splenda. Have fun experimenting!