In reading up on the subject online I found there exist various ways of making sweet wine. However, each source seems to claims different dangers / disadvantages of doing things the 'wrong way'. I thought that maybe the community of StackExchange could consolidate this information and provide some clarity.

So far I am aware of three different ways of ending up with sweet wine:

  • backsweeten -> seems to be the most commonly recommended technique, but with lots of warnings over continued fermentation, popping corks etc. A lot of places on the internet seem to claim there is really no way to stabilise yeast for good and that one can't count on the fermentation not restarting once sugar is added. I'm kinda confused on who to believe.
  • stop fermentation while some sugars are still left in the wine -> same problems as above
  • make a massively sweet must and force the yeast to stop fermenting because of reaching its alcohol tolerance level -> the disadvantages I am aware of are: (a) little control over final alcohol level, (b) stressed yeast towards the end of fermentation (not sure how bad that one is really), (c) possible continued fermentation (unclear whether that one is an actual danger or not)
  • Use a non-fermentable sugar like lactose - I imagine it would introduce weird flavours, especially that being much less sweet than sucrose you need to put quite a lot of it in.

What other information does StackExchange's collective experience of making sweet wine yield?

3 Answers 3


The methods you mention to have sweet wine can all lead to disaster after you put the wine in the bottle. Professional wineries only use a sterile filter to filter out the remaining yeast. It is the only proven method to leave you with a sweet wine at least on a large scale.

The second way is to use potassium sorbate to kill off the remaining yeast. It doesn't do anything for bacteria and can leave you with a problem, but is much more effective than the methods you mention. It can alter the flavor of the wine which is why it's not used much in commercial wineries.


In the effort to keep my wine as natural as possible, I prefer to "back-sweeten" my wines as opposed to using chemicals, but there's a sub-section of brewers who trust and use them; to each his own. All Must, must be free of wild yeasts so each batch gets a dose of Potassium Metabisulphite (Campden tablets) and sits for, at least, 24 hours before any yeast is pitched to kill any foreign yeast. So the portion of the Must you remove to use for sweetening is already free of all yeasts. Rack the finished wine into a secondary fermenter, getting it off all the dregs on the bottom which is where the "dead" yeast is, (by the way, using bentonite, which is a clay that the dregs fall on and stick to, helping in clearing the wine is very effective) then add the back-sweetener. The chances of any yeast coming back are minimal. I've never had a problem with exploding projectiles. The secret to back-sweetening is the proportions. Adding 1 gallon of back-sweetener to 4 gallons of wine is a pretty good starting point, then you can tweak the ratios by trial and error

  • 1
    Do you consider metabisulfite or sorbate as chemicals? Stevia and Xolitol? Also, what product do you use to back-sweeten?
    – Philippe
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 19:57
  • Metabisulfite and sorbate are both chemicals. The said chemicals are used by all major fruit juice suppliers to keep any wild yeast from doing any hanky-panky with their products on the store shelves and changing the flavor. If you want to go completely natural, your choice, many do, but for a small, home brewer who mixes five gallons at a time, I've found that adding those chemicals to the must 24 hours prior to pitching my yeast has no affect on the flavor of my wine, and the chemicals have passed FDA testing for mass consumption Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 2:43
  • As far as what I use to back-sweeten, I make 5 gallons of must. After 24 hours with metabisulfite, I remove a gallon before pitching the yeast. I put it in a fridge until the batch is done fermenting. I rack batch into the secondary and add the back sweetener. Then I just let it sit until it clears, which is about another 2 weeks Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 2:47

Using non fermentable sugar seems the safest way to backsweeten. There is lactose, but other better products as well, like stevia (gives a little mint flavour), Xolitol, Sucralose... you would need to pick the one that fits the best with your wine.

Reaching the alcohol tolerance of yeast is not precise enough, you would need to bring the alcohol level way higher to be sure it works.

Using a filter to remove yeast and adding potassium sorbate is another way that I haven't tried.

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