What Is A Dry White Wine? A Comprehensive Guide

Informational

White Wine Poured into a Glass


If you are a wine lover, chances are you have had your fair share of white wine. But do you know what kind of white wine it is? Perhaps, you have noticed some complexities in each vino you have tried, and surely one of them had to be a dry wine. 

In this article, we will find answers to the question, “what is a dry white wine?” and everything you need to know about it, so read on.

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What is a Dry White Wine?

To put it simply, a dry white wine has little to no residual sugar. Thus, it is not sweet. Dry wines, red or white, are made from grapes that have been fermented to a low level of sugar content. Dry wines are among the best summer wines or drinks because they are crisp, refreshing, and are the best to pair with a meal. 

The level of natural sugars in wine grapes varies on the varietal and how late they were harvested. In malolactic fermentation, yeast converts these sugars into alcohol but not before some have been transformed to a sweeter form. 

Once there is less than 1% residual sugar (4g/L), wine becomes dry, while wines with higher levels of residual sugar are categorized as sweet, medium, or off-dry. A medium-dry wine will have about 5-12 g/L, while an off-dry or semi-sweet wine contains 10-30 g/L. Anything that has 31 g/L or more is considered a sweet wine.

In the context of dry and sweet wines, it is worth noting some of the most common misconceptions about them. “Sweet” and “fruity” can be two terms that get easily misunderstood in discussions about different types of alcohol. 

A term like "fruitiness" doesn't necessarily mean it has any bearing on how much sweeter it may taste. Sweet wines are not always fruit-forward. Meanwhile, many dry wines still have an associated level of sweetness due to their natural sugars or residual sugar from oak aging processes.

Furthermore, high alcohol wines are not always dry.  The term “dry” doesn't refer to alcohol content and can be misleading for some people who may think it means more alcohol than others. And “sweet” doesn’t mean that there is less alcohol in it. 

A few high-volume dessert wines from Hungary and France like Sauternes or Tokaji contain an intense sweetness thanks to the sugars left behind after fermentation has occurred, but both have higher alcohol content.

Types of Dry White Wines 

White Wine in glass and bottle with a Barrel

We can group dry white wines into two major categories: very dry and medium-dry. 

Very Dry

As mentioned, very dry or bone dry white wines are those that have no trace of residual sugar in them. However, some of the wines below may have varying flavor profiles, and some of them would be considered just dry.  

  • Sauvignon Blanc 

You might not think of Sauvignon Blanc as a hearty, robust type of wine. In fact, it's one the driest wines on earth and is often herbaceous or grassy with well-balanced acidity and underlying fruits. 

The best thing about this lean, clean white grape? You can find it grown around the world! Major growing regions of Sauvignon Blanc include Bordeaux, New Zealand, the Loire Valley, South Africa, Austria, California, and Washington.

  • Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a wine that has been around for centuries. Made from grapes with green skin, this blend of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc grape varieties has produced wines in the small village of Chardonnay since its development there in France. 

It can be made in many ways and have different flavors depending on where it's from. In general, Chardonnays are dry with moderate tannins and acidity - but not sweet! They usually taste like tropical fruit (pineapple, papaya, mango) though they come without the sugariness of other wines.

  • Muscadet 

Muscadet is made from Melon de Bourgogne grapes that come straight out of the Loire Valley. The flavor profile is tangy and citrus-laced with mineral undertones hinting at its origins in an area known for having clay soils which are great for producing wines. Its three sub-varieties are Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire, and the Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu.

  • Torrontés 

Torrontés is a dry white wine that some people compare to Riesling or Muscat Blanc (Moscato). It's different in style than these wines, though. Its popularity stems from its distinctive peach and apricot aroma on the nose that wine lovers everywhere adore for its freshness and complexity. 

The altitude of the vineyards in Salta province is what makes them so special. The region specializing in wine production, Cafayate, for example, is home to some of Argentina's best wines with incredible flavors and aromas that can't be found anywhere else.

  • Albarino 

Albarino is best known for its citrus notes. These wines tend to be bone dry and acidic, making them a great wine choice in warmer weather months when you want something light but not too sweet. 

Albarino is mainly grown around Galicia — a region located in the North-West of Spain. The variation produced near Rias Baixas is particularly intriguing due to their maritime climate contributing to its cool nights that help lock a high acidity level.

  • Semillon 

The skin of the Sémillon grape is thin and easy to break, making for a generally low-acid wine. The grapes are light gold, with deep hues streaking through them. They are pretty high-yielding when grown but can also succumb easily to Botrytis cinerea. 

Semillon is an excellent grape for winemakers because it adds fruity flavors to the wine and can also be used as a blending partner with Sauvignon Blanc. Semillon grows best in France, Australia, South Africa, and America, producing large amounts of wines from this delicious varietal!

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Medium Dry

These dry white wines have some residual sugar which contributes to a hint of sweetness in their flavors. Like the very dry wines, the following white wines also have variants that make them have different levels of residual sugar or sweetness level. 

  • Riesling

In the past, Riesling wines have been primarily sweet to balance their high acidity. But for those who prefer dry wines to sweeter ones, there are also different types of this variety, such as Dry Rieslings.

The first thing you notice when tasting a Riesling is the overwhelming aroma that comes from this wine. You'll experience scents like pear, apple, and honey-crisp apples all at once, which are hard to resist! Not only does this smell delicious, but it also has an acidity level similar to lemonade or even orange juice.

  • Champagne

Champagne is a lively, effervescent wine that can be dry or sweet depending on the particular producer. It's often characterized by citrus and green fruit flavors and almond notes from aging on dead yeast cells. 

A mouthfeel of both creaminess and fine bubbles gives way to elegance with every sip. Champagne has a special second fermentation process that takes place inside of the bottle. This is known as Méthod Champenoise, and it produces bubbles in your favorite drink.

  • Viognier

Viognier is the perfect wine for those looking to enjoy a lighter, fruit-forward white wine with less acidity than Chardonnay offers. The flavor of Viognier ranges from delicate and light tangerine flavors to deeper vanilla aromas mixed with spices such as nutmeg and clove, making it bolder but also more aromatic.

  • Pinot Blanc 

Pinot Blanc has been a key player in the wine industry since its discovery. Despite being less popular than other Pinots, it is still found worldwide and can be used to produce many types of wines, from sparkling wines to sweet dessert drinks that will quench any thirst on a hot day. 

Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc are similar wines in style, with Chardonnays having a medium to full-bodied taste. These two types of wine respond well to the oak maturation process because they have good acidity for the kind of flavor it is aiming for. 

  • Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris 

Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are usually from one grape but vary in regions. They are light, refreshing wines with fruity flavors that can vary depending on where the grapes are grown. You may experience notes of lime and lemon as well as pear, white nectarine, or apple. 

Depending on your location, you might also taste honeyed aromas like honeysuckle or salty minerality in this zesty, crisp Pinot Grigio.  Pinot Grigio is not as notable as Moscato, but it does have a refreshing acidity and a heavier feeling on the middle of your tongue.

  • Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is a versatile wine that can suit any occasion. Chenin blanc can adapt with its dry style and has refreshing fruit flavors for summer drinks. It also offers oak-aged types as well when you want something more robust in flavor. 

It can either be dry or off-dry and have flavors of pear, ginger, and honey. In the Loire Valley of France, Chenin Blanc is so unevenly ripe that it requires multiple passes through a vineyard by hand. When harvest season ends, noble rot sets into some of the last remaining grapes, creating an even richer flavor profile such as saffron or honeyed fruit.

  • Grüner Veltliner 

Grüner Veltliner is another dry white wine that is produced almost only in Austria. When translated to English, Grüner Veltliner means “Green Wine of Veltliner,” and has been described as tasting like lime, lemon, grapefruit, or green pepper. But what makes it stand out from other whites (and Sauvignon Blanc, for that matter) is its signature vein of acidity, which explodes on your tongue.

  • Gewürztraminer 

Gewürztraminer is an aromatic grape that has been around and cultivated for many years. Gewürztraminer is a European wine variety that originated in Austria, where it grows prolifically today as well. This varietal likely came from Traminer grapes.

Gewürztraminer is a unique wine with off-dry flavors that makes it perfect for those who dislike overly sweet wines. It has aromas of rose, honey, and ginger. Chill this white wine at around 43 degrees Fahrenheit to enjoy the balanced sweetness without being too heavy on your palate or overbearing in alcohol content.

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How To Serve Dry White Wine? 

Sipping a sweet, rich wine should be an experience you can savor and enjoy. Serving it at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit is the best way to ensure you get all of its qualities without any unnecessary bitterness from being too cold or overpowering sweetness from coming off as cloyingly artificial because it's too warm.

White wine is often served at a slightly warmer temperature than red, with the typical range being around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows all flavors to come through without becoming overpowered by acidity that can sometimes be found in white wines.

If you're chilling white wine, try these two different methods. You can keep it in a wine fridge for about 2 hours or in the freezer for 20 minutes to make sure that your drink is chilled and ready when you need it!

Dry White Wine Food Pairings

Delicious Clams and Glass of White Wine

White wines are perfect for people who prefer the lighter side of wine. They can also make a fantastic food pairing. There's a wide variety to offer, with Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc being some dry white options that complement roasted vegetables like carrots or zucchini. Dry wines also go exceptionally well with seafood. 

Here are some of the best food pairings with dry white wine:

  • Dim Sum
  • Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad) and Pad Thai
  • Mascarpone Tart
  • Shellfish
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Peach Cobbler
  • Fried Fish Tacos

Dry White Wine FAQ 

1. What is the difference between a dry white and a sweet white wine?

A dry wine is a type of wine that has little to no sugar. They are typically lighter and crisper with flavors such as honey, citrus fruit, or apple. Dry wines can be served either as an apéritif before dinner in place of red wines or alongside food at the table.

On the other hand, sweet white wine is a  type of wine that has a discernible sweetness. Wine sweetness can be measured by its residual sugar content, which comes from natural fructose leftover during alcohol fermentation of fresh grapes at harvest time.

2. How to cook with a dry white wine?

There are many ways to cook with dry white wine. But, the important thing to keep in mind is to use white wines that complement the dish to be made. For example, use a wine with intense flavors for meat or pasta dishes. 

Meanwhile, use those that are lighter, acidic, and have citrus notes for vegetable and seafood dishes. The most common white wines used in cooking are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc. 

3. Is rosé considered a type of dry white wine, or is it its own category altogether? 

Rosé is not considered a type of dry white wine because it is mainly made with red and black grapes.

4. What wine glass should I use for drinking dry white wine? 

You can use a white wine glass, in general, to serve white wines. A traditional white wine glass or stemless glass is usually used for Chardonnay. You can also use a Burgundy white wine glass.  However, Champagne glasses are reserved for Champagne or sparkling wines

Conclusion 

Drinking wine is a delight, but it can be more indulging if you learn more about them, such as French wine classifications, the famous wine regions in France, and knowing exactly what a dry white wine is. 

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So, what is your favorite dry white wine? We’ll be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments!


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