Dry Wine

Definition - What does Dry Wine mean?

Dry is a wine tasting term that describes the tactile, textural feeling of the wine in your mouth. It is the opposite of a sweet wine. A wine is considered dry when the residual sugar level is 4g/L and considered medium dry if the residual sugar level is at 12g/L. The alcohol level is, on average, between 13.5% and 15%.

The fermentation of wine is what dictates its sugar/alcohol levels and thus, its dryness. The yeast "eats" at the sugar in the wine, converting it to alcohol. When the fermentation process is allowed to run its course to completion, the majority of the sugar is "eaten up" and there is less than 1% of residual sugar (4g/L). The majority of wines are created this way, with the exception of dessert wines.

WineFrog explains Dry Wine

In white wines, dryness is the immediate watering of your mouth after you sip; in red wines, it is the sensation that all moisture has been removed from your mouth. Dryness in whites is created by acidity; in reds, by tannins.

The combination of characteristics dictates whether you will perceive a wine as dry or sweet. For example: when you taste fruit flavors in a Zinfandel, your brain believes that you are tasting sugar. But the tactile sensation in your mouth - where all of the moisture is gone - means that it is dry. When a wine is made correctly, the aromas and fruit characteristics balance with the acidity or tannins to create the illusion of sweetness or dryness, depending on what the winemaker envisioned.

The complexity of the varietal itself also plays a role. Here is are some examples of the typical dryness levels:

Very dry whites
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Albariño
  • Muscadet
Medium dry whites
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Riesling
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Pinot Grigio/Gris
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Voigner
Sparkling wines & Champagne
  • Extra Brut - less than 0.6%
  • Brut - less than 1.5%
  • Extra Sec - 1.2 - 2 %
  • Sec - 1.7 - 3.5%
  • Demi-Sec - 3.3 - 5%
  • Doux - 5%
Tart reds:
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sangiovese
  • Italian reds
  • Shiraz/Syrah
Fruity reds:
  • Zinfandel
  • Melot
  • Beaujolais
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