Dry White Wine
Wine aficionados know that hardly anything can compare to the crisp refreshing notes of a dry white. Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, or Pinot Grigio, your favorite dry white is a match made in heaven for seafood, pasta, and some meats.
And you might always keep a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc close-by to round off the meals you prepare. But what is the secret to the unique taste and versatility of a dry white? To give you a hint, it has to do with the winemaking process and the grapes.
Though there’s much more to a dry white, so this article provides you with a crash course on the subject.
What Is Dry White Wine?
The simple answer is that dry white wine is one that isn’t sweet. That is, there shouldn’t be any residual sugar in the final product. However, this definition can be a bit misleading.
It’s possible for a dry white to contain trace amounts of sugar. But the content is minimal and the wine doesn’t actually taste sweet. So how do winemakers “dry out” the wine?
The trick lies in the fermentation process and if the yeast has enough time to consume all the sugar, the wine becomes dry. To put it in numbers, white wine with less than 10g of sugar a liter is dry.
As indicated, there is some leeway and wine isn’t considered sweet unless it has more than 30g of sugar a liter. However, the threshold for sweetness is not the same for everybody. It means that a white wine might taste dry to you, but sweet to another connoisseur.
Anyway, this type of wine is often described as crisp. This signals at its refreshing properties which come from the wine’s acidity. For the most part, a dry white feels reinvigorating on the palate and there might be a somewhat sour tang.
Dry White Varietals You Should Know About
Winemakers and connoisseurs alike go the extra mile to classify all the dry varietals. And there are four different types of dry white varietals based on how they taste.
Of course, the classification isn’t set in stone and there is some room for interpretation. But, the following list should help you understand what tasting notes to expect from a dry white.
Sweet Lemon and Peach Flowers
Dry varietals with flowery and citrusy notes include the following:
- Dry Riesling
- American Pinot Gris
These varietals are also the closest to off-dry wines and you might taste some of the residual sweetness.
Pineapple and Yellow Apple
If your palate craves for fruity notes, these are the dry white varietals you should try:
Did you know that Chardonnay doesn’t necessarily need to be dry? If it is, the wine comes in two forms unoaked and oaked. The later has a fuller body, but both options are quite fruity and easy on the palate.
Green Apple and Grapefruit
Still in the fruity-range, these white varietals may be a bit more acidic and they include:
- Dry Chenin Blanc
- Dry Torrontés
- New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Herbs and Savory Flavors
In general, these dry whites contain the least amount of sugar and have a bold taste and full body:
- French Sauvignon Blanc
- Gruner Veltliner
You’ve probably noticed that some of the varietals have a prefix dry in front of them or they’re associated with certain countries. This is because they can also be off-dry, semi-sweet, or even sweet.
The region plays a key role in the grapes’ chemical profile. Factors such as soil, precipitation, and altitude affect the grapes and may make the region more or less suitable for dry wines.
The Driest Wine You Can Get
It’s not like there is a competition to squeeze out the most sugar from white grapes, but some areas are the best regions for dry white wine. The most prominent examples are New Zealand and the Bordeaux and Sancerre regions in France.
The interesting thing is that they use Sauvignon Blanc to create some of the driest whites there are. On the other hand, Chablis from Burgundy can also be completely dry and this wine comes from the Chardonnay variety.
In addition, you might also stumble upon bone-dry Albarino, Pinot Grigio, or Riesling, mostly from France. But the truth is, it’s very tricky, if not impossible, to discern which one is drier unless you know the exact sugar content.
This is why the tasting notes are quite helpful. If your palate feels citruses and flowers the wine is not that dry. Fruity notes signal you’re in the right ballpark and herbal or mineral notes lean towards the super-dry category.
Does Fruity Mean Sweet?
Equating fruitiness and sweetness is one of the most common misconceptions about white wine. As you already know, a dry white can have far less than 10g of sugar a liter and still be fruity.
The fruity qualification refers to the flavor profile not the level of sweetness. This means the wine has a faint taste or apples, pears, pineapples, etc. It’s not the same as sugar-like sweetness.
In fact, you should be able to tell the difference yourself. Get a glass of American Pinot Gris and compare it to white Port, for example.
Dry White Wine vs Cooking - Expert Tips and Tricks
There are no rules regarding dry whites for cooking and again, it mostly boils down to personal preferences. But there is one varietal chefs seem to like more than others.
Sauvignon Blanc is the favorite and it’s probably because of the herbal and savory tasting notes. These allow the wine to act as a spice, and bring out the best in food. The best thing is, there aren’t any limitations, you can even make delicious cupcakes with this varietal.
But if you have an unoaked (fermented in steel tanks rather than oak barrels) Chardonnay or regular Pinot Grigio, they’ll work just fine in most dishes except mussels. It might sound like cooking snobbery, but mussels and seafood are best prepared with Albarino. If that’s not around, you’ll get away with dry Riesling, Chenin Blanc, or Pinot Gris.
Whatever you choose, it’s important not to use wine in your dishes that you wouldn’t ordinarily drink. There is no way a subpar white would make the dish taste good.
Day or Night Drink Dry White
At this point, you probably know which dry whites to taste next. But there is no reason to limit yourself to just a few varietals. Most of the fun comes from exciting your palate with wines that aren’t usually on your menu.