What is Dry Wine?

What is Dry Wine?
Photo by Louis Hansel

If you are unfamiliar with wines or wine terminologies, the first thing that will most likely come to mind when you come across a bottle of dry wine or you are asked, “what is dry wine?” is a wine that tastes dry or dries out the mouth after drinking.

However, that is simply a misconception of what dry wine actually means. So, what is dry wine? Dry wine is a wine with little to no residual sugar; that is, the wine is not sweet.

During the winemaking process, grape juice is converted into wine through fermentation. In this process, yeast is added to the grape juice, which then converts the sugar content of the grape into alcohol.

Whether all or some of the sugar in the grape juice is converted determines the style of wine produced. A dry wine is formed if no sugar (residual sugar) is left behind after fermentation.

Some wine drinkers often assume a dry wine leaves the mouth dry, which is not necessarily true. If a wine produces a dry mouth sensation after consumption, it simply means such wine has a high amount of tannin in it, which is not to be confused with “dry” in the case of a dry wine, which means “no sweetness .”

Tannins are naturally occurring substances found in grapes’ skin. They are used to prevent oxidation in wines during the wine aging process.

Another misconception associated with wine is that it is sweet if it has a fruity taste. However, the fruity note of wine often does not correlate with its sweetness; a wine can have a fruity taste and still be bone dry – no sweetness whatsoever.

In addition, the dryness of wine does not equate to its alcohol level. Some wine drinkers think the drier a wine is, the higher its alcohol level.

However, dry wines do not always have a high level of alcohol in them. In fact, there are several sweet wines with very high alcohol content.

An example is the Sauternes wine, a dessert wine that is high in alcohol and, at the same time, intensely sweet.

Categories of Dry Wine

To further elaborate on the question ‘what is dry wine,’ the different categories of dry wine, depending on their sugar level, are explained below.

Bone Dry Wine

Bone dry wine is an extremely dry wine with less than 0.5% of residual sugar in it. This type of wine has been stripped of its residual sugar, usually containing a high tannin level, giving it a bitter and astringent mouthfeel.

Many wine drinkers can hardly detect any sweetness in this wine because the residual sugar level is extremely low. Bone-dry wines include Bordeaux, Mourvedre, Nebbiolo, Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, and Vermentino.

Medium Dry Wine

Medium dry wines usually contain about one to two percent residual sugar, which is equivalent to ten to twenty grams of sugar per liter. Examples of medium dry wines are the dry versions of Viognier, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer.

Off-dry Wine or Semi-dry Wine

This type of wine has a sweetness of at least three percent. Most wine drinkers find this type of wine noticeably sweet because it has a higher residual sugar level than the other categories.

Different Types of Dry Wine

To have a better understanding of what is dry wine, wine drinkers need to know the different types of dry wine. Dry wine can be red or white, each with a different flavor profile.

Knowing the different types of wine would allow wine drinkers to know which wine is best suited to their taste.

The following are different types of dry red or dry white wines;

1. Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a Bordeaux-style dry red wine that originated in France. It is a full-bodied wine usually made with a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and other varieties of wine.

It is the most planted variety of grape and contains a high level of tannin with notes of olives, cherries, blackcurrant, chocolate vanilla, and herbs. It is best served with red meat.

2. Syrah

Syrah is also known as Shiraz. It is made using grapes found in the Rhone region in France. Syrah usually has a spicy note with a hint of plums and dark berries.

It is considered a highly versatile variety of grape. The kind of flavors produced by syrah grapes depends on where the grapes are grown.

If grown in a warm climate, Syrah produces flavors like anise, licorice, and baking spice, and the wine tends to be more jammy with fewer tannins. But, if the grapes are grown in a cold climate, the wines tend to have a very high amount of tannins.

As a result, they become medium to full-bodied wines with flavors like blackberry and tobacco and a hint of earthiness. Syrah can be paired with high-quality cheese and burgers.

3. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a Burgundy-style dry red wine with earthy undertones and excellent aging potential. The Pinot Noir grape variety is considered the fifth most commonly grown grape worldwide and is found in places like California, New Zealand, Germany, Chile, Italy, Switzerland, and Oregon. California and Oregon are known to make exceptional varieties of this wine.

Pinot Noir is a medium-bodied wine with a variety of flavors, such as dark cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and tobacco.

It is considered the healthiest dry red wine, and its versatility allows it to be paired with just any kind of food.

4. Merlot

Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot has a significantly lower amount of tannins. As a result, it has a smooth and velvety taste with a semi-sweet flavor.

It is a dry red wine with watermelon, cherry, chocolate, and strawberry notes. Merlot is a versatile wine and can be made in two different styles; the traditional Bordeaux style and the new world style.

The grapes are harvested early to make the traditional Bordeaux style of wine. Early harvesting of grapes preserves the acidity of such grapes.

Usually, the traditional Bordeaux style of wines is medium-bodied with red fruit flavors. On the other hand, the new world style of Merlot is usually full-bodied with black fruit flavors.

5. Cinsault

Cinsault is a grape variety that originated from Southern Rhone. It grows in places with warmer climates and produces light and fruity wines.

6. Grenache

Grenache is a Rhone-style wine that is very famous in Australia and Spain. It is often blended with other Rhone-style wines to produce Rose and some other sweet wine blends. Grenache grape variety produces fruity wines with spice and cherry flavors.

7. Petit Verdot

Similar to Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot is mostly used to make blended wines, but it can also be used on its own. It comes in spice and violet flavors.

8. Mourvedre

Mourvedre is a grape variety that originated in Spain. This dry red wine is best suited for people who love black currant and blackberry flavors.

9. Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo is a grape variety that is normally grown in the piedmont part of Italy. Nebbiolo has a high level of tannin and acidity and excellent aging potential.

Prestigious wines such as Barbarescos and Barolos are produced using the Nebbiolo grape. It produces rich flavors like licorice, truffles, and rose petals.

10. Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah wines are dark wines. Although it originated in France, it became popular in Argentina, Chile, California, and Australia. They usually come in blackberry flavor with a hint of pepper and spice.

11. Zinfandel

Zinfandel originated in Croatia but became popular in California. It is a light-bodied wine that comes in strawberry and red fruit flavors and can be used to produce sweet wines.

12. Barbera

Barbera can be found in the piedmont part of Italy. It comes in a robust black flavor. The most common types of Barbera are Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti.

13. Sangiovese

Sangiovese is a dry red wine commonly found in Italy. It is a medium-bodied wine with flavors like cherry, plum, and strawberry.

14. Malbec

Malbec is a dry red wine that originated in France but is now popular in Argentina and the United States. It is dark red with a high tannin concentration. It comes in black cherry, leather, coffee, and pepper flavor notes.

15. Black Muscat

Black Muscat is a light dry red wine produced in Eastern Europe. It is a delicious wine that is available in spice, blackberry, and strawberry flavors.

16. Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is considered the driest of white wines and originates from the Bordeaux region of France. It is notable for its crisp (very dry) and citrus flavors. It is mainly produced in Bordeaux, Chile, the west coast, the United States, New Zealand, and South Africa.

17. Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a popular dry white wine with an oaky and fruit flavor. Its variations can be found in California, Washington, and Burgundy.

Chardonnay produces vanilla, coconut, and toast flavor notes when aged in oak barrels, while unoaked chardonnays give citrus and tropical fruit notes. It is best served with buttery and creamy sauces and also pairs well with the risotto.

18. Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is a medium dry white wine from Italy, France, the United States, and Germany. Pinot Grigio produced in Italy has subtle mineral notes, while those produced in France have fruity notes.

It is best served with a buffalo burger with mozzarella cheese or antipasti topped with seafood and marinated fish.

19. Champagne

Champagne is a popular white wine with different varieties depending on the sugar content. Extra brut champagne is the driest variety of champagne, and it contains less than 0.6% residual sugar. The brut wine or extra sec wine are considered medium dry, while the doux variety is the sweetest.

20. Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc is a medium-bodied, dry white wine that is commonly known in Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. It produces spice, apple, and almond flavors.

21. Muscadet

Muscadet is a dry white wine produced using the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety. It is a light-bodied wine that produces a spicy and tart aroma with citrus notes. It is best paired with oysters, mussels, or grilled scallops.

22. Gruner Veltliner

Gruner Veltliner is an elegant dry white wine from Austria that produces spice, peach, and pepper notes. It comes in peach citrus flavors, depending on the grape’s ripeness.

23. Torrontes

Torrontes is a dry white wine from South America. It is a remarkable wine that produces tasting notes like lemon zest, fragrant rose, and peach.

24. Albarino

Albarino, also known as Alvarhino, is the driest white wine from Spain. It has a spicy flavor with tasting notes of lemon, grapefruit, and salt. Chardonnay wine: toasty chardonnay wines will pair well with lobster and cheesy pasta

What to Serve With Dry Wine?

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: juicy red meat like steaks, roast chicken, ahi tuna, and lamb will pair nicely with Bordeaux-style wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Pinot Noir: food that contains earthy ingredients like mushrooms and truffles will pair nicely with a bottle of Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is a light-bodied dry red wine with savory depth, and this will make this pairing delicious.
  • Syrah and Cabernet Franc: dry red wines with spicy tasting notes like Syrah and Cabernet Franc will pair nicely with spicy and well-seasoned dishes.
  • Rose: cheesy dishes are best served with a bottle of Rose
  • Zinfandel: Zinfandel is the best type of wine to be served with food that has a light and airy texture like mousse, as well as filled pastry like terrines and pates.
  • Malbec or Shiraz: barbecue sauce is best paired with a bottle of Malbec or Shiraz.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: this is considered the best dry white wine, and it is best paired with a salad, light fish, vegetables, and dishes made with herbs.
  • Pinot Gris and Albarino: these two types of wines are best paired with fish dishes like shellfish and raw fish
  • Champagne: champagne is best served with dishes that have salty flavors.
  • Albarino and Vermentino: Albarino and Vermentino are best served with leafy greens.

How to Store Dry Wine?

  • Store at the Proper Temperature: When it comes to wine storage, the temperature is the most important factor to be considered. The average temperature wines should be stored at is 13℃. A stable temperature must be maintained; if not, the stopper of the wine bottle will get pushed out, thereby allowing air to enter the bottle. Investing in a wine cooling system is advised as this creates a perfect aging condition for wines.
  • Store Bottles Horizontally: Storing bottles horizontally helps prevent premature aging and seepage by keeping the bottle cork from drying.
  • Store in a Dark Area: It is important to keep wine away from sunlight because UV rays could damage the wine’s flavor.
  • Store in a Wine Fridge: Unlike a standard refrigerator, a wine fridge is made specifically for wines and keeps them at the right temperature and humidity. It helps protect wines and maintain their optimal flavor.


A dry wine is the kind of wine that has been stripped of its residual sugar, contrary to the common belief that dry wine refers to the dry sensation a wine produces after consumption.

So, if you ever come across the question, what is dry wine? Or if you know anyone who needs clarity on “what is dry wine?” all you have to do is refer to this article and have all your questions answered.

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