Types of Dry White Wines: What You Need to Know


Has anyone stopped and realized how truly bizarre it is that we use the word dry to describe a liquid? Because that is something, we think about all of the time. Who the heck came up with that idea anyhow? In any case, the word is confusing, and its meaning is equally as confusing. 

Dry is often a word that is used when describing wine. Grapes such as the Semillon cause the dry taste that some describe feeling in their mouth. However, they're doing it all wrong! t A dry wine has no residual sugar. So let's talk about the wines that are dry and learn more about them so you can give these delicious wines a try and so your wine lover heart knows which are the best wines

What Is Dry Wine?

Dry white wine is an easy way to add a zesty flavor to the blandest of dishes. Its high acidity and citrus fruit flavors, such as nectarines,  make it perfect to sip on all year round! The true meaning of the term "dry wine" is concentrated on the structure of the wine from the winemaking process. Dry wines have little to no residual sugar. This means that dry wines are usually not sweet wines. That doesn't imply these wines can't have a bit of sweetness. Other elements in the composition of wine, like tannins and alcohol levels, affect the overall flavor profile of the wine.

When winemakers create their wines, grape juice undergoes a fermentation method where yeasts consume the naturally present sugars in the grape juice. Doing so produces carbon dioxide, which consequently creates alcohol. On the other hand, to make sweet varieties of wine, winemakers will prevent the yeast from consuming all of the sugar and end the fermentation process early. Therefore, these wines will have more residual sugars left and will be sweeter wine varieties. The different ways these wines produce create different flavors such as the oaky taste you get or a grapefruit taste on your tongue. The oaky flavor usually is due to the wine coming from oak barrels.

Because dry wines allow the entire fermentation process to complete, they often have high alcohol content. However, just because a wine has high alcohol content does not mean the wine is dry. On the contrary, many sweet dessert wines are high in alcohol and incredibly sweet because of their residual sugar. Dessert wines have a different process than most wines. In France, a process called "tardives" which means late harvest, is used to create dessert wines where the white grapes, such as riesling, are allowed to hang on the vine until they start to dehydrate. This process is similar to 

Botrytis cinerea which uses fruits that have experienced rot that is used for specific wines.

Are There Multiple Types of Dry Wine?

Dry wines usually include a little less than 1% sugar per liter. Specific sub-categories within dry wines include medium-dry or slightly sweet wines. Medium dry wines consisting of less than 12 grams of sugar per liter wheel semi-dry and off-dry wines are essentially just sweet wine as they contain 10-30 grams of sugar. 

On top of that, both a red wine and a white wine can be dry—it's less about the grape variety and more about the process. 

  • Very Dry White Wine

  • Medium-Dry White Wine

  • Dry White Wine

Are Dry Whites Better for Cooking or Drinking?

In general, you should choose a dry white wine as a cooking wine unless your recipe advises you otherwise. You want the wine to add acidity, not sweetness. For most cooks, white wine is an essential ingredient because it is incredibly versatile. Dry white wine serves many purposes, from deglazing brown bits for a pan sauce for sauteed fish, pork, chicken, or mushrooms to using it in risotto for a touch of acidity

What Are the Best Dry White Wines?

Sauvignon Blanc

The ultimate wine for both sipping and cooking, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the crispest, driest wines out there. Well known for its herbaceous flavor profile, this wine is well balanced with acidity. While Sauvignon Blanc is grown worldwide, the major growing wine regions include Bordeaux, Chile, New Zealand, the Loire Valley, Germany, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, Austria and California.

Chardonnay

One of the most popular white wine grapes, Chardonnay is often described as buttery and well known for its earthy aromas.  Because of Chardonnay's rich, buttery flavor, especially when compared to other white wines, many inexperienced tasters might think that Chardonnay is a sweet wine. However, this might be due to some cheap brands adding sugar to wine and therefore, taking away its dryness. When you add that you can get oaked or unoaked Chardonnay, you get a deep wealth of flavor that really isn't sweet. 

Muscadet

Muscadet is a bone dry wine best known for being produced in France's Loire Valley. Because of the French wine's minerality, citrusy, and high acid taste, Muscadet is super easy and delicious to pair with foods. 

The perfect wine for those who do not like fruity wines, Muscadet is lean and has a saline quality to its taste. This is likely due to it's vineyards being close to the sea and getting salty sea breezes. Muscadet wines are known to be aged on the "lees." This is a process of aging wines on suspended dead yeast particles. Because of this process, Muscadet has a creamy texture and a yeasty, almost lager-like taste. The longer the wine is on lees, the creamier the texture. If producers choose this route for production, they will often age the wine for two to three years. Muscadet has a touch of fruit that is subtly citrusy with unripe apple and pear notes in addition to the lager-like taste. 

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio, also known as Grauburgunder, is known for its fruit flavors like lime, pear, honeysuckle, and green apple and can have a faint honey note due to the Pinot Grigio Grape used. Due to its high acidity, Pinot Grigio is often less sweet than Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These Pinot Gris Grapes are found in the vineyards of Burgundy, but are found in all regions of the new world!

Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner is a white wine varietal produced exclusively in Austria and almost exclusively in a dry style. The name, Grüner Veltliner, translates to "Green Wine of Veltlin." For a quick history lesson, in the 1600s, Veltlin was an area in the lower alps that is now part of Valtellina, northern Italy. The Italian wine has a hint of sweetness, which many inexperienced drinkers cannot taste because it also is extremely acidic. In many ways, Grüner Veltliner is an exotic alternative to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Blanc.

Champagne

The most famous, most prestigious sparkling wine, Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France, which we have a sneaky feeling might be the reason it is called Champagne. The delicious bubbly drink is made from Pinot Meunier grape variety and is known for its small bubbles that create a delicious tropical fruit taste that isn't always sweet. In fact, some people claim they taste notes of brioche along with that delightful effervescence. 

Honorable Mentions

You might think that all Rieslings are sweet, but there's actually an entire genre of dry Rieslings from Alsace that are worth checking out. Spanish Albariños, Viogniers, Chenin Blancs, and even certain Moscato varieties are also frequently dry. 

What Can I Cook with Dry White Wines?

Wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris and unoaked Chardonnay are great ingredients while cooking due to their subtle flavors, moderate alcohol content, and high acidity. Here are our favorite food pairings to cook using our favorite beverages such as a Italian Pinot Grigios and Pinot Gris Wines.

  • Pasta Sauce

  • Fondue

  • Chicken with Cream Sauce

  • Shellfish

  • Marsala Sauce