Dry White Wine – Everything You Need to Know

Dry White Wine for Cooking & More!One of the most talked about things when it comes to wine is if it’s a dry wine or a sweet wine. It’s typically the first question asked or the first statement made, especially when it comes to white wine. But what exactly is a dry white wine?

Using my sweet SEO skills, I had a chat with Google over a vino or three and found out from him what are the most frequently asked questions about dry white wine. With this handy info (thanks Mr. Google) I then grabbed my laptop, an extra large glass of wine and sat down to write this.

So without further adieu, let’s get stuck in…

What is dry white wine?

Basically it’s a wine which isn’t sweet, aka it has no residual sugar. If you’re not familiar with how wine is made basically it involves sugar in the grape juice, fermentation and yeast. If a winemaker stops fermentation before the yeast has time to munch on all the sugar, then there’s residual sugar in the wine. Obviously if the winemaker let’s the yeast complete its mission then the result is a dry wine. Sometimes there may be a small amount of residual sugar left in dry white wines, however it’s fairly minimal that it doesn’t make the wine taste sweet.

Is Chardonnay a dry white wine?

Not necessarily my fellow wine lovers. The reason I love Chardonnay so much is because it’s so versatile. It can create fab sparkling wines (if you didn’t know, it’s one of the prominent grape varieties used in champagne), gorgeous dry still wines and I have had the odd dessert wine made from Chardonnay. The latter isn’t hugely popular, but they are out there.

Typically for a still dry chardonnay you’ll find it in two forms – oaked and unoaked. The former being more oaky (obviously) and full-bodied while unoaked versions are very fruity and easy-drinking for most people. You’ll tend to find the ABC drinkers (Anything But Chardonnay) will like unoaked Chardonnays as they tend to think all Chardonnay’s are big, oaky, buttery and nutty. Give each wine a chance people!

Is Sauvignon Blanc a dry white wine?

Yes! It’s possibly one of the driest white wines out there alongside Albarino which we covered on the blog only a few weeks ago. Sauvy B is super crisp and refreshing. It’s typically a cool climate wine which is also a factor to helps to determine dryness in a vino. I.e. the warmer the region, the more the region will thrive at making sweeter style wines. Like for instance, right here in the Swan Valley, they’re well-known for their awesome fortified (port style) wines.

I think what makes Sauvignon Blanc really dominate in the dry white wine world is because of it being the ‘green juice’ of the wine world. By this I mean, it’s typically described with ‘green’ notes from cut grass to fresh herbs, gooseberries and also passionfruit, grapefruit, peach and sometimes even jalapeño!

What is a crisp dry white wine?

See above! Basically a ‘crisp’ wine refers to its refreshing nature which is thanks to the acidity in the wine. A crisp wine leaves the mouth feeling refreshed, cleansed and may be even slightly sour. They’re not heavy or extremely fruity wines. Go for a Sauv Blanc, Pinot Grigio, dry Riesling or even a Greek Assyrtiko.

What are dry white wine types?

I have mentioned a few above, and also please note winemakers do get creative every now and then. So what you might think is dry, might not be – if this is the case however, they will usually state it on the bottle.

Typically you’ll find wines made from these grapes dry:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Albarino
  • Chardonnay
  • Muscadet
  • Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio
  • Assyrtiko
  • Riesling (however there is also a lot of sweet ones, see more below in the ‘myth-busting’ section)
  • Viognier
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Semillon

If you come across wines made from the above grapes and you see terms like ‘late-harvest’, ‘dessert’, ‘fortified’, ‘off-dry’ for example or ‘sec’, ‘demi-sec’ or ‘doux’ on a bottle of champagne/bubbles then you probably have a sweetie in front of you!

What’s the best dry white for cooking?

This is a very commonly asked question and to be honest I would always lean on a Sauvignon Blanc to help me out in the kitchen. By the way, these Sauvignon Blanc cupcakes are insanely good and easy to make!

Sauvignon Blanc Wine Cupcakes

If you don’t have any SB on hand then a Classic Dry White, Pinot Grigio or an Unoaked Chardy are typically easy to find and will do the trick. I actually find Albarino very good when I am making chilli mussels!

Tip: Don’t add wine to a dish when cooking that you wouldn’t drink yourself! Putting crappy wine in a dish is a definite no-no, how can a shitty wine improve your dish? It can’t!

Chilli Mussels with Dry White Wine - Travelling Corkscrew

Myth-Busting about dry white wine

I do love a bit of Mythbusters, especially when it comes to wine. Here are a few dry white wine myths we need to bust ASAP:

  • Not all Riesling is sweet! In fact, most of the Riesling you find these days is dry. A lot of Riesling producers will actually mention where their wine sits on the dry-sweet scale on the back of the label as they know the ‘all Riesling is sweet’ myth too well!
  • Just because a wine is ‘fruity’ doesn’t mean it’s sweet! It’s a common misconception that sweetness and fruitiness are the same thing but they are not! If you read my tasting notes then you may often see me write ‘fruit sweetness’ for a dry wine to help me emphasise the fruit forwardness of the wine, but it’s definitely not ‘sugar sweet’.
  • Don’t cook with cheap crappy dry white wine. As mentioned above, what goes in your dish should be drinkable by the chef. It’s actually a really good tactic when it comes to wine and food matching to drink whatever wine you used in the dish to enhance those wine-y flavours even more.

Hopefully I have answered a few of your questions around dry white wine – if you have any other burning questions, please feel free to add a comment below and I’ll get back to you soon.

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