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?
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 lets 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.
What are the different types of dry white wine?
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:
1. Sauvignon Blanc
4. Melon de Bourgogne (this produces Muscadet in the Loire Valley)
5. Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio
7. Riesling (however there is also a lot of sweet ones, see more below in the ‘myth-busting’ section)
9. Grüner Veltliner
11. Chenin Blanc
14. Viura (also called Macabeo)
17. Picpoul de Pinet
19. Pinot Blanc
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!
A dry white wine to try
A big thank you to Small Victories for sending over a sample of their new release 2022 Vermentino for us to try. We had it with homemade pizza and it went down perfectly together. In the glass this Vermentino is a straw colour with aromas of candied lemon, fresh lime, and honey blossom. It has a sweet and sour vibe to it. In the mouth it’s definitely dry with plentiful juicy flavour and an awesome texture that covers the entire mouth with flavour. It also has a lovely lengthy finish. Very enjoyable!
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’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!
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!
Where can you buy dry white wine?
Typically wherever wine is sold you can buy drink white wine. Simply ask the sales staff to help you out if you are struggling and don’t forget to consult the back label of the wine too. For example, many Rieslings have a dry to sweet scale on the back which makes life super easy.
Here are some wine shops to try (please note some of these links are affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I may get a small amount of commission if you click through and make a purchase):
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.