When people talk about white wine, they will often say that it is dry or sweet but while the word sweet is self-evident, dry can be confusing. It seems like a strange description of a liquid. In this article, we will discuss what a dry white wine is and look at some of the driest wines that you can buy.
What Exactly is Dry White Wine?
When you say that a wine is dry, it just means that it is not sweet. It has little or no sugar in it and can be either red or white although we will just be looking at white wines today. Different regions may have different standards for how much sugar is in the wine but all are low. Even though these wines are dry, they still have different aromas and flavors depending on the variety of grapes and the way the wine is produced.
How is Dry White Wine Produced?
Many white wine grapes are naturally sweet, and they are harvested at their peak sweetness. However, when the wine is fermented, the sugar turns to alcohol. If the winemakers want a sweet wine, they will stop fermentation before the yeast converts all the sugar into alcohol. However, if they want a dry wine, they will continue fermenting until most of the sugar has turned to alcohol. The sugar left is called residual sugar and if a dry wine is made, the amount of sugar is minute.
What is the Amount of Residual Sugar in Dry White Wine?
As we have said, dry white wines have very little residual sugar. If we take a 150 ml or 5 oz glass of dry white wine, there is less than 1 gram of sugar. Sweeter white wines like Sauternes have as much as 10 grams of sugar.
Is There a Higher Alcohol Content in Dry White Wines?
Surprisingly, this isn’t always the case. You might think that because the yeast eats away at the sugar during fermentation and turns it into alcohol, it would be higher in alcohol, However, it all depends on the wine type. Some sweet dessert wines have a high alcohol level while some dry wines are low in alcohol.
Is There a Difference Between a Dry White Wine and a Drying White Wine?
As we have said, dry white wine is one with very little residual sugar. A drying wine is something completely different. It is a wine that makes your mouth feel dry. Very few white wines are drying because they have few or no tannins and it is tannins that give a dry feeling to your mouth. Red wines have more tannins, so they are more drying.
Bone Dry White Wines
There are two types of dry white wine, dry wine, and bone dry wine. Bone dry white wines are the driest. The fermentation process has stripped the wine of almost all of its residual sugar. If a wine is bone dry, it has 0.5% residual sugar or less. You will hardly taste any sweetness at all in these wines.
Let’s take a look at some bone dry white wines.
Assyrtiko is the driest white wine that you can purchase. It is one of the most popular Greek wines and the grapes have been grown on the island of Santorini for many years but are now grown all over Greece and also in Australia.
Assyrtiko wines are dry and light-bodied. They are crisp wines with flavors of citrus such as lemon and lime, and they have tropical notes. There is also a hint of minerality. They are aged in oak barrels for three months or more which gives them high acidity.
Assyrtiko pairs well with strong, salty cheeses such as feta and halloumi, with Greek dips like taramasalata (fish roe dip) and ahinosalata (sea Urchin dip), and even with asparagus which usually doesn’t pair well with white wine. Why not try an asparagus risotto? Assyrtiko also goes well with fried vegetables and fried fish, both staples of the Greek diet.
Melon de Bourgogne
Melon de Bourgogne is also known as Muscadet. It was originally produced in Burgundy but the grapes are now grown in the Loire Valley. Melon de Bourgogne is crisp and light–bodied with a low amount of alcohol. It is high in acidity making it fresh and zesty. It provides an incredible consistency on the palate. You will get flavors of tart green apples, lime, lemon, and pear.
Melon de Bourgogne pairs well with seafood. Mussels, oysters, shrimp, and scallops are popular choices. It also goes well with zesty vegetables such as celeriac, corn, and kohlrabi. The acidity makes it a good choice for serving with Asian dishes.
Sauvignon Blanc originates in Bordeaux in France. It got its name from the French word, ‘Sauvage’ meaning wild because the grapes used to grow wild. This wine has become popular the world over and is now produced in many countries including the US, New Zealand, South Africa, and Chile. However, although all the wines produced are dry, it is the French Sauvignon Blanc that is bone dry.
This wine is often referred to as grassy because it has a herby taste. It also has flavors of lime, grapefruit, passionfruit, white peach, and bell pepper. If it is aged in oak barrels, it will have vanilla and custard notes as well as a riper tropical fruit profile. It is an acidic wine, with a crisp taste and great minerality.
Sauvignon Blanc is a food-friendly wine. It pairs well with seafood, chicken, green vegetables, and herby sauces like mojo, pesto, and chimichurri. The rich and bold flavors of goat’s cheese go well with the flavors of the wine, as do gouda, asiago, and feta.
Dry White Wines
If a wine is classed as dry rather than bone dry, it will have a residual sugar content of between 0.5% and 1%.
Just because a wine is dry, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be fruity. Many dry white wines have a fruity taste although the flavors tend to be more citrus and stone fruits rather than berry fruits.
Let’s take a look at three dry white wines.
Gruner Veltliner is Austria’s most important wine, the grapes occupying over 30% of the vineyards. Its name translates to ‘Green Wine of Velliner’. In the 1600s, Veltin was a city in the Lower Alps but is now part of Italy.
This wine is often considered to be more exotic than Sauvignon Blanc. When you take a sip, you will get hints of lime, grapefruit, and lemon. There is also a herbaceous flavor of white pepper and notes of green beans, radish, lovage, tarragon, ginger, and honey. Gruner Veltliner has high acidity which almost explodes in your mouth.
This wine pairs well with bitter vegetables such as cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and rucola as well as vegetable-based soups, pasta, and risotto. Because of the wine’s herbal notes, it matches dishes that contain herbs, such as mint, dill, parsley, and tarragon. Austrians drink Gruner Veltlinger with schnitzel, smoked ham, and smoked fish.
Pinot Grigio is made from the same grape as Pinot Gris. The difference is that Pinot Gris is French and is riper and richer with more alcohol than Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio is Italian and is lighter and simpler with less alcohol.
Pinot Grigio is a dry, zesty wine with high acidity. It has notes of green apples, honeysuckle, lemons, and limes. Pinot Gris is similar in taste but it can take on honey notes, floral aromas, and a salt-like minerality.
Pinot Grigio pairs well with fish, especially salmon, chicken, and shellfish, such as mussels, oysters, and clams, pork, quiche, and spicy curries. Gruyere, which is sweet, salty, and a little nutty, is the best cheese to pair with Pinot Grigio.
Albarino comes from the coastal region of Galicia in Spain. The main place these grapes are cultivated is on both sides of the Iberian Peninsula but, because it thrives in macroclimates, it is also grown in California and Portugal.
Albarino has a hint of saltiness and high acidity making it a punchy wine. There are flavors of stone fruits such as nectarines, grapefruit, and honey. With some bottle aging, this wine takes on sweeter notes of peach and apricot and sometimes, notes of nuts such as almonds.
Albarino pairs well with ceviche, seafood, risotto, grilled or fried fish tacos, oysters, mussels, and clams. You can also serve it with a cheese board with such cheeses as soft burrata and semi-hard manchego, gouda, and salty feta.
How Can You Choose the Driest White Wine?
If you are looking for a very dry white wine, any of the wines we have mentioned will suit you. However, you might be unsure which one you will like the best. If so, follow these guidelines.
1 – Choose the profile you want
First, it is important to think about the flavor you like. Perhaps you want a hint of saltiness or a grassy flavor. Maybe you are looking for a fruity flavor like citrus or stone fruits. It is a good idea to look at the label on the bottle as it will give you the flavor profile.
2 – Think of where the wine has come from
French dry wines do tend to be expensive so if you are on a budget, you may want to look for a wine made in one of the New World countries such as New Zealand or the US. You can find the same varietals at a reasonable price. However, if you do have the budget, French wine will give you a slightly more authentic experience.
Some regions are known for having the best varietals. For example, New Zealand is known for its excellent Sauvignon Blanc while the Loire Valley in France produces the best Muscadet.
3 – Read the label on the bottle
It is always a good idea to read the label on the bottle of wine. More often than not, it will say how dry the wine is. In addition, the alcohol level can indicate how dry the wine is. In most cases, though not all, the ABV of dry white wine is 12% and above.
4 – Consider food and wine pairings
It is important to consider what you are eating with the wine. We have already given you our best choices of wine and food pairings so take a look at these. The one food that you shouldn’t pair with dry white wine is red meat.
We have given you our top six dry white wines so you have a good choice. However, if you want to try the driest white wine, go for the Assyrtiko from Greece. You won’t be disappointed.