For some wine enthusiasts, there’s no more refreshing sip than from a quality bottle of dry white wine.
The flavor profiles of a dry white are uniquely crisp and subtly fruity, and most varieties pair beautifully with a host of delicious foods, especially during the hot summer months.
Many wine drinkers love a dry white without ever knowing what “dry” really means. This is nothing to be ashamed of.
Learning all the intricacies of wine lingo is merely a bonus after one learns to truly appreciate and savor every sip. But, if you really want to fill the gaps in your knowledge, read on to learn more about what creates the unique mouth-watering qualities of dry white wines.
What Does Dry Mean?
A dry wine simply means a wine with low levels of residual sugar — this applies to both dry whites and dry red wines. To understand what residual sugar means, we’ll need to dip a toe into the process of wine fermentation.
During the fermentation process, grape juice transforms into wine. It’s not magic, but science — microbiological yeast particles eat away at grape sugars, converting those sugars into alcohol. Residual sugar refers to the sugars left after the fermentation process is complete.
If the fermentation process is allowed to fully occur, you’ll be left with a dry wine with very little residual sugar. If you stop the fermentation process more quickly and drain the remaining yeast particles, you’ll have a wine with a good deal of residual sugar — an off-dry, medium, or sweet wine.
Dry wines typically have less than 1 gram of residual sugar per glass. Sweet wines can have up to 20 grams of sugar per glass. Generally, our palates can’t perceive sweetness until around 5-6 grams of sugar per glass.
Certain white wines are almost always made dry — Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Spanish Albariños.
Many wines fall in the wide, wonderful world of medium-dry — Pinot Gris, Rieslings, and New World Chardonnays.
As for perennially sweet wines, those might come from late-harvest grapes like Riesling and Chenin Blanc.
Of course, that’s only a broad overview. Let’s dive a little deeper into the different types of dry white wines you might be working with.
Extra Dry Whites
Crisp and sharp, these extra dry white wines typically contain less than four grams of residual sugar per liter.
Chardonnay primarily hails from the Burgundy region of France. It’s a crisp wine that leans heavily on the soil and grapes it comes from.
Chardonnay is heavily influenced by the type of wood the aging barrel is made out of. For example, most Chardonnays from the New World (Washington, California) are aged in new oak infusing the drink with notes of toasty vanilla.
Not to be confused with sweeter Muscat or Moscato wines, Muscadet (musk-uh-day) is a light-bodied, mouth-watering dry white made from Melon de Bourgogne white grapes. It hails from Loire Valley and each bottle is packed with sharp citrus and mineral flavors.
Extra dry and extra-crisp, Sauvignon Blanc is often a lean, herbaceous wine grown all around the world from Bordeaux to New Zealand to California. Versatility is its strength, especially in sachets like our Mother of Pearl Sauvignon Blanc, making a perfect companion for sipping as well as cooking.
Brightly acidic, salty, and refreshing, this citrusy white wine hails from España, and pairs beautifully with the Mediterranean seafood speckled throughout Spanish cuisine.
A fragrant aromatic white, this fruity wine is quickly growing in popularity. Torrentés primarily come from South American regions such as Argentina and are packed with peachy, citrusy notes with a tingling acidity.
Not quite as dry as others, though still plenty dry for most, medium-dry white wines can range from 4-12 g/L of residual sugar. Wines under this umbrella may start to enter the sweet spectrum, though are still too dry to put into the off-dry or dessert wine families.
Thriving in the cooler climes of Alsace and Germany, Riesling is an acidic family of wines chock-full of stone fruits, apples, and hearty minerals. These come in both dry and sweet varieties and are increasingly found grown in the Pacific Northwest.
Aromatic and delectably French, this grape is increasingly showing up in local grocery stores and ranges from light flavors of tangerine and honeysuckle to creamier aromas of clove, vanilla, and nutmeg.
A highly acidic wine, Pinot Grigio is famous for its fruity notes like green apple, pear, even honey.
A fairer sibling of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc is a white wine grape with a similar bouquet to Chardonnay with subtle notes of almonds and apples. These grapes are primarily found across Western Europe in regions like Alsace, Austria, and Germany.
Sparkling wines grown within Champagne and across the globe are also classified as dry whites. However, Champagnes have their own sweetness scale:
- Extra Brut contains less than 0.6% residual sugar.
- Brut holds less than 1.5% residual sugar.
- Extra Sec, Sec, and Demi-Sec contain between 1.2-5% residual sugar.
- Doux is packed with sweetness, holding at least 5% residual sugar
Pairing and Cooking with Dry Whites
Dry white wines make great company in the kitchen, pairing beautifully with countless different dishes when used as a sipping wine or as a cooking wine.
Buttery, creamy sauces like Fettucine Alfredo typically work wonders with a dry Marsala wine but also taste delicious when paired with a dry white like Sherry, dry Vermouth, or Chardonnay.
For lighter flavor dishes, especially those heavy in vegetables, opt for a lighter white wine like a Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc.
If you’re working with an extra spicy dish, opt for an acidic white like a Riesling, Viognier, or Torrontés.
And of course, Champagne and other sparkling whites work wonders with salty, creamy foods like artisanal cheese.
Of course, there are no set rules for wine pairing. Feel free to experiment and taste to your heart’s content. After all, if you’re not listening to your palate, then you’re not enjoying your wine to the fullest extent.
Drink a Perfect Dry White with Wine Connoisseur
Dry white wines aren’t the sweetest varieties out there, but the crisp textures and mouthwatering flavors you’ll find in these varieties will keep you coming back for sip after sip.
Before opening up your favorite wine, make sure to chill your dry white to the right temperature and serve alongside foods that accentuate those delicious refreshing aromas.
For the perfect glass of dry white every time, use our Wine Connoisseur, an expert wine aeration machine that chills your glass to its optimal temperature and oxidation. If you’re not drinking your wine at its home temperature and home oxidation, your favorite wine isn’t living up to its full potential.