Dry White Wine: Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Do you want wine for cooking lighter foods like pork, chicken, veal, shellfish, and vegetables? Then dry white wines may be the choice for you.

You may opt for Chardonnay, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, or Viura which are intensely flavored and thicker white wines that can be used to make gravy, and cream sauces.

Dry white wines are preferred for cooking but are also great for drinking alone and as an accompaniment with your meals. Chefs love using dry white wine in dishes such as chicken, mushrooms, and pork to deglaze the brown bits used in a pan sauce.

Additionally, chefs prefer dry white wine since it adds acidity to dishes like risotto.

As a beginner, it is important to differentiate dry white wines from other types like dry reds and regular dry wines. Dry wines are different from other types due to the method of production and fermentation.

Wine producers take advantage of the various stages of fermentation to ensure they provide the consumers with a variety of different wines.

In this article, we will take a look at the way dry white wine is made, what differentiates it from other wine types, and the grapes that make the drink.

Moreover, we will dive into the various types of dry white wines, the best ones for drinking, and the best ones for cooking dishes like sauteed fish. Feel free to take a look at the frequently asked questions section for more details on the wine.

What is Dry White Wine?

Dry white wine is any white wine that does not taste sweet due to the low amount of residual sugar in the drink. Low amounts of residual sugar might be zero, 10 grams per liter, or as little as 4 grams per liter.

A sugar concentration of one percent can also be considered dry. Wines with more than 30 grams of sugar per liter cannot be considered dry wine since they taste sweet.

The term ‘dry’ is used to denote the sweetness rather than the actual residual sugar percentage in the wine. White wines like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Albarino, and Austrian Gruner Veltliners are made in a dry style meaning they have no residual sugars.

Other white wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Viogniers can be made with zero residual sugar or with a small amount that won’t make them sweet.

Professional wine tasters and sommeliers can tell which wines are dry by a single taste since the sweetness difference is easily noticeable. Regular wine drinkers may fail to recognize the difference because of the confusion between a fruity taste and a sweet taste.

You can still taste the fruit in a dry white wine; however, the sweetness won’t be noticeable. Fruit juice is a good example of when you want to differentiate between a sweet and fruity taste. Fruit juice, even though most people believe it tastes too sweet, actually has a fruity taste that is crisp and refreshing.

Another confusion that comes with the term ‘dry’ is the feeling in your mouth. Wine drinkers will often think that dry wines will leave your mouth with a dry sensation.

This is not true since the dry sensation is caused by wines with high concentrations of tannins. Tannins are compounds in wine grapes that give wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon a sort of dryness or astringency.

A lot of dry white wines are dry and also have high concentrations of tannins which makes it harder for regular wine drinkers to accurately define ‘dry’. Others may confuse ‘dry’ to mean a huge alcohol percentage since higher alcohol wines have more alcoholic flavors than sweetness.

Also Read: What Does Dry Wine Mean?

How Dry White Wine is Made?

White wine can be categorized into dry white wine, sweet and fortified white wine, sparkling wine, and regular fortified wine. The difference between these types of white wine boils down to the fermentation process and the addition of extra alcohol into the mix.

Dry white wine is the most difficult to make since there is a delicate balance that has to be kept between the alcohol content and the drink’s acidity.

Red or white grapes can be used to make dry white wine since grape skins (which are responsible for the wine color) are not used in the fermentation process of white wines. The popular grapes in the production of white wine include green and yellow-colored grapes like Riesling and Chardonnay.

The grapes are picked during the night or early morning to ensure cool grape temperatures. Additionally, wine producers have specific harvest periods to maximize the ripeness of the grapes. The typical period for harvesting white wine grapes is during the start of the harvest season.

The grapes are then taken to a wine press which squeezes all the juices into a tank. Producers will then add sulfur dioxide to prevent bacterial spoilage.

The juice is then left in the tank to settle to ensure that the suspended bitter-tasting solids are removed from the mix. After this, yeast is added to eat out the grape sugars to make alcohol in a process called fermentation.

The fermentation process will typically take 14 days for white wines and involve cooler temperatures as compared to red wines. In this process, the winemakers can adjust the residual sugar levels to make a dry white wine, sweet white wine, or an off-dry version.

A second fermentation process is then carried out by adding bacteria that eat malic acid in wine to turn it into lactic acid.

This process is optional and is responsible for the creaminess of Chardonnay that most wine drinkers love. The wine is then left to age for a while before the producers proceed to make a blend, clarify the wine, and bottle it for the market.

Also Read: What Does White Wine Taste Like?

Dry White Wine Grapes

dry white wine grapes

Dry white wines can be made from popular grapes like Semillon, Muscadet, and Albarino.

However, not all wines from these grapes are dry white wines. The labeling on the wine bottle will have some indication as to what post-processes were done to the drink to give it a desired flavor and feel.

For example, terms like dessert, off-dry, fortified, late-harvest, or demi-sec can be used to show that the drink is not dry despite using popular dry white wine grapes.

These white wine grapes are often from exotic regions all over the world including France, Austria, Germany, United States, South Africa, and Italy. These grapes include:

  1. Semillon
  2. Muscadet
  3. Chardonnay
  4. Albarino
  5. Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio
  6. Sauvignon Blanc
  7. Viognier
  8. Gruner Veltliner
  9. Riesling
  10. Assyrtiko
  11. Pinot Blanc
  12. Melon de Bourgogne
  13. Torrontes

Types and Examples of Dry White Wine

Most types of dry white wines are more refreshing to drink during the warm periods of summertime. The taste and preference will also depend on how dry the white wine is and how late in the season the grapes were plucked.

1. Sauvignon Blanc

The drink is well known for its pronounced acidity that can make your mouth pucker. Some may consider the Sauvignon Blanc as a mid-range dry white wine because of its richer tastes and no sweetness.

Sommeliers state that the Sauvignon Blanc tastes earthy, has fruit flavors such as passion fruit and has herbaceous hints of lemongrass.

The drink comes from the grape of the same name which is green in color and comes from Loire Valley and Bordeaux in France. The grapes can also be found in other regions like Napa Valley in California, Marlborough in New Zealand, and Adelaide Hills in Australia.

2. Muscadet

The tasting notes for the Muscadet dry white wine are tart apples, lemon, lime, and sea-like saline quality. This type of dry white wine has high acidity and the sweetness is zero which makes it refreshing and crisp. The high acidity also makes the light-bodied Muscadet a good palate cleanser.

Muscadet is a great wine for cooking seafood like oysters and mussels. Mussels and French fries are one of the best dishes that can be made using Muscadet. A single bottle can cost you as little as $14 and as much as $25 depending on the extended lees aging.

3. Torrontes

Torrontes is an uncommon dry white wine from Salta Region, Argentina that can cost as low as $10 per bottle. The white wine is full of fruity flavors, has balanced acidity, soapy characters, and aromas of white flowers.

Examples of Torrontes white wines are Allan Hancock 2019 White, Pisano 2020 Rio de Los Pajaros Reserve Torrentes, Markus Wine Co 2019 Joey Insieme White, and Wise Villa 2018 Torrentes.

Torrontes can be made in many different styles but the dry style is the most common one. It is often compared to aromatic wines like Riesling and Muscat Blanc.

4. Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio has a high acidity flavor with a touch of lemons, green apples, lime, and honeycomb. It is the second most popular white wine in the United States after Moscato and closely followed by Chardonnay.

The basic grape (Pinot Gris) is a greyish blue hue grape that originated from France and is believed to have mutated from Pinot Noir, a red grape.

Some of the greatest Pinot Grigio bottles include Kaltern Caldaro Pinot Grigio 2016, MOntinore Estate Pinot Gris 2015, Ca Di Rajo Pinot Grigio 2014, Loveblock Pinot Gris 2014, Scarbolo Ramato Pinot Grigio XL 2013, and Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 2013.

5. Viognier

The tasting notes for Viognier include light flavors of tangerine, honeysuckle, creamy vanilla aromas, nutmeg, clove spices, and mango flavors. The white wine can come in dry fashion or off-dry fashion depending on the producers.

The driest of the Viognier has less fruity tastes and will give you subtle bitterness. The drink is often compared to Chardonnay because of its weight.

Typical Viognier bottles cost between $17 and $25 but high-end bottles can go over $40. These wines are often produced in South Australia, the United States, and Rhone Valley in France.

Viognier can be used to cook amazing dishes that aren’t too acidic such as chicken curry, roast turkey breast, and poached salmon.

6. Riesling

Riesling can be made in a dry style or a sweet style; however, most of the Riesling in the market today is dry. Riesling dry white wine has flowery characters, an almost perfume aroma, high acidity, and crisp flavors.

The grapes are native to Germany but are also largely grown in the Alsace region in France, Eden Valleys in Australia, and Finger Lakes in the United States.

Riesling is great for cooking spicy foods but can be used in all sorts of dishes ranging from herbs to spicy Indian dishes. The acidity levels in Riesling make it perfect for keeping the palate fresh.

7. Champagne

Champagne is a type of sparkling wine that originates from the Champagne region in northeastern France. The drink is characterized by its sparkling nature with bubbles that come from fermentation gases.

The champagne is made through processes that maintain the fermentation gases (carbon dioxide) in the drinking to create bubbles.

Champagne can be made from several grapes including Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Dry champagnes will often have labels that read Brut Zero indicating that they have no added sugar since the residual sugars are less than 3 grams per liter.

The most popular champagne brands, for those who want a unique wine experience, include Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and Dom Perignon.

8. Dry sherry

Dry sherry white wine is recommended for chicken, soups, and sauteed vegetables due to its deglazing abilities. Deglazing involves adding white wine to a hot pan to let all the caramelized bits stuck on the bottom of the pan get released. Sherry is a great wine for cooking but will only last a few days once the bottle is opened.

9. Madeira

Madeira can also be made with different levels of sweetness which are called Seco (dry), meio seco (medium dry), meio doce (medium sweet), and doce (sweet). The drink has rich tasting notes of honey and caramel. There are earthy flavors in it as well as herby, nutty, and spicy aromas.

The Madeira comes from several grapes and a variety of blends which include Tinta Negra, Malmsey, Bual, and Sercial white grape. Dry white Madeira is good for cooking savory recipes and make a fantastic aperitif.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

dry white wine faq

1. What is the Driest White Wine?

Muscadet is considered the driest white wine on the planet with citrus notes and mineral tastes. Muscadet comes from Melon de Bourgogne grapes that give the drink a sharp, tangy, but yet delicious flavor. This dry white wine originates from Loire Valley in France.

Muscadet goes well with oysters giving it the title of ‘the perfect oyster wine’. It blends well with many seafood dishes and other types of food due to its moderate alcohol levels that do not overwhelm the food. It is recommended to consume it in under three years of production if you are going to drink it.

2. What is the Best Dry White Wine for Cooking?

Dry Sherry and Pinot Grigio top the list when it comes to the best dry white wines for cooking. These two white wines are perfect for a wide range of dishes from vegetables to meat.

Dry Sherry is preferred for seafood dishes and pan sauces, whereas Pinot Grigio thrives when you want a nice mellow flavor in your food.

Other good choices include Sauvignon Blanc, Chinese Rice wine, Dry Vermouth, Dry Marsala, and Chardonnay. White wines like Riesling contain higher residual sugars which make them unfavorable for cooking because sugar may caramelize the dish.

Moreover, if a certain type of wine tastes bad when you drink it then it won’t taste any better if you use it for cooking.

Also Read: What Can You Substitute for White Wine in Cooking?

3. What is the Best Dry White Wine for Drinking?

Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio varieties top the list of the best dry white wines for drinking. In 2021, according to the Independent, the best dry white wine was Peter Zemmer pinot grigio riserva giatl 2017. This bottle has a delicate medium aromatic intensity, with flavors of passion fruit, pear, elderflower, and guava.

Other candidates for the best dry white wine include Domaine Berthenet Les Bonneveaux Montagny premier cru 2017, Weingut Leitz rheingau magic mountain Riesling, and Adnams English bacchus 2019.

4. Which Dry White Wine is Best for Risotto?

The best wine for risotto is crisp, dry, unoaked white wine like the unoaked Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are also great options so long as they are not poorly made, i.e., cheap. Red wine can also be a good wine for cooking risotto if it is added with beetroot.

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