Last updated November 2nd, 2023 at 12:29 pm

Why Are Some Wines Called Dry & Others Sweet?

The month of January has been dubbed “dry January”, a.k.a. giving up alcohol for 31 days. Like dieting at the first of the new year, it doesn’t last. It’s too much deprivation at least for this wineo. So instead, I opt to sip dry wines in January. But what is a dry wine and what are some food ones to sip?

What is Dry Wine?

The short answer is that a dry wine is a wine with little to no residual sugar. Huh? During the fermentation process – when grape juice converts into alcohol – the yeast in the liquid eats the sugars from the fruit. The amount of sugar left in the wine determines how much residual sugar – sweetness – is in the wine. Sometimes winemakers will stop the fermentation process to keep some of the sweetness in the wine while others will allow the yeast to eat all of the sugar. 

Manousakis Winery in Crete Greece 1
Photo Provided by Manousakis Winery in Crete, Greece

A lot of times dry wines get confused with wines that have high tannin’s since high tanninic wines dry out your mouth and give you that puckering sensation. Think of a big California Cab or a Barolo from Italy. (Paired with the right foods, you have fewer “puckering” issues.)

Tannins in the wine are actually a natural preservative that protects wine from oxidation and is formed from the juice being exposed to the grape skins, seeds, stems and wood barrels used during the winemaking process. Tannins add the complexity and layers to wine and can help enable wine age longer. Found mainly in red wines, tannins can also be in white wines especially those aged in oak barrels and left to sit with their skins during the winemaking process.

Dry Red Wine Recommendations

Click over to the following wines for specific recommendations and food pairings.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cab Franc, Barolo, Pinot Noir, Tannat, Malbec

For sweeter red wines try, Port and some Lambrusco’s.

Dry White Wines Recommendations

Click over to the following wines for specific recommendations and food pairings.

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Albariño, some Chardonnay.

For sweeter white wines try, Riesling Moscato or a White Port.