Understanding Dry Wine and Sweet Wine Differences

One of the most common questions among new wine connoisseurs is “what’s the difference between dry wine and sweet wine.” Just based on the way these two terms sound, most people assume that sweet wine would be the best choice but that is not necessarily true.

To truly understand what these two styles really mean, keep reading!

To put it in layman’s terms, a wine is considered “dry” when the wine liquid has no or very little amounts of residual sugar, usually less than 10g. The amount of residual sugar is determined by the winemaker as they decide when to stop the fermentation process.

So, if the fermentation process is interrupted before completion it will result in left-over grape sugars, hence the term “residual sugars.” Sweet wines are often made using Muscat grapes since they have a great deal of sweetness which will transfer nicely to the liquid. On the other hand, if the yeast is allowed to fully absorb all the sugar, and the fermentation process is completed, the result is a “dry” wine. A “semi-dry” or “off-dry” wine has a mild or subtle sweetness.

Traditionally Dry Wines:

Traditionally Sweet Wines:

  • Moscato
  • Port
  • Tokaji
  • Reisling
  • Freisa
  • Vouvray
  • White Zinfandel
  • Sauternes

Now, it’s important to note that despite the misconception, “dry” wine is not at all boring, flat, or dry to the tongue. In fact, dry wines can be refreshing, crisp, zingy, acidic, vibrant, and even fruity. This also speaks to the fact that wine sweetness is also dependent on the wine taster, acidity, tannins, and alcohol content. If you’re new to the wine scene be sure to give both dry wine and sweet wine a go before deciding your wine preference, you might be surprised!

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