There are thousands of descriptors used when describing wine. The word dry is used to describe a wine or a grape varietal that produces a wine that is low in sweetness or residual sugar.
The lower the amount of sweetness or sugar in the wine, the dryer the wine is classed to be.
At harvest time, white wine grapes are naturally sweet. The fructose present in grapes is what is made into alcohol during the fermentation process. Any sugar that is left over after the fermentation process is called residual sugar.
As stated above, the dryer white wines will have very low levels of residual sugar present.
Other factors, other than grape variety, such as climate, the process of wine making and when the grapes are harvested all play a role in the amount of residual sugar that is leftover in a wine.
The levels of residual sugar present in the resultant wine varies from grape variety to grape variety.
For example, some varieties like Chardonnay and Riesling have a lot of residual sugar, while others like Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadet have almost none.
Generally speaking, though, dry white wines have less than a gram per 5 ounce glass. In contrast, sweeter wines can contain up to 20 grams residual sugar per 5 ounce glass.
But what is the driest white wine out there? Read this guide to find out!
What Makes A Wine Dry?
Dryness in a wine has been studied extensively by food scientists, wine connoisseurs and oenologists for a long time.
All these experts agree that apart from the residual sugar content, as discussed above, there are three other characteristics present in a wine which give it a ‘dry’ taste profile or perception.
These are namely, tannin content, acidity, and aroma. The higher the levels of tannins present in the wine, the more astringent the wine will be and so the associated mouthfeel is one of dryness.
Some people are sensitive to tannins. This is because they have less protein in their saliva and will feel the astringent or dry feeling more so than others.
When a wine with high tannins are paired with salty and fatty food, the astringency is decreased.
Typically, a dryer wine has higher levels of acidity. This is because the sourness will counteract any sweetness in the wine, so it is perceived to be less sweet by the taste receptors in the mouth.
In fact, the acidity can be so high in some wines that the producers will add additional sugar to make the wine taste less like vinegar.
Our olfactory nerve which is located in between the eyebrows is what is responsible for our sense of smell and our ability to detect flavors.
When a glass of wine is poured, the first thing we will do is smell the wine, long before it hits our palate.
Different white wines have different flavor profiles and different aromas and this will depend on the factors stated above.
The Driest White Wines In The World
There are so many grape varietals and types and styles of wine to be made that the main contributing factor of the wine is the style the wine producer wants in their wine.
Fermentation can be stopped sooner to stop the conversion of sugar into alcohol, making for a sweeter wine or can be allowed to continue to ferment, therefore becoming more acidic and resulting in a dryer wine.
The list below includes a list of some of the driest grape grape varieties and wines out there, as well as a classification of white wines ranging from extremely dry to the sweetest of the sweet.
Assyrtiko, which comes from Greece, is one of the drier white wines you can find. It originates from the island of Santorini and has been made for decades. It has a strong acidic taste and a salty aftertaste.
Assyrtiko grapes are also used to make Vin Santo, a very sweet dessert wine.
The Melon grape variety hails from the Loire Valley about a three-hour drive away from Paris. These grapes are used to create Muscadet wine. The wine boasts notes of citrus and tart green apples with an additional saline-quality.
The wine is a light wine with hardly any richness or body to it.
Probably one of the most popular dry white wines out there, Sauvignon Blanc wines vary in dryness and levels of acidity depending on where the wine is made.
For instance, a French Sauvignon Blanc will be dryer than a Californian or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
If you are looking for a more spicy dry white wine, with a bit more depth of flavor and body to it, then the Austrian Gruner Veltliner is a great choice of wine and has been a popular choice amongst dry white wine drinkers for over 70 years!
South Africa is famed for their dry Chenin Blanc wines and they come in many different styles with different flavor profiles. In general, the dryer Chenin Blanc wines have a mineral quality, spicy notes and tart pear flavor characteristics.
The more off-dry Chenin Blanc wines have a richer flavor profile that include ripe fruit and honey notes.
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are named differently depending on whether they come from France or Italy, but they are the same type of grape variety.
These wines are very dry and can give the drinker notes of citrus, minerals or peachy floral notes depending on how it is made.
Sémillon’s grape varieties can be used to make blends with other grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc for dry white wine, or it can be found on its own and even made into a sweet wine, known as Sauternes, usually used as a dessert wine.
This refreshing dry to off-dry wine originates from either Spain or Portugal. Albariño has a refreshing and light palate, and you can expect notes of citrus and stone fruit.
Chardonnay wines can be oaky and buttery but some wines, specifically those Chardonnays made in California have more mineral flavor notes and are generally classified as off-dry or dry wines.
Viognier wines are more full-bodied and have rich, characteristic fruit flavors, without the sweetness. It is classified as something that falls between dry and off-dry wines and can be enjoyed with many food pairings and accompaniments.
This Argentinian wine grape variety is aromatic and can be classed as either dry or off-dry depending on how it is made. Expect floral notes with this wine.
In terms of varietal range in regard to taste profiles, Rieslings can be extremely sweet or dry depending on the region of where it is made and how it is made. Expect notes of lime, other citrus and stone fruit, as well as honey.
These wines are generally considered to be off-dry, but there are drier and sweeter versions out there. When you try it, you will be bombarded with notes of rose, Turkish delight and lycée.
Moscato or Muscat
Muscat or Moscato wines are one and the same. There are many sub-varieties of this grape which differ in sweetness levels.
The white wines that are extremely dry include Chablis, Grenache Blanc, Muscadet, Italian Pinot Grigio and Assyrtiko. These wines will present lemon and mineral-based flavor notes.
Savory Herb Notes
Under this classification you will find French Sauvingnon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Verdicchio and Verdejo.
Grapefruit and Green Apple Notes
These include New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Chenin Blancs and Vermentino wines.
Yellow Apple and Pineapple Notes
These include Chardonnay, Sémillion, Trebbiano and Marsanne and Roussanne wine varietals.
Peach, Floral and Sweet Lemon Notes
These can include American Pinot Gris, Viognier and Dry Riesling wines.
With notes of honeycomb and lemon you will find Chenin Blanc, Kabinett Riesling, Spaetlese Rieslings, Torrontés wines are some off-dry white wines.
Semi-sweet wines have perfumy and tropical fruit notes and these include Moscato and Gewürztraminer wines
Sweet wines have flavor notes of honey and sweet lemon and include Ice Wines, Late Harvest Wines, Sauternes and Auslese Riesling and Tokaji wines.
These wines have jammy flavor notes such as golden raisins, fig, and apricot jam and include White Port, Moscatel Dessert Wine, Passito Wines and Vin Santo Wines.
How Do I Choose My Favorite Dry White Wine?
There are certain factors to consider when choosing a dry white wine to drink. This includes the flavor profile that you are looking for, how it tastes, how much alcohol and conversely, perhaps how much sugar it contains.
It may also be appropriate to consider the budget and then the style of wine and even the region where it comes from.
For example, New Zealand is known for their Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa for their Chenin Blanc, France for their Pinot Gris, etc.
Something else to consider when buying a wine is what the wine is going to be paired with in terms of food. Some flavors present in the food either highlight or detract away from the flavor notes present in the wine.
There you have it, a complete guide to dry white wines. As far as the driest of the dry white wines go, try these wines out: Chablis, Grenache Blanc, Muscadet, Italian Pinot Grigio and Assyrtiko.
Perhaps, you will find your palate is more suited for a less dry white wine.
If it is accessible to you, perhaps attend a wine tasting at a local wine shop or even a wine farm if you are in the area to decide what you like.