Wine Terms Deciphered

When choosing a bottle of wine, everyone has their favorites; red, white, sparkling, or rose’. We also have particular nuances that we look for; bone dry, dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. 

Lately I have been getting a recurring question (mostly when discussing whites) –  “What do you mean when you say dry?” I know it may sound snide, but the correct response to this is, “Not sweet!” When a winemaker produces dry wine, they let the fermentation process completely finish, allowing the yeast to absorb all the sugar present, leaving no residual sugar. No sugar; hence, dryness.

Other confusing terms are the words fruity and sweet; they are notably different. The amount of residual sugar left behind after fermentation, will determine the level of sweetness a wine will have. Fruitiness will always be detected at different levels, even if a wine is dry. Many people are usually surprised to hear this; it is a big eureka moment for them!

Dry New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and semi-sweet New York Riesling.

So what do you look for? Now that the days are getting warm, are you gravitating towards a crispy, dry, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc or a sweet, fruity Riesling? Or do you drink red all year long and reach for a bone dry, fruit-forward Sangiovese from Chianti, rather than a dry, ripe Garnacha from Spain?

Bone dry Sangiovese from Chianti and a dry Garnacha from Spain.


 Whatever your preference, next time you are out shopping for a bottle, try to think about what it is you favor when selecting a wine, and reach for something new to try. Or ask for help; it is how you learn. 


Cin Cin!

Author: wineauxliving

Kim K. spent many years in the trade show and special event industry before following her passion by taking some wine classes. She took two with the American Sommelier Association in New York City, receiving certificates of completion - one in 2010 for their Foundation Course and one in 2011 for Viticulture and Vinification. In December 2015, she left the event industry behind and completed the Certified Specialist of Wine course with The Westchester Wine School. She has been working in the wine industry since 2016. Blogging on and off since 2009 on various topics, Kim is happy to return to the blogosphere with her wine blog. She is a resident of the lower Hudson Valley in New York.

Leave a Reply