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!