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In Good Taste

Sugar who? Not around here.

A beginner’s foray into wine drinking can often times feel overwhelming. With so many terms like sweet, dry, tannins, body, and so on, it’s easy to get lost. Let’s face it; you might just want to know what tastes good!

Well, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, “good wine” varies from person to person. While sipping a myriad of different wine varieties is the best way to learn what you like, we want to teach you the basics before you dive in. In this beginner’s guide to dry wines, we’ll touch on the difference between sweet and dry wines, dry wines for drinking or cooking, and if dry wines are good for dieting. Grab a glass, and let’s begin!

What makes a wine dry?

“Dry” refers to the perceived taste the wine leaves in your mouth because it contains low levels of residual sugar after fermentation. In contrast, sweet wine will have higher residual sugar.

Dry Wine has lower residual sugars than sweet wine - infographic of sugars in wine

When the winemaker allows the yeast to consume all the wine’s residual sugar during the fermentation process, the resulting absence of sugary sweetness leaves a delicious dry wine.

Many people think that dry wine will dry out your mouth, but this comes from misunderstanding the term. Because alcohol dehydrates, any wine could technically lead to a feeling of dry mouth. We’ll get more into the subject of “dry mouth” feel in the next section.

If you think a dry wine won’t taste fruity because it’s not sweet, you may be surprised. This is a common misconception, but all it takes is one taste of dry, fruity Chardonnay for that myth to be laid to rest.

Just because a wine is “fruit forward” does not mean it is sweet.  People often mistake fruitiness for sweetness, but the vast majority of wines in the world are in fact dry! Many different wines across the board will have naturally occurring fruit notes to them, and no, that does not mean there are literal apples or strawberries in your wine.

Dry Mouth Feel from Tannins, Alcohol Levels

Let’s look a little further into dry wine misconceptions. When some people experience the dry mouthfeel — or the “pucker factor,” as some call it — after drinking red wine, they consider that a dry wine. This sensation comes from the high tannin level. Tannins are naturally occurring bitter and astringent compounds that come from the grape’s skin. Some wines like Syrah and Cab have more tannic skins.

There’s also a misconception that dry wine is always higher in alcohol. If someone likes wine with a higher ABV (Alcohol by Volume), they might think they’re drinking dry wine. Wrong again. Our brains fool us with this phenomenon because, in wines with higher alcohol content, we taste more flavors from the alcohol and less from the fruit. At this point, our taste buds relay the message, “Hey brain, there’s less moisture here,” which would rationally make us think that the wine is dry, but no. There are dessert wines with a very high alcohol content that are plentifully sweet. Another wine myth busted!

Do Dry Wines Have More Alcohol Than Sweet Wines?

Let’s circle back to the relationship between alcohol content and residual sugar. We know that dry wine has less residual sugar, and we debunked the myth that it always has high alcohol content. It’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean it never has high alcohol content — just that ABV isn’t the only metric. 

Alcohol by Volume of Sweet and Dry Wines - infographic

The best metric for ranking wine from bone dry to very sweet lies in the residual sugars. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Bone Dry: Extremely dry, contains less than 0.5% residual sugar. This level is so low that most people’s taste buds can hardly detect it. 
  • Dry: The general level of dryness denotes a satisfying lack of sugar or sweetness. 
  • Off-Dry: The tiniest bit of sweetness in a dry wine bumps it to the off-dry category. It’s still free from a sugary flavor but sweet enough to be just one step removed from a dry classification.
  • Semi-Sweet: Still a bit dry, semi-sweet wines contain more than 3% residual sugar. They’re not as strong as sweet, but pretty close at this level. 
  • Sweet: We’re officially out of the “dry wine” woods at this level. Sweet wine has over 30 grams of residual sugar per liter. 
  • Very Sweet: Sugary sweet and highly concentrated, very sweet wine is sometimes called dessert wine. 

 

Best Red and White Dry Wines for Drinking

We’ve got good news for beginners: There are more than enough red and white wine varieties in the dry category for you to find at least one you like. While most people go for white wine in warmer months and red wine when it’s chilly, the choice is ultimately up to you. To help you choose, we’ve rounded up some of the most popular dry wines in both categories.

Dry Red Wines

Dry Red Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon wine guide and tasting notes infographic

Cabernet Sauvignon 

There’s a good chance you’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon near the top of almost every wine list. It’s a delicious, full-bodied red wine that beginners and wine connoisseurs love, and it’s one of the world’s most widely planted grape varieties. Its intense flavor can be overpowering for some, but its dry, fruit-packed flavors make it stand out from the crowd. Tasting notes can include berries, plums, chocolate, and vanilla. 

Dry Red Wines: Merlot tasting guide and flavor notes infographic

Merlot

Merlot’s smooth, velvety taste brings a soft comparison to Cabernet Sauvignon. With fruity flavors and low tannin levels, it’s not quite as intense as other red wines, but it still holds its ground for flavor. Winemakers love that Merlot can taste great even with minimal aging. Wine drinkers love its chocolate and cherry flavors that pair well with a range of foods. Merlot is often used in blending to even out the tannins of higher tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dry Red Wines: Malbec tasting guide and flavor notes infographic

Malbec

Malbec has grown in popularity thanks to its luscious, full-bodied flavor profile. The Malbec grape develops its signature chocolate and sour cherry flavors from spending long, sweltering days in the sun before being pressed and bottled. With more subtle tasting notes like tobacco, vanilla, sour cherry, and smoke, you’ll want to sip every last drop!

Dry Red Wines: Pinot Noir tasting guide and flavor notes infographic

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir, known for its sophistication and complexity, is also considered the healthiest of dry red wines. Light-bodied with tasting notes of raspberry, mushroom, cherry, and blackberry, it has a pleasant balance of warm earthy and fruity flavors. If you’re looking for a versatile wine that goes with almost anything, Pinot Noir won’t let you down.

Related: How to Build the Ultimate Charcuterie Board 

Dry White Wines

Dry White Wines: Sauvignon Blanc tasting guide and flavor notes infographic

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc’s elegant taste and high acidity will make your mouth pucker on the first sip. Although very different from the robust Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc is considered one of the best wines for first-time wine drinkers. Offering a variety of flavors like pear, white peach, grapefruit, and herbal notes like lemongrass and bell pepper, it’s airy and light without being bland. 

Dry White Wines: Pinot Grigio (Gris) tasting guide and flavor notes infographic

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio combines mandarin orange, fuji apple, honeycomb, and lime notes with high acidity for a lovely dry white wine. Right after Moscato, it’s the second most popular white wine in the United States. Ranging from medium-bodied to full-bodied, it’s an excellent pairing for light meats like grilled chicken, roasted turkey, or seafood.

Dry White Wines: Chardonnay tasting guide and flavor notes infographic

Chardonnay

Chardonnay’s versatility makes it a favorite among dry white wine enthusiasts. It can stand on its own or mix well with other wines to create complex blends. Its taste can even change based on how it’s stored or aged. Some Chardonnay is buttery, oaky and toasty from aging in oak barrels, whereas others can be zippy and tart when aged in stainless steel. Either way, it’s an easy start for beginners looking for a dry wine to drink or cook with!

Related: How to Host a Wine Tasting

Best Red and White Dry Wines for Cooking

Dry white wines may be the more popular choice for cooking wine, but reds like Cabernet Sauvignon can also enhance the right dish quite nicely. Pro Tip: cook with wine you would enjoy drinking; these flavors will concentrate as the alcohol cooks off. 

Cabernet Sauvignon

Want to take red meat to the next level? Add more red – red wine that is. Cabernet Sauvignon, to be specific. Why? Because cabernet is dry, which means it won’t burn easily. This quality makes it great for making sauces. A small pour into savory stews and sauces can add depth once the alcohol cooks off and the flavors set in.

Pinot Grigio

Cooking fish tonight? Pinot Grigio elevates seafood recipes of all kinds, even enhancing pasta and sauces. The next time you’re making pesto chicken or seafood pasta, bring a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Its crisp, neutral flavor makes it a versatile accompaniment to a variety of Italian dishes.

Chardonnay

For heavy, rich dishes, pop open some Chardonnay and give your meal a dramatic flair. Its signature buttery notes bring out the best in creamy sauces for entrees like chicken and mushrooms. Chardonnay is also great with salmon, crab, and lobster. Be careful that your Chardonnay isn’t too oaky, as it might throw off the bitterness a little too much. Lightly oaked Chardonnay is a great choice, as it balances the acidity just right for most recipes.

Are Dry Wines (Less Sugar) Better for Dieting?

Now that we’re drinking and cooking with dry wine, you might wonder whether there can be too much of a good thing. Since dry wines have less residual sugar than sweet wine, you’d think this means it’s way healthier, right? Sorry, it’s not quite that simple.

The average glass of wine contains about 150 calories. Drink two, and you’re consuming roughly the equivalent of two scoops of ice cream. Of course, that’s comparing apples to oranges. But it’s the same when choosing a healthier wine. If you’re only looking to reduce your sugar intake, dry wine is a good choice. If you’re more focused on overall calories, check the nutrition facts. 

Counting Calories?

Dry Wine Calories Infographic
Calories of 2 Glasses of Dry Wine Equal 2 Scoops Ice Cream Infographic

A dry wine with high alcohol content can contain more calories than a sweet wine with a lower alcohol percentage. Whatever wine you choose to drink, we hope you find one that fits into whatever wellness means to you.

Can You Tell if a Wine is Dry from the Label?

Even though we’ve covered the range of sweet to dry categories from bone dry to very sweet, wine labels aren’t so clear. If you see “sec” or “troken” on a wine label, that signifies a dry wine. Terms like “dolce” and “doux” indicate sweetness, so you’ll want to stay away from those when choosing a dry wine. The best way to know whether a wine is dry or not is by familiarizing yourself with several varietals or checking a wine sweetness scale. With a range of options, you can pick your favorites from a spectrum rather than simply thinking “dry or not dry.”

View the Full Infographic

Big Reds

Our Favorites

Big. Bold. Unapologetic. The rich, unmistakable flavors of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, and Bordeaux Rouge in our Big Reds collection are perfect for the unwavering palate that demands something more.

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Vine Voyage Top 3

Our Favorites

The Vine Voyage bundle will remind you why France and Italy are two of the most well-known, wine-producing countries in the world. Take your senses to the European countryside with Montepulciano, Rosé of Sangiovese, and Nerello Cappuccio.

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Light Reds

Our Favorites

Like the infectious laugh of a best friend, these wines will warm your soul and lighten your mood. Our Light Reds bundle with a Grenache, Coteaux Borguignons AOC, and Pinot Noir are sure to be your new wine besties!

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International Whites

Our Favorites

Experience a world-class wine tour for your tastebuds from the comfort of home. This bundle features incredible selections from France and Italy that will have you ready to grab your passport and hop a plane.

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California Wine Mixer Top 3

Our Favorites

Californian wine is a state of mind. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosé, and Red Wine from our California Wine Mixer bundle can transport your state of mind (and palate) all the way to The Golden State.

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Rosé of Sangiovese

Andiamo

Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.

$19.99

Sauvignon Blanc

La Pluma

We couldn't have rosé and Pinot Grigio at the La Pluma party without inviting its ring leader, Sauvignon Blanc. If Pinot Grigio is the dry, acidic friend of the group and rosé is the always highly affable one, Sauvignon Blanc exists between the two to create true Zen. An interesting and addictive blend of grapefruits and herbs set this white wine apart and makes it incredibly difficult to resist, especially when the temperature is high and your desire for refreshment is higher. La Pluma Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect poolside or beach companion; just be sure to bring a few bottles because your friends will definitely want to partake, and we don't blame them!

Barbera

Wild Child

The perfect pizza wine. Barbera is a simple wine that’s not only easy for winemakers to make, but easier to drink. It’s low in alcohol and an Italian red wine we implore you try chilled because it’s truly *chef’s kiss*. Classic Barberas are fruity, medium bodied and offer the perfect hint of tartness. It’s also the best of both worlds in terms of light and heavy red wines. Let’s say you’re having a friend over who always prefers a cab, but you’re more of a Pinot Noir kinda gal. Order a pizza and open the Barbera for a perfect middle ground kind of evening. After all, the combo of good red wine and pizza is the great equalizer.

Montepulciano

Andiamo

Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

$20.99

Cabernet Sauvignon

Unprecedented

If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

Rosé

La Pluma

While it's the unofficial official wine of summer and warm weather situations, La Pluma's Rosé is one you can drink year-round, no matter the occasion. All rosé wine is derived from red grapes, and the result exceeds expectations in terms of highly-sippable, easy-drinking wine. This La Pluma Rosé is as light as its feathery namesake and is best served extremely chilled for an extremely chill afternoon of nothing but vibes. And maybe a few snacks.

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

$19.99

Pinot Noir

Unprecedented

We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

$25.99

Coteaux Bourguignons

Passport

The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.

$25.99

Nerello Cappuccio

Wild Child

This is not your average Italian red. Nerello Cappuccio is a dark-skinned grape variety from Sicily, the Mount Etna region to be exact (yes, the volcano). Although its color is vibrant, you might be surprised to know that it’s a much softer red than it looks to be. Our Nerello Cappuccio is cherry-forward, with other tasting notes of vanilla, light coffee (like your favorite breakfast blend), and minerals. The delicate tannins in this Sicilian wine will surprise and delight you and tastes exceptionally good paired with margherita pizza or arancini balls (drool).

Chardonnay

Unprecedented

Ah, Chardonnay. This full-bodied and diverse wine is polarizing in its very nature: from an oak barrel-aged buttery, oaky, rich white wine, to a stainless steel-aged, mineral-driven neutral wine. Our classic Unprecedented California Chardonnay is the former, and will surely become a new favorite. Its buttery vanilla nature pairs extremely well with like-minded buttery, creamy foods such as brie cheese, lobster, crab cakes, crème brûlée, squash, corn, and mushrooms.

Verdicchio

Andiamo

A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.

$23.99

Red Wine

Unprecedented

We’d love to introduce you to our old friend: Unprecedented Red Wine. She’s a 2019 blend that has been with us through it all and grown to be one of our more popular wines. She’s a mix of all the best Italian grapes: Barbera, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo with a splash of Mourvèdre and a few others. They’re all hanging out, having one big, juicy, delicious party! Tasting notes include a touch of spice, a hint of leather, and some of the best juicy fruits, including blackberries. She truly gets along with just about everybody!

Côtes du Rhône White

Passport

This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.

$23.99

Bordeaux Rouge

Passport

When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.

$21.99

Ventoux Rosé

Passport

You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.

$21.99

Tempranillo

Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.

Grenache

La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.

$27.99

Barbera

Andiamo

We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.

$21.99

Dolcetto

Andiamo

The Dolcetto grape is an easy, laid-back, relaxed Italian wine experience. Its literal translation may throw you, though—Dolcetto means “little sweet one” in Italian, but this wine is anything but. Packed with black fruit flavors like plum, blackberries, and black raspberries, this wine has the tasty necessities that make it a true Italian drinking wine. With moderate tannins and relatively low acidity, our Dolcetto is the perfect choice for just about any occasion. This lighter red Italian wine tastes even better when paired with poultry dishes like duck or chicken and really shines with a lighter pasta.

Vermentino

Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.

$23.99

Viognier

Unprecedented

For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.

$24.99

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