Dry Wine vs Sweet Wine (Complete Beginners Guide)

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Wines are significantly increasing in overall popularity among different countries around the world. They have become a symbol of classiness, elegance, romance, trust, and honesty. It doesn’t even matter if you drink red, white, rosé, fruit or mead wine.

The important thing is who you share that glass of wine with and what kind of occasion is it. Every wine is different from one another. Each of them has a unique aroma, taste, and color that describes specifically that specific beverage.

A lot of stuff depends on the person drinking the wine as well, his or her preferences, side foods and many more. Today there is hardly anyone left who doesn’t like wine even for the slightest amount. It’s an alcoholic beverage industry that only keeps developing, getting better, while also reaching every corner of the planet.

While we talked about people’s preferences, we didn’t mention two main factors that separate one group of wine lovers from another. Of course, there can be other attributes too, but the primary ones are the sweetness and dryness of the beverage.

Well, it’s not that surprising, as those two tastes are completely different from each other. Now, in this article, we will discuss and compare the differences between those two types of wine, their comparison, charts, and definitions in general.

Dry vs Sweet Wine

Here we will describe each type of wine and talk about their characteristics, behavior, and common use. So, let’s jump right into it.

Dry Wine

A lot of times people confuse what actually determines a dry wine. Usually, they concentrate on flavor and sourness of the wine, while in reality, the residual sugar is what that truly matters.

If the winemaker allows the fermentation process to get completed, then it can be called dry wine, as none of the residual sugar would have been left in the liquid.

However, if the producer ceases the fermentation sooner, then the yeast would have eaten all the sugar, leaving a little touch of sweetness.

Additionally, it’s important to know that you can still have fruit flavors in your dry wine. Only sweetness is distracted, which refers to the fruit sweetness, not the flavor of it.

Sweet Wine

Now you have probably guessed. Sweet wines are the ones that contain residual sugar in them. Some have a lot inside them, while others balance it with other wine attributes, like sourness and bitterness. Sweet wines are usually made of Muscat grapes and raisins, as they have a lot of sweetness and can transfer the latter to the liquid.

What the Difference

It’s essential to know that the residual sugar itself, comes from the fruit vines and also turns into alcohol during the fermentation process. However, the amount of extra sugar that’s usually left after fermentation is what makes the beverage taste sweet.

Many people claim that wine containing less than 10g of residual sugar can be considered as dry. The ones between 11g – 31g are usually called off-dry, while wines having over 31g of residual sugar are known to be sweet.

If you got yourself a bottle of wine, on which it’s written that the amount of sugar is less than 10g, but the beverage still tastes sweet, then you must know that it’s the fruitiness giving the flavor not the residual sweet. Your wine may be “fruit-forward”, which means that the flavor fruit dominates other influential ingredients.

Wines are considered to be a healthy alcoholic beverage if consumed thoughtfully. They contain antioxidants and are proven to boost the immune system, improve cognitive function and increase longevity. They are also a great solution for reducing the risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer. Besides, they lower cholesterol and increase bone density.

As a matter of fact, the dry wine is healthier than the sweet one. The latter is more of a dessert drink and doesn’t have the benefits the dry one does.

The presence of extra residual sugar itself is already a big factor, and we all know that too much sugar is not the healthiest thing ever, as it causes weight gain, worsens the skin and in some cases, leads to mental disorders.

Of course, sweet wines don’t contain that much of sugar to cause harms of those levels but still, reconsider that you might have already eaten a lot of sugar-containing foods before opening the bottle of sweet wine.

These two types of wine are distinguishable in the matter of calories as well. The average glass of dry red wine has about 75 calories. The off-dry one has about 85, while the sweet wine has 125 calories per glass.

Balancing your wine with your food will not only help you to make the taste of wine feel better, but it will also keep your diet stable, so make sure to calculate the number of calories you consume if you are under any kind of diet.

How can you tell if a wine is dry or sweet?

What Does Dry Mean in Wine?

The term “dry” in the wine industry basically means that the wine liquid doesn’t or contains a very small amount of residual sugar in it (less than 10g).

This will happen if the winemaker lets the yeast to absorb all the sugar, and continues the fermentation process until its end. Additionally, you must keep in mind that the wine can be dry, but taste sweet because of the fruitiness, which is not related to residual sugar in any terms.

Red Wine Sweetness Chart

Now let’s go a little deeper, and organize a red wine sweetness chart, which will help us visualize the specific wines and their respective positions on this chart.

Firstly, there come the bone dry ones. Some of them, like Tannat, Nebbiolo, Sagrantino, and French Malbec almost don’t contain any residual sugar in them. These are for people that really don’t want any grams of extra sugar in their drink.

Secondly, there come wines, such as Chianti, Bordeaux, Tempranillo, French Mourvèdre, Aglianico, Italian Barbera, and Montepulciano. These contain a tiny amount of residual sugar in them, so you can check some of them out.

Thirdly, there come the original dry wines. You already know how much of extra sugar they contain, so let’s immediately go for the list. Sangiovese, Carménère, Cabernet Franc, Lagrein, Cool Climate Cabernet Sauvignon are the names you have to find on the wine bottle if you want to taste something dry.

More: Bordeaux vs. Burgundy

You can also try out Mencia, Valpolicella, Rhône Blend, Beaujolais, Burgundy, French Syrah, French Merlot, and Trincadeira for dry wine with tart fruits and flowers.

On the other hand, Garnacha, Amarone Della Valpolicella, Negroamaro, Pinotage, Warm Climate Cabernet Sauvignon, Supetuscans, American Merlot, Alfrocheiro, and Alicante Bouschet are dry ones with ripe fruits and spices.

If you want a dry wine, but with the sweetness of fruitiness and vanilla, there is the recommendation of Shiraz, Monastrell, Malbec, Nero D’Avola, American Petite Sirah, Primitivo, Zinfandel, American Grenache, GSM Blend, Touriga Nacional. They will bring you both, the dryness and the touch of sweetness coming from the fruits.

Now we got to the sweet part. Lambrusco, Brachetto D’Acqui, and Recioto Della Valpolicella. These are made of candied fruits or flowers and are considered to be semi-sweet.

Lambrusco – This wine comes from Northern Italy and is purple. It has a dry style but the sweet aromas of fruit play their role, giving the sense of sweetness. The fruits in it are usually oranges, mandarin oranges, cherries, violets, and watermelons. You may also feel the orange blossoms as well. The wine pairs perfectly with fennel-infused sausages, lasagna, and barbeque-ribs.

Getting to the sweet wines. Here are some of them that are the original sweet ones, like Port, Banyuls, and Maury.

Port – This wine is a sweet beverage, containing raspberry, blackberry, caramel, cinnamon, and chocolate. The two main types of Port are red Port with the flavors of berries and chocolate and tawny-colored Port with caramel and nut flavors. Portuguese indigenous grape is the main attribute that makes this type of wine so unique. A great option for sweet lovers.

Now if you really adore sweetness. There is the recommendation of Tawny Port and Vin Santo Rosso, where figs and raisins are used.

Vin Santo Rosso – it’s a wine with the aromas of hazelnut, caramel, honey, perfume, dried apricot, and tropical fruits, so you understand why it’s so sweet. The delicacy and intensity are extremely well balanced. 75ml (3oz) will already fill the amount that can warm you up.

The List of Sweet Wines

You have already learned about Lambrusco, Port, and Vin Santo Rosso. Now let’s explore some others, and fill in our list of the best sweet wines.

Brachetto d’Acqui – This one is a red wine made with Brachetto grapes coming from Piedmont region in Italy. It has a great strawberry aroma and pairs up perfectly with cured meats.

Schiava – This one coming from Alto-Adige, has a special taste of sweet raspberry and cotton candy. It has a refreshing touch of sweet and pairs up well with cookies and any other types of dessert.

Freisa – This wine comes from the Piedmont region of Northwestern Italy. A great option for red and sweet lovers. The Freisa grape makes the beverage lighter because of its tannins and floral cherry touch.

Tokaji – Here comes Hungary’s own, Tokaji. Hungarians pronounce it as “Toe-kay”. It also comes from the Tokaj region, bringing an old and honorable history background with it. The wine is made of dried Furmint grapes that bring the sweetness.

The beverage is so sweet, that it can last for more than 200 years. Some of the world-famous individuals, like Hungarian noblemen, Ferenc Rákóczi II, Russia’s Tzar, Peter the Great, King Louis XIV, Catherine the Great and Austrian composer Joseph Haydn had turned out to be huge lovers of Tokaji wine. That’s why drinking this sweet wine will make you feel special and exceptional.

Tawny Port – If you have heard that the Vintage Port is the king of Ports, then you must also know that the Tawny Port is the queen. This wine is being made in small, wooden barrels.

They go through a big process of oxidation, leaving the dark, deep color behind and turning into orange like color. The ideal age of Tawny Port is between 30 and 40. Now get yourself a bottle of Tawny Port and a cheesecake with it.

List of Dry Wines

Sauvignon Blanc – This dry, white wine has a balanced acidity and underlying fruits. The main fruits in Sauvignon Blanc are lime, green apple, white peach, and passion fruit. The ripeness of grape means a lot in terms of taste change.

The beverage flavor can change from zesty lime to flowery peach depending on how ripe the grape is. The “Wild White” also has the aromas of Green Bell Pepper, Gooseberry, Lemongrass, and Basil. The wine pairs up well with white meat, such as chicken and turkey, soft cheeses, and green herbs.

Merlot – This red, bone-dry wine is famous for its black cherry flavors. However, it also includes the flavors of plum, chocolate, bay leaf, and vanilla. It has a great mixture of aromas, giving the incredible taste of the flavor combination mentioned above, while also leaving the pleasant bitterness. You can decant it for 30 minutes if wanted, and place in a room with 16° – 20° C (60° – 68° F) temperature.

Sangiovese – This one is made of an interesting grape, the Sangiovese, which easily adapts to its environment and changes colors. Its flavor can change from delicate strawberry to dark and tannic. The primary fruits used in Sangiovese are tart cherry, red plum, strawberry, and fig.

You may feel the touch of light oak coming from the barrels. The most exciting thing about this wine is that its taste can differ regardless where it has been grown. Still, you can always sense taste to cherries no matter what.

Now you know the differences of dry and sweet wines, their characteristics and special features. You also got some recommendations for each type, so it shouldn’t be a problem for you to go on and try one. Remember, wine is always elegant, and elegance lives forever.


I am a blogger turned Wine Enthusiast, Who loves to try new things and this is my blog.

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