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  • Writer's pictureMeghan

Dry January means only 'dry' wines, right??

January; a bleak and boring month. Dry January...a sober, bleak and boring month. I'm always supportive when people decide to do Dry January, or even Damp January. And I guess it's easier to do it when you don't want to leave the house anyway.

But when we talk about 'dry' in wine, what does that mean? I hear a lot of people say they love a good dry wine. But so many times people are referring to the tannins in the wine when they say dry, they just don't know it. So let's get into it.

Easiest way to put it: Dry is the opposite of Sweet. So if you want a dry wine, you aren't reaching for that Moscato. But sometimes wine also dries out your mouth. You get the feeling that your teeth are chalky and your cheeks are trying to touch each other. That's tannin.

Tannins are a phenolic compound that comes from the grape skins and seeds. Think about if you've ever eaten a grape and have been left with just the skins in your mouth-it dries your mouth out and makes your teeth feel chalky. The same thing can happen when those grapes turn into wine. Sometimes people refer to this as 'bitter,' which isn't totally incorrect. But wine is made to not be bitter. So if you're thinking about describing a wine as bitter, consider if it isn't just tannic.

Ok so back to sweet and dry. Here's where the wine world wants to keep things confusing for everyone. I'll list off the levels of sweetness, usually pertaining to sparkling wines.

-Brut Nature (no sugar added)

-Extra Brut (very dry)

-Brut (dry)

-Extra Dry (off-dry)

-Sec (slightly sweet)

-Demi Sec (sweet)

-Doux (very sweet)

Not sure why we can't just call them sweet, really sweet, sweetest, but oh well. So with sparkling wine, winemakers are adding sugar and yeast to the bottle to start a second fermentation. In still wines, winemakers are picking the grapes at a certain ripeness and that determines the sugar content.

Here's the easiest way to determine how sweet a wine is if you forget everything else:

A lower alcohol content will mean a higher sugar content.

Low alcohol=sweet wine.

You're welcome.

Some Riesling producers are beginning to put a chart on the label so you can tell how sweet it is. But most sparkling wines do not do that. And it can be difficult to remember all the terms listed above when you're out shopping. So check the ABV. Anything under 10% will be sweet and so forth.

Just remember to differentiate dry and tannic if you are out and someone asks you what types of wine you prefer. The sommelier at the restaurant or wine bar wants to know if you like dry or sweet, and if you like tannins or not. So just saying you like "a really dry wine" may not be as specific as you think.

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