OK. I feel compelled to write this specific post because I need to get a couple things off my chest.Â Yes, thatâs right, Iâm taking to the blog to work out some of my recent (wine-selling) frustrations.Â
To be clear, these arenât frustrations having anything to do with you, the ever awesome readers of Wine and Walnuts, mind you, or any of the folks Iâve done an in-home tasting for lately, itâs more about the people Iâve served or sold wine to in my day job, who insist on telling me a dry wine is sweet, when it most emphatically is not. Again today, in fact.Â
So I thought I would turn lemons into lemonade, i.e., use my annoyance on the subject as an opportunity to clear up some of the confusion over what it means to be sweet, and what it means to be dry, when talking wine.
(The information below comes from an awesome book, which I highly, highly recommend, called âOldmanâs Guide to Outsmarting Wine,â by Gary Oldman)
1.Â Dry is technically the opposite of sweet. A textbook dry wine occurs when all of the natural sugar in grapes converts to alcohol during the fermentation process.
2.Â Sweet wine gets that way because not all of its sugar is allowed to convert to alcohol.Â The unfermented sugar left in the wine is called âresidual sugar.â
3.Â Off-dry wines are semisweet, i.e., they have a moderate amount of residual sugar.
4.Â What gives the impression of sweetness in a dry wine is actually the fermentation of extra-ripe grapes.Â Grapes can get very ripe in warm climates like those of Australia and California, hence wines from those areas can sometimes give off the impression of sweetness.Â This comes from the natural fruitiness of extremely ripe grapes, and when used, the wineâs contact with the oak barrels it is fermented in (giving the wine a vanilla-like dimension), but not from residual sugar.
5.Â OK, I donât really have a #5, but âDry Versus Sweet in 4 Easy Stepsâ didnât sound as good.
And there you have it.Â So, to the lady who argued with me about the delightful Pinot Noir I recommended to she and her friends the other day, saying sheâd had it before and it was sweet . . . Ahem, like I said (very nicely, I might add), âThe wine is actually fruity, which some people interpret as sweet, but itâs not âsweetâ â technically itâs a dry wine.âÂ
I hope this clears up some confusion around dry versus sweet wines, and as always, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time if you have questions about anything you read here.
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