ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Does Sauvignon Blanc have a sweetness to its taste? Is it sweeter than Chardonnay?

—Sharon, Hot Springs, Ark.

Dear Sharon,

Both Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are made in a variety of styles, and both can be made into anything from a crisp, dry white to a sweet late-harvest-style dessert wine. You could find examples of Sauvignon Blanc sweeter than a Chardonnay, and you could find examples of the reverse, too. But overall, I wouldn’t describe Sauvignon Blanc as “sweeter” than Chardonnay. In fact, I would expect the vast majority of Sauvignon Blancs to be leaner, crisper and more herbal than the vast majority of Chardonnays.

I think that the term “sweet” confuses wine lovers sometimes, both in its definition and because sweetness thresholds vary from person to person. Technically, “sweet” is the opposite of “dry,” but some dry wines can give the impression of sweetness. That sensation isn’t coming from any residual sugar left in the wine, but the ripeness of the grapes, or notes from the influence of an oak barrel. The sensation of sweetness is also influenced by other factors in the wine, such as acidity, tannins, alcohol and glycerin.

—Dr. Vinny


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