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Dear Dr. Vinny,
When a recipe calls for a "dry white wine," what wines do they mean? I know a dessert wine is not considered dry. What whites are "dry"?
—Jack H., Indianapolis
Whether a wine is considered "dry" or not depends on the amount of residual sugar it has. Technically, wines with less than 10 grams per liter are considered "dry," those with more than 30 grams per liter are "sweet" or dessert wines, and anything in between is considered "off-dry." In practice, different people have different thresholds for tasting sweetness in wine, so what you consider dry another person might taste as sweet.
In general, some whites wines are almost always made in a dry style: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Spanish Albariños and Austrian Grüner Veltliners, for example. Some wines often fall between dry and off-dry: many New World Chardonnays, Rieslings, Viogniers and Pinot Gris, for example. And some whites are always sweet: Sauternes and "late-harvest" bottlings of grapes such as Riesling and Chenin Blanc are examples.
Regardless, always taste a wine before you cook with it. If it's not fun to drink, it won't improve your dish.
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