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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is the meaning of a “dry” wine—white or red?

—Sampath P., Sri Lanka

Dear Sampath,

There are two ways the term “dry” is used in describing wine. The first is pretty technical. A wine is considered dry when the sugar from the grapes completely converts to alcohol in the fermentation process. If there’s still a little residual sugar, it might be called “off dry” or “semi-sweet” or just “sweet,” depending on how much sugar is left.

Most table wines are technically dry, so this term is more often used to describe how the wine feels in your mouth, particularly when it comes to tannins. Tannins are found in the skins and seeds of grapes, and can also come from oak barrels. Tannins are part of a wine’s structure, providing the familiar tug on your cheeks and tongue that’s similar to drinking strong black tea.

Tannins can feel smooth and round, silky or velvety, or can veer towards dusty or chewy, and can feel drying, which is the opposite of juicy and mouthwatering.

—Dr. Vinny

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