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,

I overheard a bartender at a local winery state that "Merlot is the driest red wine." By no means am I an expert, but my experience is that Cabernet Sauvignon is almost universally drier. Like a fool, I challenged the young man, but he held his stance. Perhaps I am confusing acidity or body with the relative dryness of my wine? Please enlighten me!

—Bill, Marblehead, Ohio

Dear Bill,

Dryness has a couple of meanings in wine. The term is commonly used to refer to the absence of sweetness, and most table wines wines are technically dry in that they lack the residual sugar that makes dessert wines sweet. The typical Merlot has the same amount of residual sugar as the typical Cabernet—virtually none. Instead, I'm guessing both of you are referring to the feeling of dryness, which as you suggest is created by a wine's body: the balance of its acidity, weight, tannins and alcohol.

I agree with you that in general, Cabernet Sauvignon is a bigger, bolder wine that is much more likely to give you that puckery feeling from (in particular) its tannins than is Merlot. In fact, Merlot is known and loved for its supple tannins and easy-drinking profile. And while some Merlots might have higher levels of acidity than typical Cabernets, acidity makes your mouth water, not dry it out. So I'm on your side. While there are probably some examples of a Merlot feeling "dryer" than a Cabernet, generally Cabernet Sauvignons will leave more of a drying sensation than most Merlots.

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories