Is there a difference between a “semi-dry” wine and an “off-dry” wine?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is there a difference between a “semi-dry” wine and an “off-dry” wine?

—Caitlyn, Cape Town, S.A.

Dear Caitlyn,

Nope! “Semi-dry” and “off-dry” are two terms for the same thing. Dryness in wine has a technical definition: Wines with less than 10 grams of residual sugar per liter are considered “dry,” those with more than 30 grams per liter are “sweet,” and anything that falls between is considered “off-dry” or “semi-dry.”

Talking about sweetness in wine can be a complicated thing. Even though you might think that all wines that are technically dry taste dry, or all wines with more than 10 games of residual sugar per liter have at least a perceptible sweetness, that’s not always the case. A wine can be technically dry, but the flavors come across as ripe and even a little bit sweet. A semi-dry wine can still have plenty of acidity that makes the flavors seem fresher than candied.

To further muddle the situation, perception and tolerance for sweetness can vary from person to person. What might seem cloying to you might seem perfectly fine to my sweet tooth.

—Dr. Vinny

Legal and Legislative Issues Labeling Regulations Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Does Pinot Noir come in both red and white versions? Are they the same grape?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how red wines get their color. (Hint: It's not …

Jun 22, 2022

If you're supposed to hold a wineglass by the stem, why are stemless glasses so popular?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains the pros and cons of stemless …

Jun 13, 2022

How much do our taste buds influence our perception of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains how taste sensitivity impacts our …

Jun 6, 2022

What's the shelf life of a box of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains why box wines aren't meant to …

May 31, 2022

Should I refill my own wineglass, or ask the host or server to?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the etiquette or wine service, for hosts and for …

May 23, 2022

What’s the best way to remove the cork from an imperial (a 6-liter bottle of wine)?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains best practices for opening—and serving—large-for…

May 16, 2022