What does it mean to say a wine is dry?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have heard of dry wine and wet wines. How do I tell which is which?

—Bob K., Port Orchard, Wash.

Dear Bob,

When it comes to wine, the opposite of dry is not wet, but sweet. Since most folks don't go around carrying hydrometers and such to measure the actual sugar level of a wine, the term "dry" usually refers to the perception of a lack of sweetness. It's not the most useful tasting term—most table wines are dry.

Because of the balance of elements such as acidity and tannins, a wine might be described as "drying," meaning that it feels like you have cotton balls in your mouth after trying it. The opposite of "drying" is "refreshing."

—Dr. Vinny

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