Which red wines are the driest?

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,

I love very dry reds, but I usually just go with Cabernet Sauvignon because I'm a little intimidated to try others. I was told that Chianti is slightly drier but I have yet to try it. Which red wines are the driest?

—Stephanie, Baltimore

Dear Stephanie,

When it comes to wine, “dry” can have both a literal definition and an informal one. Officially, dryness refers to the absence of sugar. During fermentation, the grape sugars are converted to alcohol. If all, or nearly all, of the sugar converts—with less than 10 grams of residual sugar per liter or less remaining—the wine is technically considered dry. In this sense, most table wines are “dry.”

But dryness is also a feeling you can get from red wine, particularly the tugging on your cheeks or chewy texture that can come from tannins. Some grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon, are naturally high in tannins, and there are winemaking practices that can also accentuate tannins.

Chianti is a district in Italy’s Tuscany region, and the wines from there are made primarily from the Sangiovese grape. Some Chiantis can be big and bold with a mouthful of drying tannins, but I think Sangioveses can also be rather juicy, with an acidity that makes them very food-friendly. Give them a try, they might be to your liking. I think that Syrah and Petite Sirah–based wines can also be very dry. The driest? I’d say Nebbiolos, which can be big bruisers of a wine when young.

And try not to feel intimidated! You might want to find a local wine shop and tell them you’re interested in exploring dry reds. Just tell them your price range, some wines you’ve enjoyed in the past, and ask them for their advice. Believe me, most stores will try to sell you something you’d like so you’ll come back. In general, I’d be careful of some of the cheaper wines, which tend to be made in a sweeter, smoother, easy-drinking style. But you should find plenty of good examples of dry wines for about $8 and up.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Does anyone refer to Sauvignon Blanc as 'White Sav'?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for ordering wine at …

Nov 29, 2021

Does food cooked with wine taste like wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why wine is such a popular recipe ingredient.

Nov 22, 2021

My basement wine cellar flooded. Are my wines ruined?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains what to watch for when a wine …

Nov 15, 2021

Are sulfates and sulfites in wine the same thing?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the difference between chemical compounds …

Nov 8, 2021

What does it mean to say a wine is "full-bodied"?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how we talk about a wine's structure and "body."

Nov 1, 2021

Is it OK to store wine in Styrofoam shipping containers?

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

Oct 25, 2021