Which tastes sweeter: Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Does Sauvignon Blanc have a sweetness to its taste? Is it sweeter than Chardonnay?

—Sharon, Hot Springs, Ark.

Dear Sharon,

Both Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are made in a variety of styles, and both can be made into anything from a crisp, dry white to a sweet late-harvest-style dessert wine. You could find examples of Sauvignon Blanc sweeter than a Chardonnay, and you could find examples of the reverse, too. But overall, I wouldn’t describe Sauvignon Blanc as “sweeter” than Chardonnay. In fact, I would expect the vast majority of Sauvignon Blancs to be leaner, crisper and more herbal than the vast majority of Chardonnays.

I think that the term “sweet” confuses wine lovers sometimes, both in its definition and because sweetness thresholds vary from person to person. Technically, “sweet” is the opposite of “dry,” but some dry wines can give the impression of sweetness. That sensation isn’t coming from any residual sugar left in the wine, but the ripeness of the grapes, or notes from the influence of an oak barrel. The sensation of sweetness is also influenced by other factors in the wine, such as acidity, tannins, alcohol and glycerin.

—Dr. Vinny

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