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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What are the characteristics of an off-dry wine?

—Gillou, Danville, Ky.

Dear Gillou,

A “dry” wine is one in which all the perceptible sugar in the grapes has been converted to alcohol during fermentation—most table wines are dry, to give you some context. So as you might guess, an “off-dry” or “semi-dry” wine means that there’s a bit of leftover sugar.

It’s easy for me to just say that off-dry wine has a soft or mild sweetness to it, but it’s hard to describe what that might taste like to you. Sometimes an off-dry wine can be notably sweet, but other times it’s a surprise when a wine is off-dry because that touch of sweetness is in balance with the other elements in a wine. My favorite examples of off-dry wines tend to be Rieslings. I like how they tend to be a little smoother, plumper and more succulent, like biting into a perfectly ripe peach. They can still have plenty of mouthwatering acidity, but that tiny bit of sweetness also makes them an excellent match to spicy foods, and that's what I’m thinking of when I’m ordering Thai or Vietnamese food in particular.

—Dr. Vinny

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