What is a Dry White Wine?

Everyone loves a crisp, dry white wine for summertime sipping. 

Relaxing with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in your backyard sounds heavenly. Plus, it will complement your favorite chicken salad, seafood, and spicy dishes year-round.

With a wide range of sweetness levels in white wine, it can be tough to tell what gives those brisk blends their dry taste, especially when they look similar to their sweeter counterparts. 

We’re clearing a few things up to help you find the perfect dry white wines for drinking and cooking.

What is a Dry White Wine?

What is Considered a Dry White Wine?

Generally, dry white wines are considered those with less than ten grams of residual sugar per liter. However, there are different levels of a white wine’s dryness ranging from bone-dry to sweet and everything in between. 

We’ve listed a few examples as well as a brief explanation of the broad categories of dry white wine sweetness levels for a better understanding. 

Bone Dry

If a white wine is bone dry, it will contain less than one gram of residual sugar per liter. 

Examples of bone-dry wines include Brut Champagne and Muscadet. 

There will typically be a dry mouthfeel with a white wine that’s bone dry, as the pronounced alcohol levels and acidity give it a slight bite. 

Off Dry

Early-harvest Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, full-bodied Chardonnay, Semillon, and Viognier are examples of off-dry or medium-dry wines. 

Off-dry wines contain about ten to thirty-five grams of residual sugar per liter. 

This white wine type might have a slightly sweet taste at first, but the finish will be unmistakably dry. 


Last but not least, sweet white wines include dessert wines like Ice Wine, Sherry, Moscato, Sauternes, and Tokaji. 

These wines are fortified with spirits like brandy, which changes the perception of the wine’s sweetness, adding to their syrupy sugar taste. 

Many of these dessert wines have over 100 grams of residual sugar and can have as much as around 300 grams of sugar. 

There is no mistaking the thick, candy texture and taste of a super sweet white wine. 

Now that we’ve addressed some of the broader categories of white white wine from dry to sweet, let’s look at more dry white wines that should definitely be on your tasting list. 

Sauvignon Blanc

We’re starting our list with a well-known dry white wine favorite, Sauvignon Blanc. This light-bodied white wine has high acidity and is full of citrus and tropical fruit notes. 

Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most famous wines in this category as it contains the least residual sugar, with less than four grams per bottle.  

This wine tastes best with raw green vegetables, chimichurri, pesto, and chicken dishes with citrus.

Because of its acidity, it complements spicy Thai food and Mexican food very well. 

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris

This wine is fascinating as many consider Pinot Gris to taste slightly sweeter than Pinot Grigio. Because of more complex fruit notes, Pinot Gris might taste a little sugary, but that doesn’t mean it has more residual sugar. After all, these two wines are the same. It just depends on where and how they’re crafted that gives them their names. 

Pinot Grigio comes from Italy and is often lighter and less sweet tasting, whereas Pinot Gris is crafted in France and may taste fruitier. 

This wine is less aromatic than Sauvignon Blanc and has a smooth mineral aftertaste with light stone fruit notes like white nectarine and pear, honeysuckle, and lemon/lime.  

Despite some label confusion, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris is an excellent pairing for light salads and seafood.

Sparkling Wine

Dry Prosecco and Brut Champagne will likely be the driest sparkling white wines you can sip. 

Avoid sweet wines like Moscato if you want something drier, as this style contains around 100-200 grams of sugar per liter! Wowza!

If you’re looking for the cream of the crop of sparkling white wine, Blanc de Blanc is a highly esteemed bubbly crafted entirely from white grapes. 

For a fresh and zesty combination, you can pair these lovely sparklers with caviar, oysters, lobster, strawberries, and white truffles. 

is Prosecco sweet or dry?

Dry Sherry 

Originally from Spain, Sherry is a fortified wine and is usually considered a dessert wine due to its sweetness. 

You might have heard of cream Sherry, which is bursting with sugar.

However, there are dry types of Sherry, like Manzanilla, Amontillado, and Oloroso, which contain flavors ranging from light and floral to complex savory notes.  

Dry Vermouth

Dry Vermouth, also known as White Vermouth or French Vermouth, is a light-bodied wine containing floral, fruity, and herbal notes.

With just five percent sugar, this white wine makes for the perfect Martini when mixed with Gin. 

It tastes fantastic with shrimp, salted ham, and anchovies.

Vermouth is an aromatized fortified wine flavored with botanicals, which makes it different from traditional wine. 

Dry White Wines for Cooking

The best dry white wines for cooking will depend on what each recipe calls for. 

Opt for heavy white wines like Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, or Viognier if you want to make a deliciously rich cream sauce.

For vegetable dishes with mushrooms, artichokes, or asparagus, a splash of acidic Sauvignon Blanc will harmonize these dishes. 

Pinot Grigio should do the trick for seafood dishes with light fish, as it has enough citrus flavors and acidity to bring out the natural mineral flavors and cut through the fat without overwhelming it. 

When cooking with sherry, look to heartier dishes like those with pork, mushrooms, or decadent soups like French onion. Dry cooking Sherry makes for a great marinade and will add savory flavors to heavier comfort foods. 

Last but not least, Vermouth also makes for a great marinade for pork or chicken and an excellent sauce for rich seafood like lobster. Don’t forget the butter and garlic!

Dry white wines for cooking

What is a Good Dry White Wine?

The bottom line is that a good dry white wine is whichever one you find works best for your sipping or cooking experience.

The ones on our list are incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed with several dishes as a meal pairing or ingredient. 

You can never go wrong with the classics when it comes to dry white wine. 

For your next bottle of white wine, shop our vast white wine selection

See the Macy's Insiders Blog for more wine tips and recipes.