Everyone has different standards when it comes to dry white wine. These can range from accepting anything drinkable and cold, to greater demands such as high critic scores or organic viticulture. The charm of wine is that there is always something for everyone. Read along for a list of the top ten dry white wines that to drink now.
This list will take you on a trip around the world because diversity in wine comes from different landscapes, climates, and traditions. Some classics and iconic takes on ubiquitous white grape varieties are suggested, as well as a few ideas to explore outside of the usual suspects.
What makes wine dry?
Before jumping in, a few clarifications are necessary. The term dry in wine is often mentioned without explaining what needs to be in balance for a wine to be deemed “dry”. Two of the main components in wine that play a key role in balance are sugar and acid.
Technically speaking, dry wines allow a maximum of 9g/L of residual sugar. These are sugars that naturally occur in grapes and are mostly converted to alcohol during fermentation. However, if fermentation stops before all the sugar is consumed, there will be some leftover and the wine may taste sweet.
If the grapes are also high in acid due to cooler climates or large diurnal shifts (the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures), then the residual sugar will not be as obvious.
Can we learn to taste?
Everyone has different thresholds for recognizing sugar which can actually be altered through regular focused tasting. If you want to train your palate, make a point of looking up a wine’s tech sheet. These provide information such as values for residual sugar and total acidity.
One more point of confusion for our senses is the fact that some dry white wines have a high aromatic character that we smell and associate with sweetness. With time and practice, it will become clear what actually tastes sweet and what is simply an olfactory experience.
Dry wines are often not labeled as such and there are not always clues to help with your choice. Our list is ranging from very dry high acid wines to more aromatic options.
The TOP 10 LIST
1. Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, France
Often considered to be one of the most iconic styles of Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre is made in the Loire Valley region of France. The region is known for its zingy high acid white wine which gets a lot of its characteristics from the mix of chalk, limestone, clay, and flint soils.
If your experience of Sauvignon Blanc evokes herbaceous grassy wines, Sancerre can be a welcome change with its peachy, gooseberry, and minerally notes. Sancerre must be made into a very dry wine so you can be sure there will be no sweetness when you take your first sip. The mouth-watering acidity pairs well with salty or briny foods like oysters or salad.
2. Chardonnay from Chablis, France
Chardonnay can be made in such a wide range of styles it is sometimes hard to tell what the actual grape tastes like. The Chablis region in France makes some exceptional bare-bones Chardonnay, which is usually aged in stainless steel.
Unlike oaky Chardonnays, Chablis wines have notes of citrus, minerals, pear, and sometimes a bit of salinity. The cool climate of the area and its limestone soils add a great deal of mineral structure to these wines. Seafood is always a great pairing, as well as creamier dishes.
3. Riesling from Australia
No one can dismiss the influence of Germany as the origin of the Riesling grape. However, the predominantly cool climate grape is rapidly making its way around the world, finding great success even in warmer regions.
Australia has been making great strides with Riesling, and excellent wines are consistently being made in the Clare and Eden Valleys. While these regions see their fair share of warmth, they are also at higher elevations and have huge shifts in diurnals, allowing the grapes to maintain maximal acidity.
Riesling emits a noseful of aromas, including blossoms, peaches, lime, green apple, and plenty more. When its high acidity and sugars are balanced, magic occurs!
Thankfully the majority of Rieslings from Australia are made as dry white wines. However, if you choose to try one from their native Germany, aim to find a label with the word Trocken which means dry in German. As well, when the alcohol level is greater than 10% it is likely that the wine will be on the drier side.
4. Albarino from Spain
Spain is well known for its hearty red wines capable of aging for many years. However, the white wines from Rías Baixas on the western Atlantic coast are certainly memorable. Albariño is easily the star grape of this region, and can also be found as Alvarinho in Portugal’s popular Vinho Verde.
In Spain, the grape is generally found in single varietal wines and is known for its high acid, complemented by notes of tropical fruits and salty sea air. Try a glass and you might fool yourself into thinking you are on the Spanish seaside.
5. Gruner Veltliner from Austria
Austria’s number one grape makes dry white wines you definitely have to try. Grüner Veltliner is made in lighter and fuller styles which are great for pairing with a wide range of dishes.
Grüner Veltliner can taste herbaceous and peppery, citrusy, and even a bit spicy. While it can be found in other countries including across the world in Australia, be sure to try an example from its homeland Austria.
6. Torrontés from Argentina
Though Malbec gets all the fame in Argentina, Torrontés is a native white grape, used to make excellent dry white wines. In particular, the Torrontés grown at high altitudes in Salta, in the north of Argentina, thrives in the desert-like conditions of the area.
The aromas of flowers, lemon, and peach might trick you into thinking you are about to drink a glass of sweet and perfumed wine, but the actual experience is something else. White wines made from the Torrontés grape are generally high in acidity and medium body. Its exotic flavors make it great to drink as an apéritif or to enjoy with a variety of dishes with different spice profiles.
7. Garganega from Soave, Italy
Garganega is the main grape in the wines of the Soave region in northeast Italy. These wines have fruity notes of peach, melon, and zesty citrus to add a tang. If it is aged in oak, the wine will have an added nuttiness and almond finish.
Soave is a great alternative to Pinot Grigio as it is easy drinking and light-bodied but with extra richness. Soave pairs well with lighter meat preparations and cream-based dishes.
8. Verdicchio from Marche, Italy
Verdicchio is one of Italy’s hundreds of indigenous grapes. It is native to Le Marche, a quiet and traditional region on the Adriatic coast. This is reflected in the natural way Verdicchio is produced, allowing it to be expressed in its purest form.
Verdicchio often has floral aromas of lily and jasmine, as well as notes of almond and tree fruits. It is generally high in acid and can have some citrus notes. It pairs well with salty dishes and seafood.
9. Assyrtiko from Santorini, Greece
What better place to enjoy a crisp glass of dry white wine than Santorini in Greece? Assyrtiko is a grape native to the island, grown in volcanic soil. The harsh wind and intense sunshine can take a toll on the vines, so they are often grown in wreath shapes called kouloura.
Assyrtiko will definitely quench your thirst thanks to its high acidity. Flavors of lime, passionfruit, jasmine, and spices are often present, as well as a saline influence from the Aegean Sea. Serve it cold to start off your meal or pair it with seafood and Mediterranean dishes.
10. Zéro Dosage/Brut Nature Champagne
It is always a treat to have Champagne on the table! Due to the high acidity required to make sparkling wine, Champagne often has a higher degree of residual sugar since some winemakers choose to sweeten it before sealing the final product.
The scale to determine sweetness level in Champagne is not so clear as a bottle labeled Extra Dry is actually tasted as off-dry. If you enjoy high acidity, your best bet is to choose a Champagne labeled Zéro Dosage or Brut Nature.
These have no added sugar, however, there is usually still a minimal amount of residual sugar due to the nature of fermentation. These styles are highly refreshing and great for a toast or to accompany a meal.
While high-end pairings include caviar and oysters, the acidity and bubbles of Champagne make a great pairing for creamy dishes and fried food. Why not have your Champagne with a bag of potato chips?