definition of dry

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definition of dry

Postby RonicaJM » Thu Sep 07, 2006 4:00 pm

While at Barnes and Noble last night I was skimming Andrea Immer's book and came accross a definition of dry that I found quite clear and quite interesting. I have to admit, I've been a little confused about how to distinguish b/t what is dry, off dry, sweet.

Even at our wine tasting last week we were all trying to figure out if the wines we were tasting were dry or off dry/slightly sweet.

According to Immer the wine community is at fault for this confusion and she says that any wine that has no residual sugar is dry, which means the majority of wines.

That makes a lot of sense to me and is the only definition of dry that I've read that I can actually remember. So, that means all of the wines we tasted (except the dessert wine) were dry.

Do you agree with her definition?
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Bob Ross » Thu Sep 07, 2006 4:24 pm

I agree with one small caveat: sometimes a wine with residual sugar doesn't taste sweet -- i.e. it tastes like a wine with no residual sugar -- because of acidity levels. Thomas has valiantly explained this concept in the past, and perhaps he will chime in.

As the OED puts it: "Of wines, etc.: Free from sweetness and fruity flavour." Taste is a better barometer of dryness than the presence or absence of sugar.

BTW, the first usage in English is around 1600: a1700 B. E. Dict. Cant. Crew, Dry-wine, a little rough upon, but very grateful to the Palate.

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Re: definition of dry

Postby Ian Sutton » Thu Sep 07, 2006 4:26 pm

:)
Yes this one does cause a bit of debate around the table.

In principle I agree with the definition, though in the absence of a residual sugar amount noted on the label I'd refer to my perception of residual sugar. FWIW, the NZ wine critic Michael Cooper uses the following definition in his wine buyers guide:
Dry: less than 5grams/litre of sugar
Med-dry (aka off-dry): 5-14 grams / litre
Med: 15-49 grams / litre
Sweet: 50+ grams / litre

By this count most reds are dry and a large proportion of whites, even though some reds will have a somewhat sweet taste from the ripe fruit.

However some wines still taste sweet when there is little or no residual sugar, either due to the strength of the fruit (where I'll aim to refer to it as "fruit-sweet but otherwise dry") or the effect of alcohol, which can give an impression of sweetness (I might refer to possible alcohol related sweetness).

with off-dry or sweet wines, it's very useful to consider the acidity levels, as high acidity can work stunningly well with sweetness, whereas sweetness without acidity, tends towards flabbyness and supermarket Liebfraumilch or Lambrusco.

Another good question!

regards

Ian
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Carl Eppig » Thu Sep 07, 2006 4:29 pm

The only problem is that a lot of wine that says "Dry" right on the bottle; isn't. Finger Lakes Riesling is just one example. If you go to websites of some of the wineries and look up technical data on their "Dry Riesling", you will find the it runs around 1.4% R.S. on the average. There are many other examples, but finding the tech data on some is somewhat difficult.
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Howie Hart » Thu Sep 07, 2006 4:55 pm

Another bit of confusion is with sparkling wines.

    Naturel - totally dry
    Brut - .5 to 1.5% RS
    Extra Dry - 1.5 to 2.5% RS
    Dry - 2.5 to 3.5% RS
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Hoke » Thu Sep 07, 2006 6:04 pm

Howie Hart wrote:Another bit of confusion is with sparkling wines.

    Naturel - totally dry
    Brut - .5 to 1.5% RS
    Extra Dry - 1.5 to 2.5% RS
    Dry - 2.5 to 3.5% RS


Well, that confusion came about because the original Champagne was treacly sweet (that was both the preferred style and the only way they could make it in the non-tech ages). So when they came out with one that was a tad less sweet, they named it "Sec", French for dry.

Once they did that, the only way they could go when they came out with a drier version than Sec/Dry was to say, "Er, this one is....Extra-Dry. Yeah, that's it, Extra-Dry!"

Then the even drier than Extra Dry Version had to get named so some French marketing genius said it was sooooo dry it was savage, like a brute (Brut, as in Sauvage, harsh, unrefined, rough).

By the time they got down that far in dryness, the only thing left for the driest of all was "Naturel", or Natural: as in, we haven't mucked around with this one, so it's almost like naturally occurring stuff, without all that extra sugar we keep putting in it.

In other words, just turn the usual order of dry to sweet upside down and you've got the Champagne nomenclature right side up. :)
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Rahsaan » Thu Sep 07, 2006 6:12 pm

Very long and entertaining discussion of the subject here:


http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/vil ... definition
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Re: definition of dry

Postby RonicaJM » Thu Sep 07, 2006 8:09 pm

Hmmmm. I can't say that I'm not confused. But that's OK. At least my status has gone from "cellar rat" to "wine geek." 8) I'll worry about being a "wine guru" later.
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Thomas » Thu Sep 07, 2006 11:57 pm

I have no argument with Andrea Immer Robinson's statement that "any wine that has no residual sugar is dry." Problem is: hardly any wine comes without residual sugar, which logically would mean that there are no dry wines.

It is a simplistic definition that defies the facts of winemaking, wine technology, wine marketing, and the perceptions of palates.
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Bob Ross » Fri Sep 08, 2006 12:18 am

Ronica, don't worry about being confused. In fact, you will rarely need to identify whether a wine is dry or not as a practical matter. As you can see, it is a very confusing topic.

Just keep tasting and drinking wine and you'll start to understand the word better.

Regards, Bob
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Re: definition of dry

Postby RonicaJM » Fri Sep 08, 2006 2:01 am

Great advice!!!!! Thanks! :D
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Sue Courtney » Fri Sep 08, 2006 2:11 am

Ian Sutton wrote::)
Yes this one does cause a bit of debate around the table.

In principle I agree with the definition, though in the absence of a residual sugar amount noted on the label I'd refer to my perception of residual sugar. FWIW, the NZ wine critic Michael Cooper uses the following definition in his wine buyers guide:
Dry: less than 5grams/litre of sugar
Med-dry (aka off-dry): 5-14 grams / litre
Med: 15-49 grams / litre
Sweet: 50+ grams / litre

By this count most reds are dry and a large proportion of whites, even though some reds will have a somewhat sweet taste from the ripe fruit.

However some wines still taste sweet when there is little or no residual sugar, either due to the strength of the fruit (where I'll aim to refer to it as "fruit-sweet but otherwise dry") or the effect of alcohol, which can give an impression of sweetness (I might refer to possible alcohol related sweetness).

with off-dry or sweet wines, it's very useful to consider the acidity levels, as high acidity can work stunningly well with sweetness, whereas sweetness without acidity, tends towards flabbyness and supermarket Liebfraumilch or Lambrusco.

Another good question!

regards

Ian


FWIW, at NZ wines shows, the cutoffs for dry / medium and medium sweet differ a little from Michael's definitions. Dry can be up to and including 7.5 grams per litre (g/l) of residual sugar (rs), medium starts at the cutoff for dry and goes up to 30g/l rs, medium sweet is 30 to 50 g/l rs and sweet is over 50 g/l rs.

All NZ wine shows have dry and medium classes for the aromatic wines and this can vary depending on theshow. In addition the Royal Easter Show has dry/medium subclasses for the non-aromatics.

In the Air NZ Wine Awards - Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer are split into dry and medium subclasses, where dry is up to (but not including) 7g/l rs and medium is 7g/l rs to 30g/rs. All wines from 30g/l rs to 50g/l rs are considered medium sweet and sweet is over 50g/l rs. There is no dry/medium split for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and other whites.

In the New Zealand International Wine Show, and the Liquorland Top 100, the cut off for dry in the Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer classes is up to (but not including) 7.5 grams per litre of residual sugar. Ditto as above for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, etc.

In the Royal Easter Wine Show, they also split Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon into dry and medium subclasses and for a wine to be in a dry class, residual sugar must not exceed 5g/l rs. However in the aromatics and other specified and unspecified white classes, residual sugar must not exceed (therefore includes) 7.5g/l rs for a wine to be correctly entered in the dry subclass.

Is it confusing - or what? And then, as you say, many people's perception of sweetness can be altered by other factors, including acidity. Last week, when teaching a wine class I poured a Riesling that had 29 g/l rs and 9 g/l total acidity and to everyone there, it tasted much drier and much lower in acid than it really was.

Cheers,
Sue
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Sep 08, 2006 4:30 am

Right on Bob, as usual everything neatly summed up in three lines!!! I was going to enter this discussion but after reading the May thread, my head is spinning...or is it that `89 Graacher?!!
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Thomas » Fri Sep 08, 2006 8:44 am

Sue Courtney wrote:
Ian Sutton wrote::)
Yes this one does cause a bit of debate around the table.

In principle I agree with the definition, though in the absence of a residual sugar amount noted on the label I'd refer to my perception of residual sugar. FWIW, the NZ wine critic Michael Cooper uses the following definition in his wine buyers guide:
Dry: less than 5grams/litre of sugar
Med-dry (aka off-dry): 5-14 grams / litre
Med: 15-49 grams / litre
Sweet: 50+ grams / litre

By this count most reds are dry and a large proportion of whites, even though some reds will have a somewhat sweet taste from the ripe fruit.

However some wines still taste sweet when there is little or no residual sugar, either due to the strength of the fruit (where I'll aim to refer to it as "fruit-sweet but otherwise dry") or the effect of alcohol, which can give an impression of sweetness (I might refer to possible alcohol related sweetness).

with off-dry or sweet wines, it's very useful to consider the acidity levels, as high acidity can work stunningly well with sweetness, whereas sweetness without acidity, tends towards flabbyness and supermarket Liebfraumilch or Lambrusco.

Another good question!

regards

Ian


FWIW, at NZ wines shows, the cutoffs for dry / medium and medium sweet differ a little from Michael's definitions. Dry can be up to and including 7.5 grams per litre (g/l) of residual sugar (rs), medium starts at the cutoff for dry and goes up to 30g/l rs, medium sweet is 30 to 50 g/l rs and sweet is over 50 g/l rs.

All NZ wine shows have dry and medium classes for the aromatic wines and this can vary depending on theshow. In addition the Royal Easter Show has dry/medium subclasses for the non-aromatics.

In the Air NZ Wine Awards - Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer are split into dry and medium subclasses, where dry is up to (but not including) 7g/l rs and medium is 7g/l rs to 30g/rs. All wines from 30g/l rs to 50g/l rs are considered medium sweet and sweet is over 50g/l rs. There is no dry/medium split for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and other whites.

In the New Zealand International Wine Show, and the Liquorland Top 100, the cut off for dry in the Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer classes is up to (but not including) 7.5 grams per litre of residual sugar. Ditto as above for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, etc.

In the Royal Easter Wine Show, they also split Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon into dry and medium subclasses and for a wine to be in a dry class, residual sugar must not exceed 5g/l rs. However in the aromatics and other specified and unspecified white classes, residual sugar must not exceed (therefore includes) 7.5g/l rs for a wine to be correctly entered in the dry subclass.

Is it confusing - or what? And then, as you say, many people's perception of sweetness can be altered by other factors, including acidity. Last week, when teaching a wine class I poured a Riesling that had 29 g/l rs and 9 g/l total acidity and to everyone there, it tasted much drier and much lower in acid than it really was.

Cheers,
Sue


This subject certainly is confusing, if you are tying to pin down a definition of the word dry. It is obvious that the real definition of the word is based not on exact numbers or on belief systems but on technical stats meeting perceptions, and even there they change from place to place and person to person.

The varying ranges possible, relative to sugar/acid/fruit, plus the perceptions of individual palates, renders the word "dry" a weak and often useless descriptor, as most single word descriptors generally are.
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Sep 08, 2006 9:20 am

Thomas wrote:I have no argument with Andrea Immer Robinson's statement that "any wine that has no residual sugar is dry." Problem is: hardly any wine comes without residual sugar, which logically would mean that there are no dry wines.


Always looking for a short-cut answer, though, Thomas, don't you think Andrea's problem would have been largely solved here if she had added a single adjective, "Any wine that has no <i>perceptible</i> residual sugar is dry"? Or, restated, "If it doesn't taste sweet, it's dry"?
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Re: definition of dry

Postby David Creighton » Fri Sep 08, 2006 9:53 am

the technical books say that .2%rs - i.e. 2 gr/l is dry from a winemaking point of view - i. e. that you can't reliably ferment beyond that amount. they also say that .5% rs is organileptically dry since that is supposed to be the human threshold for perceiving it. many major competitions seem to allow that up to .7% rs is dry by constructing their entry classes using that limit. i well remember the first time kj chard won best of show at .7%rs and the fuss it created. to the technically astute judges, that was not a dry wine. now of course that is the standard in ca for chard and many others. many reds and whites that are mass market wines are clearly intentionally made at about .7 or even more. the number of truly dry wines on the market therefore is actually surprisingly small - certainly as a percentage of sales. AND no one has mentioned glycerine - which is an alcohol that truly does taste sweet. some yeast strains have been developed to produce higher levels. just had to chime in; but won't be around to see the dust up if there is one. i'm off to niagara for a weekend of theatre and wine tasting.
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Ian Sutton » Fri Sep 08, 2006 12:02 pm

creightond wrote: AND no one has mentioned glycerine - which is an alcohol that truly does taste sweet.

ooh! oooh!! I did :P
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Thomas » Fri Sep 08, 2006 2:28 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Thomas wrote:I have no argument with Andrea Immer Robinson's statement that "any wine that has no residual sugar is dry." Problem is: hardly any wine comes without residual sugar, which logically would mean that there are no dry wines.


Always looking for a short-cut answer, though, Thomas, don't you think Andrea's problem would have been largely solved here if she had added a single adjective, "Any wine that has no <i>perceptible</i> residual sugar is dry"? Or, restated, "If it doesn't taste sweet, it's dry"?


Robin,

Perhaps, but one person's "perceptible" can be another person's "eeww, sweet," especially when the r.s. is on that precarious borderline leaning toward sweet, wrapped in a bowl of tropical fruit, helped by malolactic low acidity, and taken up a notch by alcohol--all in a valiant and often successful effort to confuse the palate.

In my opinion, the word "dry" to describe wine should be abandoned. I like the idea of maybe listing the r.s. and the relative acidity. Over time, consumers would come to better understand the relationship between those two and, more important, they would figure out the levels of that relationship that pleases their palates. Plus, there would be no need for single phrase solutions that are inaccurate or uninformative at trying to explain a technical situation.

That is my opinion, it is not, however, my expectation of how events will turn out.
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Sep 08, 2006 4:52 pm

Thomas wrote:one person's "perceptible" can be another person's "eeww, sweet," especially when the r.s. is on that precarious borderline leaning toward sweet, wrapped in a bowl of tropical fruit, helped by malolactic low acidity, and taken up a notch by alcohol--all in a valiant and often successful effort to confuse the palate.


True, but as with so many other elements of wine - TCA sensitivity, for instance - individual perceptions vary, but this doesn't deter us from declaring a wine "corked" if most tasters pick up musty/moldy stench in it. The industry has a pretty clearly established definition for threshold of perception in RS, and it seems to me to be needlessly finicky to look for a more precise definition.

In my opinion, the word "dry" to describe wine should be abandoned. I like the idea of maybe listing the r.s. and the relative acidity. Over time, consumers would come to better understand the relationship between those two and, more important, they would figure out the levels of that relationship that pleases their palates. Plus, there would be no need for single phrase solutions that are inaccurate or uninformative at trying to explain a technical situation.

That is my opinion, it is not, however, my expectation of how events will turn out.


I don't think it's going to happen, either, and honestly, I don't think it should. Why make wine appreciation more complicated than it already is.

Now, in terms of ain't-gonna-happen ideas, how about we make it a felony, subject to jail time, for a producer to label his wine "dry" if it clearly is not? :)
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Thomas » Fri Sep 08, 2006 6:45 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Thomas wrote:one person's "perceptible" can be another person's "eeww, sweet," especially when the r.s. is on that precarious borderline leaning toward sweet, wrapped in a bowl of tropical fruit, helped by malolactic low acidity, and taken up a notch by alcohol--all in a valiant and often successful effort to confuse the palate.


True, but as with so many other elements of wine - TCA sensitivity, for instance - individual perceptions vary, but this doesn't deter us from declaring a wine "corked" if most tasters pick up musty/moldy stench in it. The industry has a pretty clearly established definition for threshold of perception in RS, and it seems to me to be needlessly finicky to look for a more precise definition.

In my opinion, the word "dry" to describe wine should be abandoned. I like the idea of maybe listing the r.s. and the relative acidity. Over time, consumers would come to better understand the relationship between those two and, more important, they would figure out the levels of that relationship that pleases their palates. Plus, there would be no need for single phrase solutions that are inaccurate or uninformative at trying to explain a technical situation.

That is my opinion, it is not, however, my expectation of how events will turn out.


I don't think it's going to happen, either, and honestly, I don't think it should. Why make wine appreciation more complicated than it already is.

Now, in terms of ain't-gonna-happen ideas, how about we make it a felony, subject to jail time, for a producer to label his wine "dry" if it clearly is not? :)


Sure, we make it a felony, but first we have to codify the technical parameters of "dry," and we are right back where we started.

I don't want to go into the argument we had a while back, but in my opinion, focusing on the sugar to determine what makes a dry wine is bassacwards.
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Re: definition of dry

Postby TimMc » Fri Sep 08, 2006 10:24 pm

Definition of dry?

How astringent it is to the taste.

I have had numerous dry whites and reds that smell sweet or off dry, but finish dry.
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Re: definition of dry

Postby DebA » Sun Sep 10, 2006 3:46 pm

TimMc wrote:Definition of dry? How astringent it is to the taste. I have had numerous dry whites and reds that smell sweet or off dry, but finish dry.


Without consideration for the r.s. technicalities, of which I am not knowledgeable enough to convey to someone else, this is a simplistic and pure definition that I can agree with. :cool:
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Re: definition of dry

Postby Robin Garr » Sun Sep 10, 2006 4:00 pm

Deborah Ackerman wrote:Without consideration for the r.s. technicalities, of which I am not knowledgeable enough to convey to someone else, this is a simplistic and pure definition that I can agree with. :cool:


Unfortunately, there's a problem with it. :( "Astringency," a mouth-puckering feeling similar to that you get from strong black tea, is a well-established description for the effect one gets in a wine with lots of tannins. It's a useful wine term indeed, but it defines a completely different sensation than "dry" in the traditional wine sense. If you want a "simplistic and pure" definition of "Dry," then I suggest we go with "not sweet." :)
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Re: definition of dry

Postby DebA » Sun Sep 10, 2006 4:26 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Deborah Ackerman wrote:Without consideration for the r.s. technicalities, of which I am not knowledgeable enough to convey to someone else, this is a simplistic and pure definition that I can agree with. :cool:


Unfortunately, there's a problem with it. :( "Astringency," a mouth-puckering feeling similar to that you get from strong black tea, is a well-established description for the effect one gets in a wine with lots of tannins. It's a useful wine term indeed, but it defines a completely different sensation than "dry" in the traditional wine sense. If you want a "simplistic and pure" definition of "Dry," then I suggest we go with "not sweet." :)

____________________________

Ah, I stand corrected and more informed, Robin, and thank you very much for the clarification. That is one of the reasons I enjoy the interaction on WLDG forums. Apparently, I have been under the wrong impression of the term "dry," especially as I tend to not enjoy a very dry wine. I will go with the "not sweet" definition from here on, or at least until my understanding increases. :cool:
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