Difference Between Dry And Sweet Wine

Wines come in two main types: white and red. Both wines have many similarities and differences, but they both have one core trait that sets them apart: sweetness. Dry wines have a low residual sugar level and a neutral or bitter taste. On the other side, sweet wines have a high residual sugar level, and they have a fruity, sweeter taste. The main difference between dry and sweet wines is the amount of residual sugar left after fermentation.

Wine is a beverage that can be consumed in many ways. While wine varies from region to region and even from grape variety to grape variety, there are some common differences in their flavor profiles. These differences come from different wine production methods, and they can also depend on the grape variety used in production. The more sugar in the wine, the more “sweet’’ the wine is. A more detailed comparison of the differences between dry and sweet wine follows below.

Dry Wine

As its name suggests, dry wine is free of residual sugar. Dry wine is low in alcohol, too. Ethicalwinemarketing.com describes dry wine as having a concentration of around 3-4% ABV. This is the lowest level of alcohol allowed for a wine to be labeled as dry. Focusing on North America the best dry wines come from California, Oregon, Washington, New York, and Washington. You`re going to find a lot of very nice dry wines in Europe, South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, too.

Washington produces the driest wines of these states, followed by California and Oregon. These wines come in various flavors and styles, including reds, whites, sparkling, and rosés.

Sweet wine

Sweet wine is a catchall term that encompasses wines that are high in residual sugar. Dry wines are the lowest in residual sugar, so they are the most “dry” in the sweet category. Sweet wines have a high content of residual sugar derived from ripe grapes.

Sweet wines come in a wide variety of styles and flavors, too, and the style of sweet wines depends on the grape variety used in production. Sweet wines can be dry or sweet red wines, white wines, or sparkling wines. Pinot noir and Merlot are two of the most common sweet red grape varieties.

Dry vs. Sweet – What You Should Know

When you start looking for a wine to drink with a specific meal, you might find yourself confused by the labels’ differences between dry and sweet wines. Luckily, there are many differences between dry and sweet wines, so it’s not a big deal if you’re unsure which. We’ll explore the main differences between dry and sweet wines throughout this article, so keep reading to find out which ones you should be drinking.

Dry wines don’t contain much sugar, while sweet wines typically have high sugar. Dry wines are typically low in alcohol, while sweet wines are higher in alcohol.

What Are The Main Differences Between Dry and Sweet Wines?

There are several differences between these two wines. Those worth noting are;

  • Dry wines have low levels of residual sugar and a neutral and fruity taste, whereas sweet wines have high levels of residual sugar and a fruity, sweeter taste. The residual sugar acts as a flavor enhancer.
  • Dry and sweet wines ferment both from the grapes’ natural sugar. In the case of the dry wines the sugar content in the grapes is a lot lower than for the grapes used to produce sweet wines.
  • Sweet wines are dark yellow, while dry wines are pale in color.
  • Dry wines have low acidity, while sweet wines have high acidity. This sounds strange at first sight but the high sugar content masks the acidity. Compare lemon juice and coke. Both have the same acidity but coke tastes a lot sweeter.
pH-values of common drinks

Common Factors That Determine The Sweetness or Dryness of Wine

Some factors to consider when battling sweet and dry wines are:


A wine’s acidity is what makes it “sweet.” Wines with high acidity levels are often called “sweet wines.” However, acidity isn’t the only thing that contributes to the sweetness of a wine. Other factors include the grape variety used in the production of the wine, the type of acid and our perception of acid. A good example for this is oaked vs. unoaked chardonnay

As for the amount of acidity in a wine, a general rule of thumb is that dry wines have lower acidity levels than sweet wines. However, this doesn’t mean that sweet wines are always higher in acidity. It’s important to remember that the amount of acidity in wine depends on several factors, including grape type and oak barrel aging.


Tannins are a flavoring compound that comes from the grape skins, seeds, and stems of a grape. Tannins contribute to the bitterness of wine, so they are why dry wines are so dry tasting. Tannins also contribute to the dry flavor of a wine. Tannins are most commonly associated with dry wines, but they also come in a fruity form in sweet wines. However, just like acidity, the amount of tannins in wine depends on the grape type and barrel aging. A fruit styled wine is not as bitter.


As for alcohol, dry wines have lower levels of alcohol than sweet wines. However, the difference between dry and sweet wines in terms of alcohol content is small. Wines with an alcohol content of 14% or less are considered dry, while wines with an alcohol content of more than 14% are considered sweet.

There isn’t a general rule of thumb for alcohol content, but dry wines are typically lower in alcohol than sweet wines. The amount of alcohol in a wine is determined by the grape type and barrel aging. That is just like the amount of acidity and tannins in a wine.


Now that you have a general idea of the differences between dry and sweet wines, it’s time to explore the role of fermentation in wine.

Maltolactic fermentation adds sweetness to a glass of wine, giving it a distinctive aroma and smoother flavor. Maltolactic fermentation converts the wine`s malic acid into lactic acid. This results in a smoother, less tart tasting wine. However, this doesn’t mean that fermentation makes all sweet wines better than all dry ones — some sweet wines can be just as good as dry ones without being submitted to maltolactic fermentation.


It’s easy to get confused about dry and sweet wines because they have many different features. However, once you understand the differences between dry and sweet wines, you should be able to identify them.

In addition to dry and sweet wine, other types of wines fall into a gray area between these categories. The most common of these types are sparkling and fortified wines. There you have it, the difference between dry and sweet wine.

Christina Day
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