Can a wine be fruity and sweet? Fruity and dry? Sweet and Dry?
Yes, yes, and no. A wine CAN be fruity and sweet, it CAN be fruity and dry, but it CANNOT be sweet and dry.
Fruity vs. Sweet
Fruitiness is a flavor idea: the wine’s flavor and aroma are more reminiscent of fruit than say, flowers, dried herbs or crème brûlée. When we taste a fruity wine, we assume it’s sweet even if it’s not, due to our association with fruit tasting sweet. Just because a wine is jam-packed with fruity flavors, it can still be bone dry with no measurable level of residual sugar, ruling it out as a sweet wine.
Sweet-fruity wines however also exist and carry the fruity flavors as well as sugar, but some wine drinkers don’t like this extra sugar in the wine and gather enough sweetness from fruitiness alone. Simply said, fruity wines contain essence and flavors of fruit, while sweet wines contain a specific higher level of residual sugar, and fruity-sweet wines carry both.
Sweet vs. Dry
Sweetness or dryness refers to the sugar content and whether all the natural sugars were fermented into alcohol or not. A wine is considered dry when it contains 10 grams or less of residual sugar per liter, and wine is deemed sweet when 30 or more grams of sugar per liter remain. Any wine containing between 10 and 30 grams of residual sugar per liter is named off dry. That appetizing term residual sugar accounts for natural sugar purposefully left in the wine to balance the grape’s bright, lively acidity.
Keep in mind that a wine with a teeny bit of leftover sugar isn’t destined to be the dessert course any more than a quarter teaspoon of sugar will make an espresso taste sweet. Wines with 1 to 2 percent residual sugar, such as some California Rieslings or Gewürztraminers, are in fact, perceived as dry by most people. And just in case you thought Chardonnay was dry, think again. In many of them, a little bit of natural sugar has been left in.
However, if you have ordered wine from our online Wine Store and believe it is sweet, you might want to take a closer look, for all of the wines we feature in every club are dry wines, never sweet or dessert wines.
One way to determine if a wine is dry or sweet can be by looking at the alcohol content. Since sugar converts to alcohol during the fermentation process, a bottle with a higher alcohol percentage typically indicates it is a dry wine. A bottle with alcohol content less than 12 percent can imply it is a sweet wine.
Misconceptions of Dry Wines
Many people tend to associate dry wine with red wine and the tart and bitter tannins that come with some red wines. This association is simply not true, for dryness is again defined as merely the lack of residual sugar and has nothing to do with the tannins. Similarly people associate the fruity flavors of white wines as sweet. While there do tend to be more sweet white wines than red wines, a great deal of popular wines are considered dry. This brings up again that perceived sweetness from fruit flavors does not necessarily mean it has enough sugars to be labeled as a sweet wine.
An Example to Understand the Difference
Say you go out to lunch and order a glass of plain iced tea. Odds are it is not very sweet, but is in fact dry. Next you decide to squeeze a lemon into that glass of iced tea leaving you with a fruitier tasting beverage, but it is still dry. Finally, you decide to add a packet of sugar or honey to your glass of iced tea, now making it fruity and sweet. By adding fruit and sugar this initially dry beverage transformed to a fruity, and finally sweet concoction. Unfortunately, making a sweet, fruity, or dry wine is more of a process than adding lemon and sugar to a glass of iced tea, but this is often the best example to explain the difference between the three terms.