Dry white wines are low in residual sugar, which means that the fermentation process converted almost all the sugar from the grapes into alcohol. When residual sugar remains in the wine, the wine will taste sweet. Residual sugar can be measured as a percentage, where 1% equals 10 grams per liter.
What are the driest white wines? While there are countless varieties of wine, the driest white wines include Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, dry Guwurtztramminer, and even Champagne.
Here are the flavor profiles, levels of residual sugar, and alcohol content of these super dry white wines:
While the Muscadet wines (not to be confused with the grape Muscat) might be ancient in origin, Muscadet wine became popular in France in the 18th century. Muscadet is unique for many reasons, including being one of the few wines made in France not identified by where it’s grown or the grape used to make it. Muscadet comes from the Loire Valley region of France and is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety. The wine is often fermented in oak barrels, then transferred directly into bottles with little racking, where racking is a process to help filter sediments out of the wine, resulting in many Muscadet having a layer of sediment at the bottom of the bottle.
Muscadets will have a yeasty, nutty flavor with a creamy texture, which historical rumor attributes for the name, Muscadet meaning “musty”. Winemakers may try to age this wine for two to three years to bring out this flavor, however, others recommend that this variety be consumed within three years. Some notes of citrus rinds, unripe apple, or pear may be perceptible.
Muscadets typically have less than 1 g/L of residual sugar but should have no more than 3-5 g/L to still be considered a Muscadet. The alcohol content is usually around 12%.
The name Sauvignon Blanc has multiple potential origin stories, some believing its a hybrid of the french words savage (wild) and blanc (white), while others believe that it’s a decedent of Savagnin another ancient white variety. Regardless of it’s origins this grape variety is one of the most popular varieties grown in the world and is used in a wide range of styles from the uber sweet botrytis affected dessert wines of Bordeaux, to the oaked Fume Blanc of Napa and all the styles in between.
This wine originated in the Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions of France. The flavor profile may vary depending on the origin of the wine and the ripeness of the grapes when harvested. As a dry table wine this variety typically is tropical tasting, with grassy, herbaceous notes and are frequently crisp and fresh due to the grapes naturally high acid levels.
Sauvignon Blanc typically has between 1 and 3 g/L of residual sugar. The alcohol content is usually around 11%.
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are in fact the exact same grayish-blue grape, hence the “gris” (French for gray). Scientists who have analyzed the DNA structure of this grape variety believe that it is a genetically mutated version of the Pinot Noir grape a variety known for how easily it mutates in the vineyard.
Similar to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris grapes are grown around the world and the flavor will vary dramatically based on the origin of the wine. This wine is largely popular due to the speed that it can be fermented and bottled, making it a very affordable wine.
Some Pinot Gris will be crisp and clear with pepper notes, while some may be full-bodied with a slight sweetness, indicating more residual sugar than other versions. Fruity notes should include pears, apples, tropical fruits, spices, or even a hint of smoke. California Pinot Gris tend to be citrusy with low acidity.
Pinot Gris also typically has between 1 and 3 g/L of residual sugar. The alcohol content is typically 10% or lower.
Chardonnay is probably the most famous white wine, and originates from the Burgundy region of France where it is the primary white grape that can be grown and still labeled Burgundy. Many winemakers think of Chardonnay as a winemakers wine because it reacts to technique in ways many other grapes do not. Where and how a grape is grown is always the most important, but due to Chardonnays high acid, and broad flavor profile it can be aged in new oak barrels or neutral oak. It might be fermented in stainless steel, concrete amphora, or barrel. It might be blended or stand alone.
The flavors of Chardonnay are as broad as the regions that grow. This range includes apple, lemon, pineapple, and occasionally vanilla when aged on oak barrels. The California Chardonnay has aromas of cloves and cinnamon, with buttery, smoky flavors while Burgundy is famously austere and elegant with green apple in it’s youth and creme brulee after aging.
Chardonnay also typically has between 1 and 3 g/L of residual sugar.The alcohol content runs the gambit between 10.5% – 14.5%.
The heavily aromatic variety Gewurztraminer has a reputation for being sweet, but dry versions have very little residual sugar and can be very capable of aging. Historically, the grape is from the Alsace region of France. This region has changed hands between France and German frequently throughout history and accounts for the grapes popularity in Germany. The genetic makeup of Gewurtraminer has complicated origins and is likely one of the oldest cultivated varieties. The grape variety has a pink skin color, while still technically being a white grape.
If the grape is picked early in the season, rather than letting them ripen and sweeten, the wine will be drier. In California, these grapes are grown in the central coastal regions and the cooler parts of the Napa Valley. Dry varieties will taste of melon, rose, or lychee and frequently have bright spice notes.
Dry Gewurztraminer can get down to 1 g/L of residual sugar. The alcohol content is usually between 11 and 13%
Due to the nature of making sparkling wines, and specifically Champagne, high acid, low alcohol and consequently low sugar is the name of the game.
Champagne comes from the Champagne Region of France, however, if produced outside of the Champagne region, they must be called sparkling wines. Sparkling wine may be comprised as a blend of grape varieties, such as the Pinot Gris and Chardonnay mentioned above, but is also made from varieties such as Pinot Noir.
The sweetness of sparkling wine may vary widely from the popular demi sec with noticable sweetness to the bone dry Extra Brut having almost 0 g/L of residual sugar. Their is in fact a rare Champagne classified as Brut Natural that legally can have no more the 2 g/L of residual sugar making it some of the driest wine in the world. The alcohol content is usually under 12%.