Sweet, dry, medium?

What do you really mean?

Katalin Kiszel-Kohari - June 6, 2019

It seems to me, and it is not just a bit funny, that people consider dry wine somehow superior or more sophisticated.

9 out of 10 will aim to order dry wine and have a somehow snobbish attitude towards anything even slightly sweeter. But this frowning stance changes when it finally comes to a decision. Strangely they end up having an inexpensive New World white or red which is most likely to be off-dry. It has a bit off sweetness to it.

We talk dry and drink off-dry. How peculiar!

I am almost always get somewhat nervous, when people asking for certain types, or styles of wine. How often I was told to get a glass of medium white wine and when I was about to offer let`s say a Riesling Kabinet, the esteemed guest just answered her own question by requesting `oh, no. Something more like a Pinot Grigio`. (I know that offering anything German is risky business at best and very much frowned upon for traditional reasons, but it does worth a try.)

On another occasion the wish was for a bone-dry white, but the Italian Pinot Grigio was declined and she finally settled with a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or at another time with a slightly oaked Australian Chardonnay. The mind boggles. On attempts to get some helpful information squeezed out from the guest to help me to find the right wine, the answers just made me more confused.

Firstly, what do they really mean by medium? How sweet the wine in question? I think people happily mix up two very different things like body and sweetness. They are not necessarily interchangeable. A Riesling Kabinet is usually a light bodied, aromatic white wine with medium sweetness, a Pinot Grigio is a light bodied, crisp, very much favourless white, with approximately 2-4 g of residual sugar per litre, which is virtually non-detectable. That is what you would call dry or probably more likely bone-dry. A simple Chablis would fit the bill in the dry group.

Secondly, the happy medium covers a rather broad range of sweetness from medium dry to medium sweet. At this level, you can distinctively taste sugar but it is not sweet enough to match it with desserts. Medium dry is your Vouvray Demi Sec or a Demi Sec Champagne, whereas medium sweet is Vouvray Moelleux or a Riesling Kabinet. Sauternes is in the sweet category and a Trockenbeerenauslese is in the luscious as it is very sweet. There are other factors that can add a perception of sweetness to the wine or mask the sweetness, like acidity.

I know, it is not actually that straight-forward, but why bother than with any classification if we do not know or we are not honest about what we really want? On the other hand be just slightly more adventurous, it is worth to peek out of the box!

Photographs by The Tannin Addict.