If there’s one drink we simply can’t get enough of in Summer, it’s a crisp, dry white wine. The high acidity and natural citrus flavours swirl into a rich complexity of perfectly balanced properties that lend themselves beautifully to an abundance of fresh summery foods.
But what is a dry white wine, and how is it best served or used in cooking? Here, we explore the unique properties of dry white wines, some of our favourite types for both drinking and cooking, and the best food pairings for your next glass.
If reclining poolside while sampling a delicious cheese board and sipping a chilled glass of Chardonnay sounds like your idea of heaven, read on to discover what makes a dry white so perfect for summer.
What makes dry white wine so unique is that it possesses very little residual sugar, meaning it doesn’t have that late harvest white wine sweetness like Moscato. A dry white is fermented until all natural sugar content is converted into alcohol, resulting in that deliciously crisp and refreshing taste. Unlike other varieties, dry whites are typically served chilled (think that cool glass of Chardonnay by the pool), making them the perfect choice for summer.
Dry whites are also typically lower in alcohol content than other types of wine, making them a more accessible option for those who prefer a lighter taste. The naturally high acidity levels in dry whites make them ideal for cooking, as this acidity preserves the moisture and texture in more delicate ingredients like fish while enhancing the food’s flavour profile.
Some common (and in our opinion, exquisitely delicious) dry white wine types include Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Depending on when each vintage has been harvested, you’ll also get a wonderfully complex variety of dryness within each type. Our 2019 Oakey Creek Vineyard Semillon is a touch sweeter than our 2022 Semillon, for example, just as our 2021 Indigo Vineyard Chardonnay contains slightly more residual sugar than our 2021 Lillydale Vineyard Chardonnay.
So just what is a good dry white wine? Well, that depends on your palate and how dry you wish to go. Within the realm of dry white wines exists a scale of sorts. This scale ranges from bone dry to sweet, as outlined in our wine sweetness chart above. When discussing general dry white wines, these varieties will fall under bone dry, dry or semi dry.
The main difference between a bone dry, dry and a semi dry white wine is the amount of residual sugar present. Bone dry has next to no residual sugar (the aforementioned 2021 Lillydale Chardonnay has less than 0.5 grams of sugar per litre), resulting in a crisp, refreshing taste with little to no sweetness. A dry is a little more mellow with 1-10 grams per litre, like the and a semi dry contains around 10-20 grams per litre. This residual sugar content either lingers after fermentation or gets added later in the winemaking process.
Each variety of wine also lends itself to various flavour profiles. While bone dry whites contain ultra crisp notes of lemon and minerals, semi-dry white wines boast subtly sweet notes like honeycomb and juicy lemon.
Dry white wine is a richly versatile variety with exquisite layers of complexity and texture. Both dry and semi dry white wine types can be paired with a wide variety of dishes, but some pairings are particularly well suited. If you’ve yet to sample a crisp Pinot Gris with a plate of freshly shucked oysters, you’re seriously missing out!
We’ve discussed food pairings for dry white wine, but what is a dry white wine for cooking? Dry wines are ideal for cooking as they can add wonderful depth and complexity to your dishes. The acidity and flavours in a dry white can help to balance out rich and creamy dishes, while the crispness can elevate lighter, more refreshing flavours.
Dry white wine is commonly used in marinades and sauces, and can be a delicious additional ingredient to risottos and pastas. Fish and seafood dishes can also be beautifully elevated with a dash of dry white to enhance the natural flavours and offer a zing of fresh acidity to the salt content.
When using dry white wine in cooking it’s important to steer clear of those misleadingly labelled ‘cooking wines’. These wines often contain more preservatives than anything else, and can taint your dish with unpleasant flavour notes.
Our tip here is to always cook with a wine that you’d normally enjoy drinking. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a premium quality wine (the subtle notes will be lost in the cooking process anyway), but selecting a wine that you enjoy and has similar flavour profiles to your dish is the best rule of thumb to use when cooking with dry whites.
Dry whites can also be used to deglaze your pan, meaning you can add a dash of wine after you’ve sautéed or browed meats, fish or vegetables. This will help to pick up those tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan and add them to the sauce for a delectably elevated meal that’s sure to impress.
Browse our sumptuous selection of white wines for online purchase. Take note of the Wine Profile within each variety for details on its specific food pairings recommendations and flavour notes.
Whether sitting down to a platter of freshly peeled prawns on a warm summer’s day, or whipping up a rich, creamy risotto to serve at your next dinner party, we have the perfect dry white wine to suit your palate and preferences.