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Brokenwood Wines
6 February 2023 | Cellar Door, Winemaking | Brokenwood Wines

What is a Dry White Wine? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Woman sitting on a grass lawn serving herself a white wine from Brokenwood

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 is a Dry White Wine?

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.

Wine sweetness chart

Bone Dry, Dry or Semi Dry?

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 Food Pairings

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!

  • Sauvignon Blanc blends beautifully with seafood and fish dishes as it complements the delicate flavours of the salty seafood and provides a refreshing contrast to rich, creamy sauces often served over baked fish. It also pairs well with salads and vegetable dishes with naturally high acidity.
  • Chardonnay has a wonderfully complex structure and profile that pairs well with a range of food. A Chardonnay’s oaky, buttery palate particularly complements chicken, pork and seafood dishes with creamy or buttery sauces, as well as creamy and hard cheeses.
    Tasting tip: We can’t go past our 2022 Chardonnay for its long, pure acidity and fine, juicy citrus flavours accompanied by subtle bran meal.
  • Pinot Gris is another versatile dry white wine that pairs perfectly with grilled fish, sushi and raw oysters. The crisp acidity can also cut through the richness of creamy pasta and risotto dishes, offering a refreshing palate cleanser while bringing out the finer flavours of the food.
    Tasting tip: Our 2022 Pinot Gris’ unique initial palate of ginger, pear and beeswax is carried by its zesty acidic backbone, a light yet complex glass for a sumptuous summer dinner.
  • Semillon with little residual sugar is a match made in heaven with richer seafood dishes like scallops, lobster and crab. Like our other dry white wine types, it works wonders with buttery or creamy dishes by cutting through the rich intensity with a zesty, refreshing twist. Semillon can also pair particularly well with many Asian dishes, as its rich and full-bodied flavour can balance the spice.
    Tasting tip: Our 2018 Tallawanta Vineyard Semillon has a lovely and slightly sweeter honey nougat flavour and texture with soft acidity. 

Brokenwood Chardonnay with food

Cooking With Dry White Wines

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.

Two smiling people enjoying Brokenwood Semillon at Terrace Wine Bar

Discover Brokenwood’s Premium Dry White Wine Collection

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.


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