I love to drink wine. Ever since graduating college, the mere thought of straight liquor makes me ill (just wait, you'll get old one day too) and beer is just not my favorite. Wine not only actually tastes good, but is moderately healthy in small amounts and has the added benefit of making you look chic and knowledgeable when you drink it.

A downside to wine: there's lots of accompanying jargon. Dry wine, malolactic fermentation, wine with tannins, oaky wines, classic Cabs, blah blah blah. It's enough to make anyone turn to Fireball (jk, no it's not). One of the biggest questions that comes up for novice wine drinkers is "what does 'dry' wine even mean?" Let's explore that.

What is "dry" wine?

wine, alcohol, liquor, white wine, red wine
Steven Baboun

Dry wine is an unnecessarily confusing term–it just means wine that isn't sweet. This is because there's no leftover sugars in the wine to make it taste that way. But how does that happen? It's actually pretty simple.

Wine starts as grape juice and becomes alcoholic as the juice ferments–when the yeast eats the sugar that's already present in the grape juice. In many wines, that fermentation process is stopped before the yeast can eat all the sugar, making the wine sweet. This is called residual sugar

When a wine is dry, that means the winemaker has let the fermentation process finish completely. The yeast has eaten all the sugars from the grape juice and none remain, which means the wine will not be sweet.

Okay, so is dry wine the kind that makes my mouth pucker?

wine, alcohol, liquor, whisky, red wine
Devon Carlson

In a word, no. The term 'dry' doesn't have anything to do with the sensory characteristics of drinking wine. Your mouth feels strange and puckery when you drink wine that is high in tannins. Though a dry wine might be higher in tannins, like many traditional reds, that doesn't mean they always go hand in hand.

How do I find out if I like dry wine?

Drink it! No, seriously. I personally went through a phase of drinking mostly Riesling (yes, I'm ashamed too), but one day it was like a switch flipped and I started to enjoy and, in fact, prefer dry white wines. Now, I wouldn't touch Moscato if you paid me.

There are plenty of options for you out there, but my strongest recommendation is to go to a Binny's or Trader Joe's and ask one of the employees to help you out. You can also download an app like Vivino that lets you scan a wine label and gives you a review and some tasting notes.

Ultimately, don't be afraid to branch out. The best way to do this is to go out to dinner with your parents. That way, even if you don't like your wine, you didn't have to pay for it. Just kidding. Sort of.