Dry, Semi-Sweet (OFF –DRY) or Sweet Wine

There are other ways to look at or classify wine. Wine style encompasses the level of sweetness. The acidity level of the grapes results in different textures. Wine is described as dry, semi-sweet or sweet.


Dry Wines are wines that are not sweet. The sugars in dry wine have been fully fermented. The acidity is more prominent. There are levels of dryness indicated by the Sugar Code. The scale ranges from 0 to 10. The lowest levels represent the driest wines, the highest levels the sweetest.

The pH level of wine is also a major factor in determining how dry a wine may be. A pH level of between 2.8 to 3.3 indicates a dry wine. Over this level, the taste of the wine will reflect a different taste.

There are not wines that are completely dry. Yeast fermentation of grapes does not reduce the sugar content to zero. Yet, some wines are considered 0 on the sugar code. This includes most Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti and Soave wines.

Other dry wines include many White German dry wines e.g. Riesling and Pinot Gris. All red wines are considered dry. Among them are Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel and Chianti Classico Riserva.


Semi-Sweet Wines fall between the 2 categories of dry and sweet. They are neither white nor red wine. On the sugar index or code, semi-sweet wines range from 3 to 4. Only white wines fall into sweet and semi-sweet categories. Blush wines are a perfect example of semi-sweet wines. The Late Harvest Riesling and German Spätlese are perfect examples of semi-sweet wine.


Sweet Wines are those with the highest content of sugar. They are unmistakably sweet. The process to create sweet wine or even semi-sweet wine is similar and can follow any of the methods listed below.

  • White grapes are allowed to become very ripe.
  • Sugar is added.
  • Grapes are dried in a specific method using boxes or mats.
  • Brandy or other neutral spirits are added to the process.
  • The vintner permits the grapes to freeze on the vine.

There are other means to create sweet and semi-sweet wines. The final product includes dessert wines (Sauterne) and the famous Canadian Ice Wines. Port and Cream Sherry are very sweet wines.

Within these types of classifications, there are multiple variations within the wine. Acidity contributes to the depth of the sweetness. A wine high in sugar content may be saved from being cloying by a higher level of acidity.


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