#13: Dispelling wine myths | A DRY WHITE WINE, GARCON 💅
A brief overview on what we think dry means, what it actually means. I'll run through how to dazzle your sommelier by asking for something ✨ acidic ✨ in lieu.
Hello Winers and Diners,
This week I’m starting a new branch of content that I’m hoping is informative, and by no means insulting. There’s a lot of misnomers and old wives’ tales out there, and someone has to put a mirror up to some horrors that are keeping you from lovely new wines to try.
I understand the trauma of enduring a wine that is really not doing hitting the spot, and why you might not want to try the same of a similar grape. But hear me out: pub wines have come a far way since dive bars have become trendy again, and time can be a healing process in terms of style.
We’re seeing better quality as more people actually give a 💩 about what’s going in their glass, and the heavy red, sweet white movements of the 80s and 90s is very much over. Personally though, this Cabernet Franc trend can do one - but after multiple attempts, I just know that isn’t ever going to be the one for me.
Yes, I still get nauseous flashbacks to a dodgy few glasses of Chardonnay in Soho more suited to over ray and chips. And some of the red wine we diluted with 7up at college to get to drink on campus. If you know, you know. But here I am, back on the horse and going to stop my meandering there.
So, what’s the dealio with a dry white wine?
Often, a dry white wine (or rosé) is a badge of honour and signpost for the Sauvignon Blanc drinker. But it doesn’t really give any descriptor that’s unique for a white wine - considering over 95% produced are in fact, dry. In most cases, ‘dry’ can signal safe to someone in the service industry if someone’s looking for a recommendation. I can bet money you’ll probably get a fairly reliable, overpriced and uninspiring Pinot Grigio or Sauvy Bee under your nose. It’s also probably about a fifth of the price in an offy at least as well. I still remember noticing a Pinot Grigio being floated in a pub for €15 in Dublin (those were the days) that I’ve also seen on Bib Gourmand wine lists for €50. The convenience and assurance is going to cost you, darling.
But how do I describe that dry mouthfeel when I’m drinking my prized Oyster Bay?
I had a feeling that was coming next. Sweetness should be, well, sweet. If you’ve ever drank a dessert wine a little too quickly and squirmed like you’ve done a shot of maple syrup, you should be feeling that on your palette.
That dryness is actually your mouth’s response to the acidity of the wine, at my best guess. If you’re drinking an acidic wine, your mouth should be salivating heavily in response. If you tilt your head forward slightly after swallowing a swirl of wine you might find that you are, quite literally, frothing at the mouth. A little like dog in an 80s cartoon that has caught a whiff of some cooked meat down the street.
White wines that are high in acidity include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay that are fairly much household names. The notes and flavours are generally something of green fruits such as apples or pears, citrus fruits or if you’re in the New World (Australia, The Americas , New Zealand, South Africa) you might get a splash of tropical fruits if you’re lucky.
What if I don’t like the acidic part?
Fret not - not all white wines are acidic. And if you’re in a good offy or restaurant, don’t be afraid to tell them of your past traumas with wines. Good wine should come with apt emotional support and handholding to get you to the right pick, so feel free to unbox everything you can. And if it’s available by the glass, don’t be afraid to ask for a taste! The service industry is working for tips, and they can spare a splash or two from an open bottle to try before you buy.
Whites little lower on acidity won’t make you salivate, and they’ll often have what’s described as more of an oily or ‘flabby’ feel. Not to put you off these (read on a little bit for more guidance) as they can still be delectable.
Is there such a thing as an acidic red?
Why of course! Much like in a red, an acidic red wine should really start to make your mouth water quite substantially when you take a sip. More on that in another week, as I have so much to say about misnomers with red wine.
WAIT! How do I avoid Chardonnay at all costs?
So, if you’re a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, this is what we call an aromatic wine, while Chardonnay isn’t (usually you’re one or the other, very Blair v Serena in the Gossip Girl bubble). Aromatic as a quality in a wine generally means that there’s more than just fruits in the notes that you’re picking up. So for Sauvignon Blanc, it can be quite grassy, stone-y,
strong on cat’s wee in cases, and you generally want that wine to be fresh, so you want it to be drank quickly and you’re not going to fanny about with maturing it in oak.
Chardonnay on the other hand is all about the fruit, and oak or other ways to mature and tweak its maturity (I could go on for days about this, and I need to be concise here) can give it a huge amount of depth. Think toast, bread dough, baking spices and a lovely creaminess. However, some people HATE this kind of wine - although a cheap n’nasty job on getting this type of wine out the door is generally enough to put someone off for a while.
OK, so where does that leave me?
I’ve put together what I see as the best way to think about acidity and whether a wine is aromatic or not in this graph. Not to scale and completely subjective, but I recommend saving this image and zooming around. I’ve put acidity from highest left getting less acidic toward the right.
Agree, totally disagree with some of these or have any other suggestions of what you’d like to see? Let me know in the comments!
Enjoyed this read, I’ll save the image and do some field research ☺️ Explains my love for Petit Chablis, *drool fest* 🤤