Bone dry means there is a miniscule amount of sugar in the wine
Most everyone has
probably heard the expression bone dry in reference to wine.There
are no bones in wine, right?That
would be wrong: China has a wine called “Tiger Wine,” which actually is made
with real tiger bones.OK, now back to bone
dry.This descriptor, along with dry, and off-dry are all three terms used to identify the amount of sugar in
So how does sugar
get into wine?Let’s start at the
beginning.In alcoholic fermentation
yeasts eat the naturally occurring sugar in grapes and through a process of
chemical reactions this sugar is converted to alcohol.Therefore, the amount of residual sugar (RS)
in wine depends upon when the fermentation is stopped.
In dessert wines (aka
sweet wines) fermentation is artificially stopped before all of the yeasts can
turn the sugar into alcohol. This means that these wines have higher sugar levels and lower alcohol. Conversely, in bone dry wines all of the sugar has been eaten by
the yeasts, which in turn means that the wine has a higher alcohol level than dessert wine. Bone dry means there is very little, if any, remaining sugar.
Below shows the amounts
of RS in the different categories of wines:
Bone dry:0.5% or less RS
An experienced wine drinker can often
taste the nuances in a wine’s sugar level, but there are factors that prevent
even experts from recognizing the differences between bone dry, dry, and off-dry.Both tannin and a wine’s acid levels can
distort one’s ability to discern RS.For the novice, even a wine’s ripe fruit aromas or sweet florals can also trick one into thinking the wine has some sugar.
In closing, any grape varietal can be
made into a wine that is bone-dry or a dessert wine.So, how does one know if a wine is bone dry
or if there is RS?Since wineries are
not required to put this on the label, most do not.A good wine store will know.Many of the better wineries also have “Technical
Sheets” available online in which RS amounts are stated.