Just say, “I like wines that are on the sweet side,” and you’ll get ugly, condescending stares. It’s not fashionable to like sweet wines. We don’t know why. Maybe it’s a Boone’s Farm backlash. But we think it’s just plain wrong.
When we say “sweet,” we’re not talking about dessert wines or the cloying, sugar-infused pink wines. We mean elegant, well-made wines that just happen to impart the soft whisper of sweetness. There’s a term to describe these wines that will disarm the patronizing wine snobs who are looking down their noses at you: off dry.
We don’t know who came up with this descriptor, but we’re willing to bet that it was coined by wine marketers to sell more sweet-ish wines to buyers who were too embarrassed to admit they were looking for a bit of a sugar fix in their wines. We’ve noticed in our wine classes, though, that most of the sweet wine drinkers haven’t heard of the term off dry. So we’re here to let you in on that sweet little secret.
What wines might qualify as off dry? It’s hard to generalize because wines can be made in so many styles . . . but your best chances are with Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc and Rosé. Sweet red wines that aren’t dessert wines are more difficult to find. But to tell whether or not a wine is sweet, check out the alcohol content listed on the label. A rule of thumb is that the lower the alcohol level (8-12%), the higher the residual sugar content and the sweeter the wine .
Do you have a favorite off-dry wine? We’d like to know. If you’re brave enough to confess you have a vinous sweet-tooth, email us with your recommendations.