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What is dry red wine?

Discover more about dry red wine - what the term means, how it's made, and what varieties you can get your hands on.
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When figuring out what type of wine suits your tastes, there are a few terms you need to know in your search, one of them being “dry”.

Most wine varieties offer a dry option, but dry red wines are top-rated among wine lovers, especially Merlot and Tempranillo. Easily paired with dishes from across the globe and flavours that pack a punch, a dry red should be on top of anyone’s wine-tasting list.

Discover RedHead’s selection of dry wines.

But what does it mean when red wine is labelled dry? Can a liquid be dry? What does dry red wine taste like?

What is dry red wine?

The term dry in wine generally refers to a wine’s natural sweetness – as in, there is none.

Dry on a wine label means that all the grape sugar has been converted to alcohol during fermentation, so there’s no residual sugar in the finished wine. In contrast, wines such as Rieslings and Zinfandels have shorter fermenting times, which sees some sugar left in the finished product.

Typically higher in alcohol than sweeter wines, the style of a dry red wine depends on whether you’re drinking a blend or a varietal (a single-variety wine), how tannic the wine is, and its body. Popular dry red wine varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz tend to be medium to full-bodied with high tannins.

Just because a wine isn’t sweet doesn’t mean it lacks sweet flavours – those tempting fruity flavours are still there, giving it a naturally sweet taste, just minus the sugar.

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What makes a red wine dry?

When making wine, yeast is added to the mashed grapes and left to ferment.

During this process, the yeast absorbs the natural sugars in the wine grapes to produce alcohol. The longer a wine ferments, the more sugars the yeast consumes, reducing the sugar in the finished wine.

A red wine is considered dry if it has no residual sugar left after fermentation. Some wine brands may add sugar to the finished wine to make it taste sweeter, but that’s not the case here at RedHeads – added sugar is not our thing.

However, wine is sometimes described as dry if it makes your mouth feel dry.

This has nothing to do with sugar levels – it’s simply the result of a wine’s tannin level. Tannins are a natural compound found in grape seed, skin and stem that is an early part of the winemaking process. They add bitterness and astringency to wine but also help form its structure, creating a backbone for its flavours.

Dry red wines tend to have a higher alcohol percentage than other wines – somewhere in the 12% to 15% ABV range.

Popular dry red wine types


Shiraz (or Syrah as it’s known in some countries) is a full-bodied, dry red that’s punchy with flavour. Rich with antioxidants and more full-bodied than most dry red wines, wine lovers can enjoy an acidic tang in their glass that they won’t find with other dry reds.

With floral and smoky flavours among the more obvious raspberry, cherry and toasty vanilla ones, Shiraz pairs well with fatty meats like lamb and beef, BBQ and plum sauces, and sweet fruity glazes.

Juicy, rich and weighty, our full-bodied March of Progress Shiraz is the bottle for the table.


A popular wine variety grown in Argentina, you can also find Merlot grapes growing right here in Australia. High in tannins and produced from dark blue grapes, Merlot is a popular variety used in blended wines but can still be enjoyed as a varietal on its own.

You can typically characterise Merlot wines by their rounded flavours of cherry and plum and hints of herbs, clove and cedar wood. If your roast of choice is chicken, or you can’t get enough hearty vegetable dishes like tray bakes or stews, this is the wine for you.


Made with dark, inky grapes and one of the varieties found in Bordeaux blended wine, Malbec may be a less popular dry red variety, but it’s just as delicious.

With flavours of blackberry, plum, smoke and something a little savoury, this is the perfect wine to cut through grease on pizza (especially if it’s a meaty one.) It even pairs with pasta, especially dishes made with pork or beef – perfect with a spaghetti bolognese.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best-known dry red wines in the world and is grown in almost every wine-producing country. It has some of the highest levels of tannins compared to other dry red varieties, making its dark fruits and savoury tobacco flavours pack a bigger punch.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied wine with lots of tannins; it’s perfectly paired with rich, meaty and hearty dishes – think steak, beef stews, roast lamb and duck. Our rich, velvety Whip-Hand fits the bill perfectly.

Pinot Noir

Maybe the most complex of the dry red wine varieties, Pinot Noir is grown worldwide but flourishes particularly in cooler climates. Silky with moderate acidity levels, Pinot Noir grapes have thinner skin than most wine grapes, creating a lighter-bodied wine which helps its flavours stand out from the crowd.

Typical Pinot Noir flavours include raspberry, vanilla, cherry, mushroom and forest floor (trust us). It can even take on the flavours of baking spices like cinnamon if aged in French oak barrels. Its lighter body and slightly savoury notes make it the perfect wine to serve with oily fish like salmon.

Discover our full range of red wine.