Many people come into the store and are interested in a nice red wine but aren’t too knowledgeable about the varietals and the styles of red Wine. There are so many varietals and styles of wine to choose from that unless you have some information or knowledge of wine, it could be difficult to find a nice bottle of wine.
Let’s first start with the term dry. Every wine has Tannins in it which is a polyphenolic compound that binds to proteins. Plants produce tannins to keep animals from eating their leaves by leaving a bitter astringent taste.
The good thing about tannins is that they give certain characteristics to wine. The astringent puckering feeling in red wine is actually the tannins interacting and binding with the proteins in your saliva which give a full bodied or dry feeling in wine, so a dry wine would be a wine with lots of tannins.
Cabernet Sauvignon has more tannins than Merlot so technically, the Cabernet Sauvignon would be the drier wine of the two. There are instances where a Merlot can be drier than a Cabernet and it all depends really on the winemaker who produced the wine. What also determines the dryness of a wine is the harvest time.
One way to make a sweet wine is to harvest the grapes as late as possible so they could condense their sugars. As red wine ferments or when the yeast eats up the sugars and leaves the byproduct of alcohol, sometimes if the process is ended early there will be a lot of sugar left in the wine which would make it sweeter.
If the grapes are harvested early, the grapes will have fewer sugars and more acids, making them dryer. So there are many factors involved when determining how dry a wine will be.
If you are just starting out, I would go with a nice Merlot. It is an all around wine that isn’t too dry and isn’t too sweet. Merlot can be paired with many foods and is really a good bottle of wine. While the flavor profile is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot tends to be less distinctive and slightly more herbaceous overall in taste and aroma.
Hopefully this article sheds some light on your next selection. You can find many great values and wide selection at TheLiquorStore.com
Further Reading: Tannins: Overview, Benefits, Side Effects, & More