How Dry You Are

Party your way to an unshakable understanding of what "dry" wine really is

It is now time to pop the cork on your California Blanc de Blancs. If you ended up with the Sofia, you'll notice that the stuff is direly sweeter than the French Champagne, and that every aspect of the wine is bigger, bolder, fruitier, and more robust. It's like the difference between a drawing done in pencil, and another done in colorful pastels. Right? Now would be a good time to try your green apple and your other ripe fruit. Go back and forth between your Champagne and your other bubbly. Can you tell which one is the dry one? Close your eyes and have your friends switch your glasses around on you. Can you tell which one is the dry one now? What about now? Don't move on from this step until you feel like you have a sense of which wine is the dry one.

Once you feel like you have it nailed, go back to being a grape. Consider how your other sister (oh, the humanity!) ended up in a field of nothing but white limestone rocks in Chablis, France. Seriously. She is not planted in regular dirt; she is planted in dirt that is mostly rocks. Because of this, she finds that she has a unique problem: Every single time it rains, the water just slides through the rocks, never allowing her to get a good drink. No matter how she sucks and sucks at those rocks, she never gets enough water. She gets some good sunlight, sure, but grapes do not live by sunlight alone! At the end of the year, her grape clusters are undersized, because she never got enough water to really go for it. Her grapes are made into another phenomenally dry wine: real Chablis.

So, everyone, drain your Champagne, so we can move on to the Chablis. Pour everyone a glass of Chablis. Taste it. You see how it has a full sort of flavor that seems to vanish into a steely, flinty kind of nothingness? Does your mouth feel physically dry? Do you notice how kind of sleek this wine is, that no single element stands out particularly, and it just kind of wraps itself up in itself and dives in after itself? That's called elegance. Or, it's called the kind of thing you think on your third glass of wine. You decide.

Jane Sherman

Now, again, you are a grape. Your third, and, for tonight, final sister ended up in, again, that sunshiny pleasure dome known as either California or Australia. It's awesome there. Totally, totally awesome. Her grape clusters are beautiful; they could go on a magazine cover. If they do, she wants to be attached to the screenplay. From these gorgeous grapes comes a gorgeous wine: un-oaked, un-maloed Chardonnay. If you can find the Hendry Napa Valley Chardonnay, you are really in luck. It has a fragrance like kiwis, red apples, and plummy shrub roses. It feels like a bouquet of summer flowers in the mouth; it tastes like coming over a green, green hill and finding a dozen hot-air balloons on the rise. If you've got the Gnangara unwooded Chardonnay, you'll notice it's sharp and clean, with a sort of lime-kiwi-pineapple-grapefruit perfume.

In either case, you should be tasting what a Chardonnay grape tastes like when it is fully ripe and happy: the ultimate yellow banana. Try the Chablis. It's the green banana. Go back and forth between your unwooded Chablis and your unwooded Chardonnay, both made of the same Chardonnay grape, just raised in different environments. Which one is dry? Which one is dry? Which one is dry? Keep swapping them around until you feel like you have a lock on it.

And that's it! You should, by the time this tasting is done, have a deep understanding of what dry is. You'll be ready if you're called upon to break up a hostage situation in which a masked man with a tray of white wines is shouting, "Tell me which one is dry, or the kid gets it!" You should have some sense of whether you enjoy the sensation of dry, or whether you don't. You should have a sense that dry is just one aspect of a complex object: There is the stereotype of blondes, and then there is the reality of a blond wood Danish Modern dining table, expandable to seat eight. And forevermore, if you're the client at the table when Clyde the Drip makes a fool of himself, you'll have insights into his character and your future negotiating strategies previously available only to sommeliers.

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