Dry White Wine: The Top 6 Most Dry White Wines in New Zealand

8 min read

Dry white wine is typically fresh and crisp — the perfect drink for summer barbeques and fun with friends. 

These wines don’t just taste fantastic, they have slightly less alcohol and less sugar. That’s great news if you’re watching your diet. 

If you’re not a massive fan of sweet drinks, dry white wine is probably going to be a hit. But how do you know which wines are dry? Choosing the right wine can be confusing. And there’s nothing worse than buying a bottle that you don’t enjoy. 

To help you choose the perfect dry white wine for your taste, we’re going to give you a quick rundown of the six most popular dry whites consumed in New Zealand. We’ll talk about: Sauvignon Blanc, AlbariñoPinot Gris/Grigio, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Riesling

Use the links above to skip ahead or hang around to find out some basic tips about dry white wine. 

Dry white wine with seafood

What makes dry white wine dry? 

A wine’s dryness is all about residual sugar — that’s the amount of sugar left behind after fermentation. In the case of dry white wines, most of the sugar is eaten up by the yeast and turned into alcohol. 

A wine with less than 10 grams of sugar per litre is called dry. Bone dry wines have even less than that, and off-dry wines have slightly more. 

The amount of sugar is important for the structure of the wine. The dryness of the wine also depends on the style the winemaker is aiming for, the grape and where it is grown. 

But dry white wine can be tricky. Fruity wines often taste sweeter than they actually are. A strongly perfumed wine will fool your taste buds into thinking that it’s sweet, when it’s actually classed as dry. 

But what about those wines that seem to pull moisture from your cheeks? They must be dry, right? Nope. That ‘dry’ feeling is actually caused by tannin. You can find out more about tannins in our wine tasting guide.

Don’t worry if that all sounds a bit confusing. Things should become clearer as we give you a taste of the six dry white wine types that Kiwis love most. 

Group clinking wine glasses with dry white wine

The Top Dry White Wine Types

1. Sauvignon Blanc

Pronounced: saw-vee-nyon blonk

Crisp, fresh and a little bit tarty

Although Sauvignon Blanc isn’t the driest white wine on our list, it makes sense to start here, since it’s so popular. Just like the rest of the world, we Kiwis adore Sav Blanc, and we make heaps of it.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc styles are usually fully dry, but this is balanced out by their fruity flavours and a hint of freshly cut grass. If you buy a slightly older Sauvignon Blanc you might taste nectarines, passion fruit or even red capsicum. This dry white wine is known for its tarty zing.

Great food to enjoy with Sauvignon Blanc

This wine is great with a Thai takeaway —  green curry chicken is the bizz. Seafood works really well with Sauvignon Blanc too, especially if you match the zingy flavours of the wine with a citrus or garlic marinade. 

Grilled fish is also fantastic, or a salad with goats cheese, asparagus and avocado. If you just want a wine to go with your Fish and Chips, Sav Blanc is just the thing.

Sauvignon Blanc is also a favourite for using in cooking. Its complex flavours really help to lift a dish.

grilled fish with lemon and white wine

2. Albariño – Spanish 

Pronounced: al-bar-een-yo

A wine to sip on a hot summer’s day

The driest white wine on our list is Albariño and it comes from Spain and Portugal, (the Portuguese call it Albariñho by the way). 

Albariño is bone dry and refreshingly sharp — perfect for sipping on a hot day. You’ll probably taste grapefruit, honeysuckle, apricot and sweet melon. This wine is designed to be enjoyed while it’s young and fresh. 

Albariño is tipped as the next big thing to hit the New Zealand wine scene.

Great food to enjoy with Albariño

Albariño is wonderful with white fish and meat. Try it with fish tacos, caesar salad, seafood risotto or mussels. This fresh dry white wine is also the perfect partner to semi-hard cheeses like gouda or salty feta.

shrimp risotto and white wine

3. Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio

Pronounced: pee-noh-GREE

The perfect match for picnics & casual drinks

Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are actually the same wine. The French call it Pinot Gris, but the Italians call it Pinot Grigios. In New Zealand you’ll see both of these names, often depending on the style the winemaker is going for. 

Italian style Pinot Grigio tends to be crisp and minerally, while the French Pinot Gris is usually fruity and dry. Dry and off dry styles have become really popular in New Zealand these days. 

Pinot Gris is a white wine that tastes sweeter than it is. You should pick up on citrus, quince, pear, honeysuckle, green apples and ginger, with a slight earthy flavour. 

Just be sure to check the label carefully because they do make sweeter styles of this wine. 

Great food to enjoy with Pinot Gris

Dry styles of Pinot Grigio go brilliantly with an antipasto board — it does come from Italy after all. Try it with marinated fish, tapas, chilli prawns or sushi. Don’t go too spicy with your seasonings though. Pinot Gris is also a killer match with melted mozzarella. 

grapes, salami, blue cheese, olives and white wine

4. Chardonnay

Pronounced: shar-doh-nay

Classy and golden, ‘Chardie’ is a classic chill-out wine

Bursting with fruit flavours, Chardonnay may not seem like the driest white wine. But these wines are typically dry or off dry. 

Young Chardonnays tend to taste like apples and tropical fruits. When aged in oak barrels they develop richer flavours — you might taste vanilla and roasted nuts. They also get a lovely buttery texture. 

Great food to enjoy with Chardonnay

Unoaked Chardonnay is a bit more delicate, so choose more delicate foods, like sushi, oysters or vegetable risotto.

An oaked Chardonnay goes well with rich sauces, oily fish, duck and pork. Creamy foods are perfect with this dry white wine, especially pumpkin or squash. Mushrooms are also a big hit with Chardonnay.

sushi and chardonnay


Pronounced: Vee-own-yay

A dry white wine that tastes & smells like summer

If you like smelling flowers, then you’ll probably love this dry white wine. 

Viognier has the same body as Chardonnay but is more perfumed. It tastes like tangerine, mango and honeysuckle, with a hint of vanilla and cloves. 

Viognier is a tricky grape to grow and was nearly wiped off the face of the planet in the 1960s by disease. In New Zealand, Viognier is grown in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Waiheke Island. Keep a look out for nice styles from Australia too. This wine is on the move!

Great food to enjoy with Viognier

Viognier is an absolute ‘wow’ with mildly spicy food. Thai, Middle Eastern dishes are all fantastic with this wine. This dry white is delicious with sweet glazed ham, butternut squash and goat’s cheese. 

seafood curray and white wine


Pronounced: REESE-ling

A fun, versatile go-with-the flow wine

Riesling is one of those confusing wines that comes in all different styles, from bone dry to sweet. It’s New Zealand’s fourth most popular wine — but that includes all those different styles. 

If you’re after a dry white wine, always be sure to check the label. The more helpful ones will actually say ‘dry’ or ‘bone dry.’ 

If that fails, take a look at the alcohol levels. Dry Rieslings will have an alcohol level of 11% and above. If the label says 9% the wine will be sweeter — because less of the sugar has been converted to alcohol. 

In the 70s and 80s, Riesling was super sweet — following the trends of the day. Nowadays, Kiwi winemakers are tending to make more dry and off-dry wines. 

When drinking dry Riesling you’ll probably notice hints of honey, lime, apricots, jasmine and earthy minerals. 

Great food to enjoy with Riesling 

Dry Riesling is fruity but also quite tangy. That makes it a good wine to balance rich foods like duck, pork and bacon.  Citrus, garlic or cream-based sauces also work really well with these wines.

gourmet duck and white wine

Dry white wine: In conclusion

Dry white wine is an awesome drink. You can match it with all sorts of food and it’s light and refreshing on a summer’s day. This wine also has less sugar than other drinks, especially if we’re talking drinks with mixers. 

If you’re taking a bottle round to a mate’s place you really can’t go wrong with a Sauvignon Blanc. But do try to check out some of these other beauties, especially if you’re cooking a special meal. You might just discover a new favourite. 

If you want a bit of sparkle with your dry white, check out our article about the 5 most popular sparkling wines in New Zealand

You can learn a heap more stuff about different brands of dry white wine on our website. Our wine descriptions make it super easy for you to find the perfect dry white wine for any occasion. 

If you need some extra help from our in-house experts, just flick us a message or give us a bell on 0800 BRINGA (0800 274 642).

friends clinking glasses outdoors