A dry wine is wine that has been fermented until all the natural sugar that was present in the grapes has been consumed. It therefore has the maximum amount of alcohol possible for the type of grapes used in making the wine. Recipes call for dry wines to avoid the sweetness a sweet or semisweet wine would add to the dish.
Some of the leading dry white wines are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Riesling. Some of the leading dry red wines are Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Pinot Noir, Grignolino, and Côtes-du-Rhône.
There is amazing variety in wines - they vary from year to year, from producer to producer, from vineyard to vineyard. A general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t be happy drinking (a challenge for those who don’t drink alcohol but do cook with it), because reducing a bad wine is only going to concentrate its flaws. If you use a sweet wine in a recipe calling for dry wine, the result will be different, but it might not be as offputting as if you use a poor-quality dry wine.