Virtually every grown adult loves pouring a few cold glasses of wine after a long stressful day at work. One of the great things about wine is that there are so many different options to choose from that your choices are virtually unlimited. The main types of wine consist of red wine and white wine which are predominantly the main choices available on the market.
If you’re someone who enjoys drinking a nice glass of carefully aged and well-balanced wine, then you’ve come to the right place to learn more about how you can make sure that you’re getting a refined glass of wine each time you take a sip. There are a lot of misconceptions out there surrounding the various types of wine available for purchase and the winemaking industry as a whole.
Wine is made from the fermenting of grapes of various types which is why you get the vast options of wine to choose from on store shelves. For example, there is more than one type of white wine including Muscat and Pinot Gris just to name a few.
Typically, wine is categorized by two main features, the type of grapes used during the fermentation process and the region in which the grapes were originally grown. Grapes used in the production of wine go through a very rigorous inspection process before they ever make it into a bottle of wine that you’re drinking.
These grapes are also typically grown in specialized gardens known as vineyards, there are several vineyards located throughout the world with California being one of the most well-known states for their abundance of wine vineyards in the U.S. serious wine drinkers are probably familiar with vineyard tours which basically give you the opportunity to get an up close and personal view into how the grapes that you consume in wine products are grown and cultivated. These types of tours are quite common in the U.S. around areas that have a high concentration of vineyards.
White wine seems to be a favorite with many people largely due to their bold, light, and refreshing taste. White wine can be made using various grape types and fermentation techniques which will all play a key role in the overall quality and taste of the end result.
In this guide, we’re going to go over all of the information that you need to know when deciding on which white wine choice is perfect for you. There are several factors to consider when selecting a white wine option and we’re going to cover all of the details in-depth so that you can enjoy the true essence and delicacy that is white wine.
To begin, let’s start with some important facts such as the main regions where wine grapes are grown and the most commonly used type of grapes in white wine production. In the following section, we’re going to give you the details about the type of grapes used in white wine production and where large wine producers predominantly get their grapes from.
How White Wine Is Made
One interesting fact that you may not know about white wine is that often times white and red grapes are used in the production process of making white wine. The main difference between white wines and red wines is that white wines do not use the grape skin during the fermentation process. While the process of making white wine may seem easy and hassle-free, it can be a very labor-intensive process if you don’t have any prior experience making white wine or any sort of wine for that matter. There are a few main steps involved every time wine is made, read each section carefully so that you know all of the work involved with delivering that great taste bottle of white wine to our table.
Step 1- Crush the grapes and Collect the juice
This is the first and most important step in ensuring that you get q high-quality glass of white wine to drink with your meal or any other food item. White wine is typically made with either white or red grapes for a potent and bold taste. The major difference between red and white wine is that white wine is fermented without the grape skins so no pigmentation from the grape skin is absorbed in the final product. First, the grapes are pressed off the skins and the sweet grape juice is collected in vats to be fermented into wine.
Step 2- Ferment the grape juice into consumable wine
This is the 2nd most important step in the process of making white wine which is fermentation, fermentation is basically a fancy word meaning a process used to derive the alcoholic essence out of the initial grape juice collected. White wines are typically fermented at much lower temperatures than when compared to red wine. This is to preserve the fresh fruity flavors that the grapes give to the wine during the first phase of the winemaking process. During this phase, the 2 parts sugar ferments into 1-part alcohol. So, if you start with 2 Brix of sugar, you’ll get a 1% ABV white wine which is a great way to measure the total alcoholic content of your wine if you decide to make some at home yourself. The more sugar content that is contained of the juice the higher the resulting alcohol level will be in your white wine.
It’s important to keep that in mind so that you can accurately gauge alcoholic content labels when purchasing white wine in the stores. White wine is also typically more vulnerable to discoloration during the fermentation process (e.g. turn yellow-brown) and isn’t commonly held in cellars as long as red wines are.
Step 3- Oaking the white wine and MLF
Oaking white wine adds a vanilla flavor to the end product due to the extremely natural tree bark used during the process. MLF is used to add a creaminess to white wine that lets it flow more smoothly down your tongue. These 2 processes take a lot of time to complete and cost extra money for the wine brewer which is why some white wine products are more expensive than others, that’s why oaky wines tend to be more expensive.
After the wine is fermented, an additional fermentation called Malo-Lactic Fermentation (MLF) will increase the texture of white wine to oily or creamy. MLF alters the type of acid in a glass of wine (some acids taste tart and some acids taste smooth like coffee creamer. Starting a malolactic fermentation involves a different kind of yeast that gobbles up malic acid and poops out lactic acid. If you want a rounder, more creamy-feeling wine, look for a wine that has undergone the MLF process.
Step 4- Filtering the wine and preparing it to be bottled
This is the last step before that delicious white wine makes its way to your table, the filtering, and bottling process. White wines are almost always filtered before they are bottled due to the fact that they are known to attract more impurities throughout the fermentation process. If you make white wine at home, often it will end up being cloudy. This is because it hasn’t been filtered. Believe it or not, white wines tend to be more unstable than red wines and usually winemakers have to add more sulfites to white wines than red wines in order to neutralize the sporadic acidic levels.
Types Of White Wine
Now that you know a little bit about how white wine is actually made, it’s time to indulge in all of the various types of white wines available on the market. While the term white wine does refer to an already specific type of wine product, there are several different variations of white wine available for purchase. Each of these unique white wine products uses vastly different fermentation processes and grape types in order to achieve the signature taste and flavor that they are known for.
Make sure that you read this next section entirely to understand all of the different types of white wines that are available for your consumption.
Types of White Wines
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the greenest-tasting types of white wines out there which is why many people use it as a compliment with cheese tasting. Sauvignon Blanc is also one of the world’s most heavily planted, leading to a wide range of those proverbial earthy smells and sips. With some of the highest acidity levels and punchiest fruit notes, you’ll taste everything from grapefruit to fresh grass cuttings, elderflowers to marjoram, green pepper to tomatillo in a single sip. That sip, however, finishes dry.
New World Sauvignon blancs ten to be slightly more fruit-forward than those cultivated in France. This type of white wine varietal has taken particularly well to the cooler slopes of New Zealand Vineyards where sauvignon blanc accounts for approximately 60% of the country’s total white wine production. The younger the sauvignon blanc, the heavier the green or herbaceous notes regardless of a vineyard’s country of origin. Allowing this varietal to ripen yields more pronounced and heavy-bodied waves like nectarine and peach to round out the savory notes.
You may not be able to say its name 10 times fast or even one time correctly, but you can still enjoy this abundantly flavorful, albeit under-the-radar, white wine type — leaving you tongue-tied in more than one way.
When it comes to taste, few wines are as poppy and floral as Gewürztraminer white wines. Even some of the most fervently popular types of white wines renowned for their sweetness don’t compare to the juiciness and garden-like flavors you’ll get in a glass of this French-German noble grape. Like the name might tease, gewürztraminers have a highly distinctive set of flavors and scent profiles that draw you in even while you’re pouring a glass. Gewürztraminers are inherently aromatic grapes that trick the senses into thinking they’re sweeter and less acidic than reality, with some complex undertones and subtle notes.
Semillion white wine is France’s third most-planted vine type. However, few know of its rich, complex flavor profile, have tasted it from a freshly uncorked bottle or have even spotted it on a menu.
Flavor-wise, semillion grapes carry prominent herbaceous notes almost like a glass of sauvignon blanc while holding a body and acidity closer to a chardonnay. That is, flavors tend to stay longer on the tongue and roof of the mouth plus leave a more nuanced aftertaste than what’s experienced at first sip. Some even describe semillions white wine’s texture as oily or waxy, yet its flavors are paunchy and bright. It’s an impressive dichotomy hard to find in other white varietals. Don’t let words like “oily” deter you from exploring the rich and singular taste of both Old World and new world semillons. This white wine tends to carry a heavier, zestier flavor profile than other whites. Semillions cultivated in warm climates like South Africa and Argentina produce mango, papaya, and white pepper bits. Cooler-climate varieties allow acidity levels to linger, tasting of lime, fig, and ginger.
Viognier is hardly ever the talk of the town, even though it’s one of the most prototypical of white varietals. For those drawn to the naturally lush, light, floral and acidic features so tied to white wines, Viognier is many peoples favorite.
On the nose, you’re hit with perfumed floral aromas that are bouncy and airy. These notes are enhanced by viognier’s full-bodied, full-fruit tastes that hit the roof of your mouth and stay there until your next sip. In many aspects, viogniers are the older, perhaps “nicer” twin sister to the chardonnay. Both their origins sweep back to ancient vineyards planted by the Romans across parts of their Eastern and Western Europe empires. But, viognier’s lush, low-yield grapes were considered the more rare and prized growth. That attitude has carried over into today, as viogniers only have about 30,000 acres of vines worldwide. In today’s time, you don’t have to be part of society’s gentry to find and enjoy Viognier.
This type of white wine is soft and fruity, less weight on the tongue than other whites but bursting with juicy flavors of violets, pears, mangos, honeysuckle, and tangerine. With less acidity than a chardonnay, though, you can expect these flavors to succeed with a smooth, clean finish with aftertastes dependent on if the bottle was age-oaked or not. Un-oaked viogniers will keep their peach-and-apricot-light finish, while those aged in oak temper fruity acidity to produce a spiced, semi-dry clove and vanilla finish.
A glass of Cortese is the perfect white wine to sip after a long day. It’s crisp, tart, structured and flavorful, hitting rounded notes of herbs, musk and fruit alike. It’s also yet another white wine that doesn’t get the praise it deserves perhaps because of its highly regional growths and the limited number of vineyards that nail its temperamental nature. While Cortese grapes are some of the highest-yielding vines in existence, they require a particularly warm atmosphere that lets their fruit slowly develop. This allows the grapes’ sugars to ripen and produce more complicated flavors, not merely lending a hit-and-run acidity punch. Too much warmth, however, and the Cortese grapes reach maturity without this necessary sugar balance, striking more sour notes which must then be tempered with malolactic fermentation methods.
The greatest Cortese white wine comes from the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of northern Italy. A glass will have notably green or straw tints but pour smooth and clear, without much fizz or bubbles. Cortese checks all the white-wine flavor boxes, carrying flavors of lime, banana, passion fruit, mulch, and campfire smoke. They’ll finish with an uptick of acidity that plays on the back of the tongue and stays there, all due to the wine’s viscosity and almost fatty feel in the mouth.
Moscato wine and Muscat wines have a storied history anyone looking to increase their white wine wisdom should know. Muscat and Moscato’s grapes are considered one of the oldest genetically unmodified vine types in existence, growing for over 3000 years. Like many wines on this list, the name discrepancy comes not from differences in the fruit, vines or bottles themselves, but from language.
In France, considered the varietal’s homeland you’ll hear and see “Muscat” to designate this silky-sweet wines made from Muscat grapes. In Italy and most other parts of the world, you’ll see “Moscato.” Moscato has its claim to white-wine fame from its smooth pours and languid sugary sweetness that dances in the mouth. It’s also one of our list’s lowest in alcohol content, with a typical Moscato pour running 5 to 7 percent ABV.
Moscato and muscat grapes are best grown in warm climates, which is why the grape is typically cultivated around the Mediterranean and in some parts of Australia. Notes of orange blossoms, Japanese pear, lilacs, and white cherries build its sweet profile without much acidity or residual tang. What’s more, white wine Moscato will also come in “still” or “sparkling” versions, with bubbles adding a textural element that’s great to enhance certain appetizers or mains.
Pinot Blanc is famous in its home region of Alsace, France, and neighboring Austria, Italy, and Germany, this white wine varietal is amongst the naturally driest and most round-bodied in the family. While grigios/gris get lauded for their expressive pops of isolated flavors, a pinot blanc takes its time, with a medium-bodied presentation that blurs between sweet and smoky.
The flavor difference with this type of white wine is a crucial qualifier. While still incredibly light, pinot blancs contain a notable muskiness, both on the nose and the tongue. The best pinot blancs will even take on nutty notes, as well. Their medium bodies don’t overwhelm with their unique mix of heavy and light flavors, however. You’ll find a glass of pinot blanc carries bits of pear, lemon and yellow apple mixed with star anise, walnuts, Applewood, and mulch.
Pinots blancs finish on a slightly sour note due to its stable levels of acidity. Oak-barrel aging can tame this, which is a conventional treatment in pinot blancs from the United States, Canada, and Argentina. Lighter versions aiming to stress the fruity and sour notes will skip any oak aging, though. Blancs with this treatment is traditionally sourced from northwest Italy, go by the name Pinot Bianco and have a lighter, brighter finale.
Pinot grigios and Pinot Gris are the same grape varietal grown from the same grape mutation. The naming confusion merely arises from language, as Italians cultivate and call it grigio, while their neighbors to the north the French dubbed it the shortened grip. Pinot Grigios are incidentally a younger relative to the similarly named pinot noir, a wildly popular red wine type. The two-carry complementary olfactory notes – dry, woodsy and even floral on the nose. Interestingly enough, pinot grigio and Pinot Gris grapes are a foggy gray-purple color a surprising twist for a white wine varietal that harkens to its red origins.
Pinot grigios carry a distinctly heavier texture compared to other white wine types on the list. Sips will coat your tongue with an oilier, velvety feel best described as unctuous. This heavier body doesn’t necessarily mean a heavier drink, though, as grigios and gris both still contain the light, bright notes white wines are notorious for. It merely turns the dial-up, asserting the earthy with the sweet and finishing with a refreshing rather than in-your-face tartness. Those who enjoy heavier-bodied wines with slightly a less fruit-forward palette will appreciate Pinot Gris. A typical glass will have notes of lemons, white nectarine, jicama, clove, and ginger. Serve pinot grigios and pinot gris “cold,” around 45°F.
Riesling is another popular type of white wine known around the world; Rieslings offer a diversity of flavor profiles that can suit nearly any drinker’s tastes. That’s because this white wine varietal comes in many forms, from the late-harvested sweet Mosel Valley varieties to their dryer, crisper French and Riesling counterparts in Washington state counterparts.
Riesling grapes are highly fragrant and can be manipulated for tart ripeness or held on the vine for a more refined, longer-lasting finish. Either way, Rieslings maintain a sharp, high acidity and fresh, lingering body whether made to be sweet or dry. Riesling white wines are generally on the thinner side, not high in alcohol and not likely to overtake the taste buds when sipping alone or pairing with food. They do best without much fermentation or oak influence during the aging process, making this a slightly different white wine varietal in that they can be harvested, bottled and then left to age without much fuss.
This type of white wine carries notes of honey, lime, apricot, green apples, and earthy minerals. The older the bottle, the dryer, and deeper the flavors tend to run, as Riesling grapes ripen quickly on the vine and can’t fully develop naturally complex flavors. Serve Riesling on the chilled side, between 45 and 50°F.
Chardonnay white wines are a model varietal to top the list of white wine types. Native to the legendary regions of Burgundy in France, this green-hued grape grows universally today but thrives in colder climates such as the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, and South Africa. Some of today’s most popular chardonnays are cultivated in Napa and Sonoma Valley, readily accessible for passionate and novice white-wine drinkers alike. Chardonnay-growing vineyards rely upon many fermentation tweaks to soften its natural acidity into gentler, silkier notes. M
ost prominent is the malolactic method, which is responsible for adding chardonnay’s noticeably light and creamy aftertaste. Many have even likened this white wine type’s flavor to butter or toffee. You can expect pops of green apple, lemon, pineapple, and celery in your chardonnay rounded out by the candy-like coconut or caramel finish. Chardonnays can fall on the sweeter or dryer side depending on the type, though their unique finish helps keep it from becoming too flat or dessert-like.
Flavors Each White Wine Gives You
Every white wine has a distinctive taste and smell to it that makes it easily recognizable over other options out on the market. This section is going to break down how you can use these key indicators to figure out which white wine is best for you.
Light & Zesty
These wines are light bodied and dry, with a fresh clean taste.
- Chenin Blanc
- Pinot Blanc
- Pinot Gris
These wines are typically light bodied with “green” and herbal aromas like grass, jalapeño, or bell pepper.
- Vinho Verde
Bold & Dry
These wines will blow the top of your head off with their intense flavor and a creamy-vanilla note brought about with the addition of oak aging.
- White Roja
Light & Sweet
Often with just a touch of residual sugar (from the grapes), these wines are slightly sweet and very aromatic.
- Muscat Blanc
Bold & Sweet
These wines are very sweet and perfect for pairing with dessert and sometimes chocolate.
- Late Harvest
- Sherry (Cream Sherry and PX)
- Vin Santo
- White Port
How to Choose the Perfect White Wine for Your Taste Buds
Choose a wine that has flavors you enjoy
Wines of a varietal share basic characteristics. Merlots, for example, typically have varying degrees of ripe fruit aromas–cassis, raspberry, black cherry, and plum–along with herbaceous or spicy “notes.” For example, some merlots have a woody or smoky/char flavor resulting from the toasted oak barrels in which they’re aged. Pinot Grigio typically has a dry and tart Old-World style. Pinot Gris, made from the same grape as pinot grigio, typically has a fuller-bodied, and sometimes “off-dry” (sweeter), New World style. So, don’t write off a varietal because of a few bottles you didn’t like. You might not have experienced its range of styles or quality. But even within a varietal, wines can differ quite a bit because of their style: characteristics derived from the wine-making process.
Try to match your white wine selection with the food that you’ll be eating
Although particular wines are often associated with particular foods (as in the proverbial white-wine-with-fish rule), good wine pairing often has as much to do with sauces or a food’s preparation as with the underlying fish, meat, or fowl. For example, spicy dishes can work well with off-dry wines that are low in tannins. A classic pairing for rich, fattier foods, including red meat, is a tannic reds such as cabernet sauvignon. Full-bodied wines (such as most cabernets and merlots) generally complement rich dishes, while fruity-style wines (such as Sauvignon blancs or pinot grigio/gris) work with lighter fare, such as grilled fish. Fairly simple wines work well on their own as aperitifs. The more complex a wine, the wider the range of food flavors that will complement or enhance it.
Best White Wine Recommendations
Cloudy Bay 2018 Sauvignon Blanc
New Zealand is known for its rich and crisp sauvignon blanc white wine products, and this Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is a delicious example of what this region is all about. With its luscious aroma of pink grapefruit and lime zest and enough acidity to make your mouth water, this soft yet zippy wine pairs well with goat’s milk cheeses, Panzanella salad, and fresh pasta served in creamy sauces. Cloud Bay 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Is perfect for those white wine enthusiasts who want a simple and refreshing beverage to consume with virtually any meal.
Outlot 2015 Chardonnay
Outlot 2015 Chardonnay has been described as a “full-bodied and intensely ripe,” white wine by wine enthusiasts everywhere. this Sonoma Valley Chardonnay is, in a word: juicy. What stands out most distinctly about this wine is its gorgeous, sweet aroma equal parts apples and peach candy. It’ll have you thinking about summertime, but it can be drinking during any season. Try this delicious Chardonnay with creamy Brie or soft goat cheese this spring for a simple, slightly sweet, perfect pairing.
Crazy Beautiful Wines 2017 Bella Pazza Pinot Grigio
If there is one new pinot grigio you try this spring, let it be this one from Crazy Beautiful Wines. Citrusy, bright, and perfectly acidic, this is the easygoing but delicious white wine you’ll want on hand for last-minute dinner parties, barbecues, or date night. Oh and, and did we mention this super reasonably priced white wine comes in a super party-ready 1-liter bottle?
The Independent 2017 Chardonnay
If, up until this point, you never considered yourself “a Chardonnay person,” this dry unoaked chardonnay from Carneros-Sonoma, California, might change your mind. There are classic sweet notes of honey and pear, for sure, but this wine has an earthy, mineral taste that haunts the palate and cuts through any sweetness. Try this Chardonnay on its own, and then tell all your friends that chardonnay is cool again.
Wines that have a good balance of acidity, a lot of tannins, and intense fruit flavor may well improve with age. Candidates include some red wines, including most of the better cabernet sauvignons we’ve tested, and some heartier white wines, such as certain Burgundies and chardonnays.
A trend is now to store wine in a temperature-controlled cellar or custom refrigerator. But unless you’re collecting very expensive wines, any spot in the house that is out of direct sunlight, remains cool (less than 70 degrees F) at all times without temperature fluctuations, and isn’t subject to vibration will hold wine safely for a year or two. Most basements fit the bill. Store cork-finished bottles on their side. Screw cap bottles may be stored upright. To get maximum flavor from the bottle, rich white wines, including most chardonnays, should be served cool, not chilled (limit them to about an hour in the refrigerator).
Only lighter whites, including most Sauvignon blancs, should be well chilled (about two hours in the fridge longer and they might become too cold). Lighter reds, such as pinot noirs, should be served cool. Only “big” reds such as most cabernets and zinfandels are best served at about 60 to 65 degrees F. But even a wine with staying power will typically improve for no more than two to three years from the vintage year if it’s white, three to five years if it’s red; after that, quality might actually decline. Opening a bottle a few minutes early does no harm, and certain wines will improve somewhat after they’re exposed to air. But merely uncorking a bottle and letting it sit exposes too little of the wine to make a difference. The best way to fully enjoy a glass of wine before you drink it is to swirl it around in your glass and sniff.
Use all of the tips and information in this article to help you decide on which white wine product is best for your desired taste buds and food choices. By using this guide as a tool, you’ll be able to start analyzing wine like a professional choosing all of the subtle differences between the various options available to you on the market so that you can enjoy a nice glass of white wine anytime you want.