The Different Types of White Wine: A Complete Guide
White wine often takes the back seat behind the more popular red option. However, white wine is not only as exciting as red wine but also more versatile. That’s why you should always leave room for a couple of bottles of white wine in your cellar.
Of course, there’s more than one kind of white wine to choose from. Let’s explore the different types of white wine, along with their flavors and recommended food pairings. Almost every wine region worldwide makes white wine, with hundreds of pale-skinned grapes available to make it. How can you choose just one? Here’s what you need to know about the different types of white wine.
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Types of White Wine
White wine is nothing more than fermented grape juice. White grapes are picked, crushed, and pressed to retrieve that precious grape juice, which later becomes wine after spending time in a stainless steel tank or an oak barrel.
The type of grape used gives the final product its unique personality. Chardonnay—the most planted white grape on earth—produces apple-scented golden wines that are sometimes rich and creamy. On the other hand, wines made with Sauvignon Blanc are more herbal and refreshing. There are hundreds of white grapes, each with its own traits.
The wine’s origin matters, too. Not only because major wine-producing countries make superb white wine—including France, Italy, and the United States—but also because the weather impacts the wine’s alcoholic strength and acidity. Its sweetness is often up to the producer.
Types of Dry White Wine
Most white wine on the market is dry. That means the sugar in the grape juice fully turns into alcohol, leaving no residual sugar behind. Most wines have approximately three grams of sugar per liter, which is unnoticeable.
Producers often ferment dry white wine in stainless steel tanks. You can expect fruity wines with stone fruit, pitted fruit or citrus, and floral or herbal notes consistently over a tight acidic palate. These wines pair perfectly with light dishes like salad, fresh cheese, and seafood.
Common dry white wines include:
- Chablis Chardonnay, Burgundy
- Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc, Loire
- Pinot Grigio, Northern Italy
- Chardonnay, California
- Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
- Dry Riesling, Alsace
Dry white wine can also be oaky if producers ferment or age it in barrels. They allow the wine to undergo the famed malo-lactic fermentation, in which bacteria turn harsh malic acid into mellow lactic acid. These wines are full-bodied and can taste like brioche, butter, and brown spices. Enjoy oaky whites with white meat and creamy sauces.
Other white wines are a bit sweeter. Semi-sweet white is exceedingly popular, as it’s never cloying. And even the most luscious dessert wines are balanced by refreshing acidity, so they’re easy to enjoy without being overwhelmingly sweet. To enhance your experience, serve these wines in a glass with an ample bowl to allow room for the wine to open up. The Grassl Mineralité glass is ideal for acidic wines!
Types of Sweet White Wine
Most sweet wines are white, although exceptions exist. Still, the most famous dessert wines are always white, and they’re liquid gold.
Achieving sweetness in wine takes work, and adding sugar to the wine is not an option, so producers must find ways to achieve high sugar levels. Like in Late Harvest wines, picking grapes later is typical, but there are other options.
Producers in northern latitudes harvest their grapes early in the winter when they’re frozen solid to make luscious Ice Wine. In contrast, others allow a peculiar “noble” fungus to rot the grapes, leaving the sweetest raisins behind—which are ideal for making sweet wine.
Common sweet white wines include:
- Sauternes, France
- Reciotto di Soave, Italy
- Moscato, California/Italy
- Sweet Riesling, Germany
- Late Harvest Wines, from anywhere
Sweet white wine often tastes like peaches, apricots, honey, and flowers. You can enjoy these wines with dessert, although they’re desserts in their own right!
White Wine for Cooking
Since we're talking about types of white wine, let’s discuss everyday white wines that aren’t particularly memorable. Table white wine is an easy sipper that rarely disappoints but never enchants. You’ll usually find this one as bag-in-a-box or as boxed wine—although it's sometimes bottled.
Even though this type of white wine is not poorly made, it is made with ordinary grapes—often from less than prestigious sites—which makes it inexpensive. This is the perfect white wine for cooking and making cocktails!
White Wine Is Always a Good Choice
White wine is a vast category, so there’s undoubtedly an option for you. Whether sweet or dry, oaky or fruity, white wine is always a great choice. Enjoy white wine as an apéritif and from starters to dessert.
Pour it into dedicated white wine glasses to make it an even more memorable experience.