Basics of White Wines
What can we say about white wines? Chances are, if you’re here, you already know a little about white wines (and you have your favourites), or you have tried a bit and want more. Go forth and investigate!
Most of the world’s white wines are made with a small number of mainstream grapes. These are Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Gris. These grapes cover a broad spectrum of styles, levels of dryness/sweetness, and tastes. Chardonnay has been made most famous by the white wines of Burgundy in France, but is now grown in many other wine regions around the world. Riesling is more associated with Germany but is also grown in many places. It thrives in cooler growing areas where it develops somewhat more varietal intensity. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are again associated with France, and the more Italian style of Pinot Gris is called Pinot Grigio. These are the central white wine grapes of the world, and the Chardonnay and Riesling tend to be the most famed for their flavour and texture. Other well-known white grapes include Viognier, Semillon, Grüner Veltliner, Vermentino, Albarino, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Muscadelle.
Chardonnay grapes on the vine.
Why are they white?
White wine grapes do not have the chemical that makes red grapes change colour. This is called anthocyanin. The white wine grapes can also be slightly yellow-looking, green or even slightly pink.
One of Australia's premium white wine regions, the Yarra Valley.
Making white wine
You can find out all about this in the Winemaking section!
White wines are best consumed at cooler temperatures, but as with all wines, the right temperature is key. Fuller-bodied whites like Chardonnay, Semillon and Viognier should be served around 10-12 degrees Celsius. Standard dry whites like Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc can also be served at this temperature. Sweeter white wines drop a few degrees, and are best at 6-8 Celsius.
For glassware (if you want glasses to suit your wines), a standard white wine glass is fine for almost all types of white wine. The only caveat would be for full, oak-aged Chardonnay, where I would recommend a bigger and more open glass to let the flavours and aromas express themselves.
Montrachet, the world's most hallowed Chardonnay region located in Burgundy, France.
This space is too small to list all the available food pairings with white wines. I do try to give food pairings or food recommendations with the wines I review. Check out my tasting notes to see if I’ve given food recommendations.
Cellaring and storing white wines goes by the same principals as for red wines and champagnes/sparkling wines: darkness, temperature around 11-14 degrees Celsius, and no vibration or movement. Humidity is also a factor, so make sure your cellar is not too dry otherwise corks will dry out.