White wine can be an enhancement to many meals or simply a refreshing drink to enjoy by itself. There are many varietals of white wine and with a little bit of knowledge, you can begin to find the ones that suit your personal tastes.
- White wines are not truly white in color. They range in shades from pale yellows to deep golds. The color will depend upon the grape(s) used and the fermentation process. White wines that have been fermented in oak barrels (like many Chardonnays) will have a darker, more golden color. Also, whites that are high in sugar content tend to have a darker color.
To determine a white wine's color, place a glass on top of a white cloth such as a napkin or tablecloth. Look straight down into the glass. You will see its true color.
- White wines are made from the pulp/juice of the grape only, whereas red wines are made from the whole grape including the skin. White wines are generally free from the tannins that are found in red wines because the tannins come from the skin and stem.
- Although some wines do improve with age, you may be surprised to learn that the majority of them should be opened sooner rather than later. Most white wines should be opened within about two years of the vintage date on the bottle. A reliable rule is that if you bought the bottle for under $20, it is not meant to be kept long term. If you are purchasing wine that you will not be drinking immediately, ask the wine seller for a recommendation on how long to store it.
- White wines vary in taste from light-bodied to full-bodied. Here are some of the more well-known varietals of white wines listed from lightest- to fullest-bodied: Riesling, Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio), Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Sémillon and Chardonnay.
- When tasting a white wine, try to determine the following qualities:
- Is the wine dry or sweet? Dryness varies among white wines. A sweet wine will leave the mouth with a lingering fruity flavor.
- What flavors do you taste in the wine? Do you detect oaky, grassy, fruity, spicy or flowery flavors?
- What type of finish does the wine have? Do the flavor and weight reside in your mouth for only a brief, fleeting moment, or does the wine boast a long finish with flavors that linger?
Don't worry if you can't determine the answer to all of these questions at first. The more you drink white wine, the more you will be able to pick out these qualities.
- Deliberately pairing white wines with foods can lead to a greater appreciation of a meal as a whole. Here are some guidelines for pairing some of the most popular white wines with food. Remember, these are only guidelines, so feel free to drink whatever suits your personal taste.
Riesling: Riesling is a light-bodied wine that can accompany a variety of foods. Drink it with everyday meals. It pairs particularly well with mild cheeses, ham, pastas in light sauces, shellfish, poultry and desserts. The best Rieslings tend to come from Germany.
Pinot Grigio: Pinot Grigio has swiftly gained popularity in the past few years. Its crisp, light citrus flavor works well with Mexican dishes, poultry and seafood. It's also one of those great sipping wines that can be enjoyed in the evening on the back deck.
Sauvignon Blanc: Both France and New Zealand produce excellent Sauvignon Blancs that pair well with appetizers, mild cheeses, salads, pastas, poultry, light seafood and shellfish.
Chardonnay: Chardonnay is the most popular white. Its bold flavor holds up well to many foods that are traditionally paired with red wine. Strong cheeses, pork, heavy seafood, barbecued meats and even beef can be paired with a Chardonnay.
- There are sweeter white wines that complement dessert as well. A dessert wine shouldn't be so much sweeter than its accompanying dessert, but sweet enough to enhance the treat. Examples of white dessert wines are Muscat, Ice Wine and Sauternes (spelled 'Sauterne' if referring to the less distinguished version typically produced in America).
- To learn more about white wines, try joining a wine club. Wine clubs send you a set number of bottles of wine a month, often with suggestions on how to pair the wine.
- You can also learn more by checking out the following: Cheers (the wine blog from USA Today), Wine Spectator Online (the website for a magazine that's a valuable resource as well) or the wine appreciation course at Wine Pages.