There are many levels in which you can enjoy white wine, whether you know a few names and flavour profiles so you can handle a menu choice, or you know the colour is what you like better. However you like to enjoy your wines, it’s always more interesting when you know a little about what you are drinking. With so many different opinions, resources and courses available nowadays, it can be difficult to know where to go to expand your budding sommelier knowledge. Where do you start with so many different types of white wine to explore, from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Riesling?
White wines are characterised by acidic, fruity, and floral aspects. The end result tends to be lighter and brighter on the palette. Many assume grapes are the only real difference between red and white wines, when in fact, the winemaking processes are entirely different. Red wine is fermented and white wine is made. The wine variety often stems from what making methods are and which grape parts are used. In white wines, the skins and seeds are removed. This process is more creative than it sounds as it’s highly individual depending on who is doing the work. With so much to learn about and understand, a journey into the world of white wine can often be daunting, however, with the right approach, you can quickly get to grips with the basics of white wine.
Continue reading to learn more about white wine so you can sharpen your knowledge as a budding sommelier.
Vine & Harvest
Green grapes growing in cold climes or harvested earlier will have a zingy sharpness and higher acidity. The longer they’re left on the vine, the more sugar accumulates, lowering the acid and rounding out the fruit flavours for more sweetness in the glass, a warmer mouthfeel, and a richer finish. Once ready for processing, green grapes are removed from their skins and deseeded. Unlike red grapes, which are fermented with all the parts included.
Makers allow the juice to settle before skimming away the discarded remains before beginning the ageing process. This step also ensures they’re not wasting any precious juice. The ferment then begins, and the yeast latches onto the grapes naturally. But for this process to be successful and achieve a good flavour, yeast is added to certain varieties to encourage the process so that the alcohol and carbon dioxide combine to produce the wine. Then ageing can begin.
We all know that wine’s sediment causes spoilage, so in almost all modern production, some preservatives are added. Sulphur dioxide is seen as safe and used most often. A final filter for any remaining sediment so a clear product can be decanted into bottles for our pleasure.
There is a growing trend of natural wines preservative free coming from “new world” winemakers in the USA, South Africa, and here in Australia. Given how most people drink wine, this isn’t a problem, but it does show that times are changing for distribution. In addition to independent stores carrying those lines, it’s an increased amount of online delivery, which is a win-win for all of us.
The White Guide
This wouldn’t be an exciting guide if we didn’t move away from the science and onto the more compelling aspect of picking wines and tasting notes.
Dry and Light
The most well-known wines in this category include Chablis, Chenin Blanc, and Albarino. It’s a good choice for a fresh lemon base, tart apple, and a hint of apple. These wines are crisp and reminiscent of grilled seafood and dining alfresco. It’s also the perfect event wine as your pre-dinner drink.
Bold and Dry
Here you’ll find your chardonnays, Viogniers, Pinot Grigio / Gris. More depth to the palette with stronger notes in the finish, nodding to a longer ageing process and some body and depth to this wine, including some oak and nutty notes. These are wines that pair well with mild-semi mature hard cheeses. Think of classic home cooking: roast poultry, creamy pasta dishes, and fatty fish are a delight when enjoyed together.
Herbaceous wines can be characterised by grassy and vegetal notes and more robust mineral finishes that make these crisp whites a good summer evening tonic. Sauvignon Blanc, Veltliner, Vermentino, and Vinho Verde are all solid options. From seafood and grilled vegetables to salads with tangy cheeses, even sushi has been known to go down very well with these bottles. The South American labels are really cornering this market well, so don’t be afraid to expand your palette to the Latin sun, where the grapes grow in abundance.
Riesling, Moscato, and Gewürztraminer are all sweet to semi-sweet offerings. They don’t get the attention and praise they deserve most of the time. Try a few bottles of all of the above before making your final judgement on whether sweet wine is for you or not. For example, Riesling is considered a sommelier wine due to its adaptability in food pairing. Its profile is pretty broad, especially when consumed with food, taking on everything from Asian to Indian food, fresh fruit, and baked goods. Give it a try next time you have pie.
Get To Know Your White Wines Like A Pro
Taking on some of the information provided above is a great way to begin your journey into the world of white wines. Using the tips outlined above, take the time to visit some wineries, vineyards, tasting events, roadshows and other industry events where you can sample more varieties of white wine to round out your palette. Experiencing the different flavour profiles and getting up close and personal with different types of white wine is the only way to truly gain an understanding of this delicious drink.