White wine is still one of the most commonly sought after drinks on offer in restaurants and bars worldwide. Its universal appeal could be attributed to a variety of factors, including its year-round drinkability and ability to complement a range of different dishes. For many, however, white wines are still interchangeable, with very little distinction made between the world of different grapes and blends on offer. The truth is that like in all other areas of wine tasting, each white is unique and offers alternative flavour profiles which appeal to every individual drinker. It is important to remember that finding a particular wine that resonates with your own desires and palette, is as important, if not more so than finding a wine which claims to be objectively ‘good.’
Many people’s introduction to the world of white wines begins with light and zesty varieties such as Chablis and Pinot Grigio. These tend to be light-bodied and often contain aromas of citrus. Pinot Grigio stands to be the most popular wine in Italy, pairing well with delicate seafood, and offering a refreshing but not overly sweet taste. With notes of lime, lemon and green apple this can be hailed as the perfect summer white, served chilled at garden parties and barbeques.
Chardonnay is a name that springs to mind the minute discussion turns to white wine, and most of us have had good and bad experiences with this particular blend. Whilst many love it, and some claim to hate it, Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in the world, and therefore shouldn’t be ignored when discovering your preferred vintage. Many people don’t fully understand the distinction made between oaked and unoaked Chardonnay, however, a process that produces two very different results.
Oaked Chardonnay gives a much richer, fuller flavour with buttery notes of vanilla. Those who prefer red to white wine because of the bolder and more intense flavour profiles would do well to give a quality, oaked chardonnay a try. Whilst it may seem unforgivable many believe that the oaked varieties can even stand up to a steak if you fancy a change from your usual Cab Franc or Merlot. Unoaked Chardonnays are still aged, but usually in stainless steel, creating a completely different drinking experience. Instead of rich, buttery tones, these are replaced with fruity, citrus profiles such as lemon, green apple, and even pineapple. If you love the taste of unoaked chardonnay then you may also enjoy Chenin Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc originates from France, however, over recent years the New Zealand style has gained in popularity. It’s acidity and aroma of fresh cut grass make it extremely drinkable and suitable for warmer weather. A more subtle version of this popular wine can be found in Sancerre.
Another white wine, which is often sadly underappreciated is Riesling. Many make the assumption that this variety is sickeningly sweet, but that does not have to be the case. Choosing a dry Riesling from Austria will ensure it carries all the flavour profiles associated with the wine, without the honeyed sweetness that many wish to avoid. If the sweetness is what you’re looking for however then look no further than a Moscato, often used as a dessert wine, this can be the perfect finishing touch to a dinner party.
We hope this brief introduction to some of the main varieties of white wine on offer, has given you some indication of which you may prefer. The key is to experiment with the plethora of blends and varieties available, before hopefully settling on a lifelong favourite. Never again be left ordering ‘a white wine’ when you’re out, or picking up whichever bottle happens to be on offer in the supermarket; as I hope we’ve shown, the world of white wine deserves far more thought and attention than that.
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