Skip to Content

Ultimate Guide to White Wine

Ultimate Guide to White Wine

There are almost as many white wines as there are grains of sand on the beach. Wines have so many different flavors, and no two wines taste the same unless you buy two of the same brands.

Nevertheless, generally, they are two types of wines: red and white. However, today’s wine guide is all about white wine. First, let’s talk about how white wine is produced.

How Is White Wine Made?

Typically, the method for making white wine is similar to that of red wine. However, there are a few differences. In addition to this, the winemaker may also add their own special twist to the wine.

White wine grapes are harvested according to the style of wine. However, the grapes must reach the correct sugar levels before they are harvested.

The grapes are sorted after they are picked, they are sorted. Any unappealing bunches of grapes are removed.

Next, the grapes of pressed to remove the juice and the grape skins, stems, and seeds from the grape juice. The skins are removed from the juice because the tannins can change the wine’s color and flavor.

The wine is then filtered. There are many filtration methods. However, the simplest method of filtration is racking.

The white wine is moved from one container to the next, leaving the sediment in the first container. Clarification is also another method used to filter the wine. It removes any compounds that give the wine a dull, cloudy appearance.

Next, the fermentation stage begins. Fermentation is where all the action happens.

Winemakers usually slow ferment wine. If fermentation happens too quickly, the yeast may die. Yeast is important because the interaction between the yeast and grape juice gives the wine a unique aroma and flavor.

Which Grape Variety Is Best for White Wine?

There are hundreds of white grape varieties. However, there are 7 varieties that are the most popular.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc grapes are one of the most cultivated grapes worldwide. It grows best in chalky or clay soil. Each vine produces a moderate yield that is infected with Botrytis cinerea or noble rot.

Noble rot causes grapes to shrivel up like raisins. The water evaporates from the grapes leaving grapes with higher sugar levels.

Sauvignon Blanc has a fruity flavor. It’s bursting with notes of lime, white peach, green apple, and passion fruit.

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris originates from Burgundy. Pinot Gris takes a little longer to mature than other grape varieties.

However, it creates fragrant, fruity, and floral wines. Its flavor has notes of pear, apple, and acacia.


Semillon grapes are the primary grape grown in the Sauternes region of France. About 80% of the grapes grown in this region are Semillon. Like Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon grapes are flooded with noble rot during the fall.

As Semillon ages, it develops notes of honey. Its aroma has notes of candied pear, pineapples, and apricots.


There are many varieties of Muscadel grapes. They are known for their robust scent that is reminiscent of coriander seeds.

Muscadel grapes are cultivated in South France. They can also be used in blended wines.


Chardonnay is the creme de la creme of Grapes in Burgundy. Chardonnay grapes prefer chalky soil like their cousin Pinot Noir. Furthermore, it is the main ingredient in many Champagnes.

Chardonnay’s aroma is characterized by hazelnuts, almonds, and hawthorn. However, there are subtle notes of butter and even mint.


Riesling grapes are one of the most varieties in the Rhine River Valley of Germany. Riesling is known for its complex body and aroma.

Riesling wines can be semi-dry or sweet wines. Its bouquet includes notes of tropical fruits like orange or grapefruit.


Viognier grapes are similar toRiesling. Viognier grapes grow best in the sunny climates of California, Washington, and Australia.

When Viognier grapes mature, they create full-bodied fragrant wines that are bursting with fruity flavor. Viognier has melon, nectarine, peach, white pepper, and citrus flavors. Viognier can also be aged in oak barrels to add complexity to the wine.

What Is Considered a Dry Wine?

In short, dry white wines contain less than 1% of sugar or less than 4 grams of sugar per liter of wine. 

The fermentation process creates the dryness of the wine. During fermentation, yeast converts the grape’s natural sugar into wine. Winemakers control the sugar levels in wine by harvesting the grapes at specific times.

Additionally, each type of grape has its different sugar levels. The sugar levels are the reason there are dry white wines that are never changed into medium -or off-dry white wines. It would be extremely challenging to make sure the correct amount of sugar is in the final wine.

What’s the Difference Between Sweet and Dry Wine?

Whether you wish to purchase a high-quality or inexpensive, sweet or dry wine, it is best to know the difference between dry and sweet wine before you head to the store. Multiple characteristics determine whether a white wine will be dry, medium, or sweet wine. For example, body, the amount of alcohol, acidity, and color can determine whether a wine is


When it comes to body or weight, there are three different categories: light, medium, or full-bodied. The body of a wine is flexible.

The body of a wine is defined by how it feels as you swish it around your mouth. For example, one person may say Zinfandel is light-bodied, while another individual may say it is full-bodied.

Several elements affect the body of a wine. However, the alcohol content is the influential element.

Generally speaking, the higher the alcohol profile, the more dense or heavy it will feel in your mouth. With this information, winemakers can preserve the true fresh fruity essence of the grapes that give the wine its flavor.

For example, Riesling is a light-bodied dry white wine with an alcohol content between 5% and 12.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). Chardonnay, which has been aged in an oak barrel, is a medium-body wine with an ABV of between 125% and 13.5%. In contrast, Muscat and Viognier are full-bodied wines with an ABV of 13.5% or more.


Different white wines have different levels of alcohol. White wines have a smaller amount of sugar since they are produced from white grapes. 

Lower sugar levels equal a lower ABVThis is because the yeast converts less sugar into alcohol.

Typically, white wines have a 10% ABV. However, the ABV of white wines can be as little as 5% or as much as 14%.


When drinking white wine, you will experience a tart flavor on the sides of your tongue. The tart flavor is due to the wine’s acidity levels.

Acidity is heavily influenced by how long the grapes are allowed to sit on the vine. The longer the grapes are attached to the vine, the more concentrated it becomes.

The sugar levels increase while the acidity levels decrease. For example, Moscato and Gewurztraminer have lower acidity.

In contrast, if wine grapes are harvested earlier, the less concentrated they will be. The acid levels will increase, and the sugar levels will decrease. Both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio have higher acidity.


The color of white wine can change as it passes through the fermentation stage. The color can help you define the wine’s flavor.

Case in point, if the wine is pale enough that light can shine through it, it is probably a young wine white with a fruity flavor. In contrast, if the wine has a pale yellow when a light is shone through it, the wine is a full-bodied mature wine.

What Are the Major Types of White Wine?

The white wine aisle is stressful since there are mainly 40 different varieties of wine. However, which are the most popular types of white wines?

Most wines are produced from one type of grapes. The name is usually displayed on the label. For example, Chablis, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Viognier. and Trebbiano can be found on the wine label.

These wines have a broad array of sweetness levels. The sweetness levels will help beginners estimate what the wine may smell or taste like.

For example, Chardonnay, Trebbiano, and Viognier are bold dry wines. These wines have an intense but aging them in oak barrels gives them notes of vanilla.

In contrast, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc, and Chablis are light-bodied medium-dry wines with a fresh, crisp flavor. Herbaceous wines such as Sauvignon,Merlot, and Vinho Verde feature herbal finishes bell pepper or jalapeno.

Riesling and Moscato are popular light-bodied sweet wines. The grapes are more concentrated, which creates a slightly sweeter taste and fragrant wine.

Lastly, Ice wine and Malvasia are bold and sweet wines. These vino-style wines are often reserved for dessert and are perfect for new white wine drinkers.

How Do You Serve a Bottle of White Wine?

There are 3 keys to serving white wine. The first is to store it at the right temperature.

The second is to serve the wine at the right temperature. We will address the third key to serving white wine in the section below.

White wine should be stored between 45°F and 46°F. Additionally, the environment’s humidity levels should be about 70%. Humidity prevents the cork from drying out. 

In contrast, white wines should be served chilled. However, if the white wine is too cold, it could ruin the experience as you won’t be able to taste the wine’s full flavor. The ideal temperature for serving white wine is between 45°F and 55°F.

If you have a wine cooler, place the wine in the fridge and set it to the correct temperature. In contrast, if you do not have a wine cooler, do not place your bottle of white wine in the fridge and leave it there. It’s better to place the wine in the fridge for a set amount of time to prevent it from becoming too cold.

Lay the white wine bottle on its side and place it on a refrigerator shelf. Let the white wine hang out in the fridge for about 3 hours until it reaches the perfect temperature.

Alternatively, you can also place the white wine into an ice bucket that’s filled with ice and water. The wine should be at the correct temperature in about 30 minutes. Once you crack the bottle of wine open, you can leave it in the ice bucket.

If you used the refrigerator method, wrap the bottle of wine with a clean dishcloth. The dishcloth will act as an insulator and prevent the win from quickly becoming too warm. 

What Wine Glass Is Best for White Wine?

The third key element to serving white wine is to use the correct glass. If you use the incorrect glass, you may not be able to get the full aroma of the wine.

Classic white wine glasses will work for most white wines. Stemmed wine glasses also work for white wines as they give you more control over the temperature. They are also ideal for parties as they won’t break easily.

Remember to hold the glass by the stem and not the bowl. Your body heat could cause the wine to become warm.

What Is a Good Dry White Wine for Cooking?

Wine, particularly white wine, is used in many recipes, so we might as well discuss which dry white wines are best for cooking. First, only cook with white wine that you drink on its own. If you do not like the way a white wine tastes, you probably won’t like the dish you are adding it.

This does not mean you have to add expensive stuff to your recipe. However, you want to ensure that the food comes out perfectly.

For example, Chardonnay and Viognier have a lot of weight. So, they are better for gravies or cream sauces for chicken dishes.

In contrast, Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc is better if you make a seafood meal. These wines are sharp yet crisp and will not overpower the flavor of the seafood.

What To Eat With White Wine?

Some individuals like to enjoy a glass of white wine on their own. Others like to enjoy a glass of white wine with a meal.

If you are a wine purist, you probably have never paired wine with food. Whether you are unsure of which wine pairs with which food or you are looking for new white wine and food pairings, I’ve got you covered.


Riesling is the preferred choice for savory hors d’oeuvres like the meats and cheese found on a charcuterie board or bruschetta or toast, crostini, or Deviled eggs. In contrast, salty snacks such as nuts, pretzels, cheese, or crackers are better suited for Pinot Grigio.


There are many white wine pairings for main dishes such as poultry. Whether it is turkey, chicken, or quail, the mild flavor of these meats will pair perfectly with the rich flavor of Chardonnay wine. If you are serving spicy poultry dishes like curry, Thai-style chicken, or tacos, full-bodied wines such as Viognier are best.


If shellfish or flaky fish, including tilapia or haddock, are on the menu, the fresh citrus notes of Sauvignon Blanc are the perfect pairing. In contrast, a sweet Riesling or dry Chardonnay is best if salmon or swordfish is on the menu.


When it comes to dessert wine pairings, it depends on the specific dessert. For example, apple or pear desserts are best paired with Riesling, Moscato, and Prosecco.

In contrast, citrus curd desserts like lemon curd tart are best paired with Ice wine, last harvest wine, or Champagne. Creme Brulee or any vanilla-flavored dessert pairs well with Gewürztraminer, Moscato or Muscat, and Sauternes wines.

What White Wine Is Best for Beginners?

I could not leave without addressing the best white wines for beginners. After all, this is the ultimate white wine guide. If I skipped over this question, I’d be leaving you in the dark.

The best white wines for beginners include Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc.

When Should I Drink White Wine?

White wines are lighter compared to their red wine counterparts. So, the appropriate time for drinking white wine varies. For example, white wine is usually served as an aperitif before the meal is eaten. 

However, white wine can also be served with dessert. White wine can also be served as a drink between meals. Not only will it refresh your guests, but it will also help cleanse your pallet.

Final Thoughts

White wine is often considered red wines sister that only comes out in the summertime. However, white wine is much more complex than this.

White wines are rich and complex. They range from light to medium to full-bodied and have so many different flavors.

Now that you’ve read the ultimate guide to white wine use this information the next time you visit a vineyard, grocery store, or liquor store to select your next bottle of white wine.