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White Wine Introduction

by Staff Writer - C. Barnett | May 21, 2012

White wine grapes are a dominant factor in determining a wine’s final taste. Different white wine grape varieties have different aromas, colors and flavors. White wine grapes varietal (varietal means that a wine is produced from one variety of grape and carries the name of that grape) character is fairly predictable within limits. A winemaker’s techniques can influence the wine’s final taste, but it is not always precise. White wines are mostly made of white grapes and they are made without skins or seeds. The skins are separated from the juice and yeast is added for fermentation (fermentation is the process that turns grapes or grape juice into wine).

White wines are made from the grape juice of green, gold or yellow colored grapes or from just the juice (not the skin) of select red grapes. White wine traditionally has a yellowish gold color. White wines are characterized as crisp, dry, fruity, light, semi-sweet and sweet. One of the more familiar tastes is the oaky flavor of some Chardonnay wines that are aged in oak barrels. White wines are typically a good place for new wine drinkers to start since white wines are initially pleasant to novices and they often tend to be sweeter.

Common White Wine Flavor Descriptions

Apple, Butter, Citrus, Earthy, Floral, Grapefruit, Herb, Honey, Lemon, Lime, Melon, Pear and Pineapple.


White Wine can be characterized by its body-type, such as light-bodied, medium bodied or full-bodied. Light Bodied White Wines are Pinot Gris (also called Pinot Grigio) and Pinot Blanc. Medium-Bodied White Wines are Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. A Full-Bodied White Wine is a Chardonnay that has been barrel fermented and aged in oak.


If only one variety (such as Chardonnay or Gewurztraminer) is noted on the wine label, then the wine is called a varietal (varietal means that a wine is produced from one variety of grape and carries the name of that grape). European and old-world countries tend to label their wine by region, while new world wine is most often labeled with grape variety. Some of the main white wine varietals that you are likely to encounter are: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Viognier.

White Wine and Food

White wines are traditionally consumed with lighter meals such as breakfast, lunch, smaller dinners, appetizers, or as an aperitif (a drink served before a meal to stimulate the appetite). White wine is usually more refreshing and lighter in both style and taste than the majority of their red wine counterparts. This makes white wine an ideal choice for spring and summer occasions. One of the general food pairing rules is that white wines tend to go best with fish and white meats, like chicken and pork. The old standard of white wine with white meat still holds true in many instances; but there are many exceptions to this rule, and you should let your individual taste preferences decide which white wines to pair with your food selections.

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