A guide to the types of white wine

Who doesn’t love a glass of white wine on a warm summer evening? Across the world, white wine is one of the most loved and most refreshing drinks to enjoy. White wine is easy to drink and pairs well with a wide variety of foods, especially light meals like fish, vegetables and starters before dinner. While some people believe that white wine is less complex and layered than red wine, there is still plenty to learn about the different varieties of white wine and the best ways to enjoy this heavenly drink. 

Do you want to up your white wine game? Take a look at this quick guide to the different types of white wine, the most delicious white wine pairings and the best way to serve white wine to your party guests!



The characteristics of white wine

Acidity, alcohol content, tannin levels, body, and sweetness versus dryness are some of the most important characteristics used to describe white wine. A white wine described as crisp indicates that it is fresh, light and slightly acidic. A dry white wine is on the opposite side of sweet on the taste spectrum, while a white wine described as round refers to the smooth and full body of the wine. 

The light colour of white wine depends on the variety of grapes used to make the wine. White wine is typically rich in fruity aromas such as grapefruit, apple, peach, guava and gooseberry. Floral aromas like honey and violet may also be present to add more dimension to the taste. In reference to the alcohol content, white wine can be light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied. Lighter-bodied white wines are typically more acidic than fuller-bodied white wines. The acidity can be enriched or subdued by additional factors such as the sugar and tannin content of the wine. 

The notable differences in taste and texture between white and red wine can be attributed to the alcohol and tannin structure. White wine has a much lower tannin content than red wine since tannins are found in the skins of grapes, which play a bigger role in the making of red wine. Further to this, white wine is likely to have lower alcohol contents than red wine, which has a lighter taste to effect. 


White wine styles

Depending on a number of factors such as the grape varietal and the fermentation process of the grapes, white wine ranges from dry to sweet. Although the degree of sweetness or dryness of white wine is a personal preference, certain styles of white wine are better suited for certain food pairings or recipes when used in cooking. Here is a quick look at the most common white wine styles:

  • Dry white wine is the most common and perhaps the most popular style of white wine. The dry texture of these wines is a result of the low sugar content. Since sweetness does not play a role in the taste profile of dry white wines, these wines rely on the acidity and alcohol level to create a multilayered taste. Difficult to master, but very rewarding to drink!
  • Sweet white wine is produced by interrupting the fermentation process before all the sugars have been converted into alcohol. Winemakers use a variety of techniques to concentrate the remaining sugar content in the wine to achieve a bold, sweet and rich flavour.
  • Sparkling white wines contain fermentation gases to create the characteristic bubbly effect once the bottle is opened. This is a very old winemaking technique with refined production methods to ensure that the carbon dioxide dissolved in the wine is maintained. 


Serving white wine

Used in cooking, enjoyed as an apéritif before eating, or served alongside a lunch or dinner meal, white wine is highly versatile. Since white wine is typically lighter to drink with lower alcohol contents than red wine, it can be enjoyed with dessert or in between meals. Thanks to the acidity and pleasant aromas of white wine, it is often used in cooking to add flavour to food or to soften meat. 

White wine is best served chilled to accentuate the acidity and crisp taste. The exact temperature to serve white wine will differ depending on the type of wine and, of course, your personal preference. Sparkling white wine, for example, should be served between 8-10°C without ice. The chilled temperatures will allow the bubbles to stay active. Dry white wines are typically served at about 10-12°C while sweeter white wines may be served at around 12-14°C to enable the full taste and flavour profile of the wine to shine through.

When pairing white wine with food, consider the acidity and dryness of the wine to create the most flattering pairings. Dry white wines tend to balance out meals with high fatty contents and rich flavours. Sweet white wines can be paired with savoury dishes to temper the salt levels while these wines can also be paired with sweet dishes to accentuate the flavours in both the wine and the food. If used as an ingredient in cooking, it is a good idea to serve the same white wine with the meal to complement the flavours in the food. 


The most popular white wine varietals

Countless varieties of white wine can be found in the market. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular white wine varietals enjoyed in Australia:

  • Chardonnay. One of the most common and most versatile white wines, Chardonnay is produced in multiple wine regions across the world, including France, South Africa and Australia. Chardonnay is a popular white wine variety with full-bodied, rich flavours that pair well with fish and poultry dishes. Chardonnay typically has an oaky flavour with hints of citrus, pineapple, green apple and papaya. 
  • Sauvignon Blanc. Originating from the Bordeaux vineyards in France, Sauvignon Blanc is now produced globally in regions such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Sauvignon Blanc is a light to medium-bodied white wine that pairs well with seafood, white meat and salad dishes. Dry and crisp, this wine is rich in tropical flavours.

  • Riesling. Another popular white wine variety, Riesling originates from vineyards in Germany and Switzerland. Riesling is typically a light wine with a crisp and sweet aroma that includes flavours like green apple, pear, citrus, apricot, peach and honeysuckle. Riesling pairs well with fish, poultry and pork dishes. 

  • Chenin Blanc. Also originating from France, Chenin Blanc is a versatile white wine that can range from light to full-bodied. This wine is typically high in acidity with crisp, fruity flavours and hints of peach, pear and honey. Chenin Blanc is often blended with other white wine varietals to create interesting new flavours. This wine pairs well with white meat dishes and is also a popular pick as a dessert wine. 


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