There are many different types of white wine, each with their own characteristic flavors and aromas. Learning how these varieties of white wine differ, and how their flavors, aromas, and other characteristics work, will help you pick the best white wines for any situation. Grape variety isn't the only influence on a wine's flavor, though, so you should also be familiar with the white wine styles — the different ways vintners create their white wines.
What are the Varieties of White Wines?
Major varieties of grapes used to produce white wines include:
What are the Nobel Varieties of White Wine Grapes?
There are many different factors which influence whether a particular grape variety will do well or poorly in any particular region — so many, in fact, that no one has figured them all out yet. After many centuries of wine growing, though, vintners have labeled a few grape varieties as "noble," which means that these varieties are grown in the right region, they have the possibility of producing especially outstanding wines.
- Chardonnay in Burgundy, France
- Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley, France
- Riesling in Mosel & Rheingau, Germany
What are the White Wine Styles?
Not counting sparkling wines (champagne) and very sweet dessert wines, all white wines can be divided into four broad categories:
- Fresh & Unoaked White Wines: These white wines are characterized by dryness, crisp acidity, light body, and no oaky flavors or aromas. The fresh, unoaked style of white wine is common with Italian whites and some French whites.
- Rich, Oaky White Wines: These white wines are almost the opposite of the previous category. They are characterized by being full bodied, dry, and strong oaky notes from being aged in oak barrels or casks. This is the most common style for Chardonnay and many French white wines, like those from Burgundy. Rich, oaky white wines can be more expensive than other categories.
- Aromatic, Off-Dry White Wines: Although not sweet like a dessert wine, the off-dry wines also aren't as dry as the other white wine styes. Their second principle characteristic is the presence of strong, intense aromas and flavors that come from the grape variety used to create them. Many German wines, especially Rieslings, are made in this style.
- Earthy White Wines: This style of wine may be lightly oaked or unoaked but it isn't as heavily oaked as the rich, oaky white wine style. These white wines are also fairly dry and full-bodied. The earthy white wine style is common in some regions of France, like the Cotes du Rhone.
Before you choose a white wine to drink, it will help to know what style of white wine you'd like — either what style you are in the mood for or what style of white wine will pair best with whatever you are eating.