Bella mente pinot grigio paired with antipasto

Real good white wine

No two white wines are alike. A Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand offers a different taste experience than a California-grown Sauvignon Blanc. Some white wines are sweet while others are dry, with many falling in between. Read on to learn more about white wine and to shop our current selections. 

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How to Understand White Wine

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Appearance

Looking at your glass of white wine will tell you a lot about the wine. First, it will tell you about the age of your white wine. If the color is lighter or greener in color, you have a young wine. Older white wines are richer in color. You will find winemakers describe the color spectrum of white wines in unique ways, from linen at its clearest to straw yellow in the mid-range, and gold on the deeper end. Looking at the wine will also tell you about the body, or weight/mouthfeel, of your wine. Tilt your glass and let the wine run down the side. If it runs quickly, you have light-bodied wine. If it runs slowly, you have a fuller-bodied wine. Fuller-bodied whites have a higher alcohol content. The average alcohol content for white wine is between 10% and 14%. Light-bodied white wines can include Riesling and Prosecco as well as some Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Gris. Medium-bodied whites include Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio. Fuller-bodied whites are Chardonnay and Viognier. We love the way Leslie Sbrocco describes body.

This is the sensation of weight in your mouth when you sip the wine. It’s often described as similar to the difference between skim milk, whole milk, and cream. I liken it to the various impressions you get when you touch chiffon, silk, and velvet.

 

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Aroma

If you have attended a Traveling Vineyard wine tasting event, whether online or in home, you might have experienced the influence of the aroma, or nose, of a wine on its taste. Aromas can be multi-layered and complex. In white wines, you might describe the aromas present as floral, fruity, herbal or minerally. Floral aromas might include orange or apple blossom, jasmine, and honeysuckle. A fruity nose might include citrus like lemon and grapefruit, tropical fruits like pineapple and mango, or tree fruits like peach and pear. An herbal nose on a white wine might remind you of bell pepper or basil, while a minerally aroma could be described as wet stone. Vanilla and toasted nut aromas might indicate that the wine was aged in oak barrels.

Due to their pronounced floral, fruity, and spicy aromas, both Riesling and Gewürztraminer are considered aromatic grape varieties. Other naturally perfumed grapes include Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, and Viognier, while Chardonnay is not an aromatic variety.

 

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Acidity & Sweetness

Do you like a refreshing white wine with zing, or a sweeter, fruitier white wine? Somewhere in between? It has to do with the acid and sweetness in the wine. Acid is present in all wine because grapes contain natural acids: malic, citric, and tartaric. Higher acidity is common in wines from grapes grown in cooler regions, which deliver crisp and vibrant white varietals. Lower acidity is common in wine from grapes grown in warmer regions, which deliver softer, smoother varietals. Acidity lessens as the fruit ripens. During fermentation, however, the winemaker decides how much of the grape’s natural sugars will be converted to alcohol. A dry white wine has little to no sweetness remaining, allowing the acidity to shine through, while a semi-sweet or sweet wine has maintained more of the sugar and results in a smoother wine.

In her book, “Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine” (HarperCollins), Leslie Sbrocco says, “Sweetness is a taste that most everyone appreciates. Most people start to perceive a wine as having sweetness at anywhere from one to two percent sugar. This doesn’t refer to sugar added to the wine as many people think, but to the amount of residual sugar left in the finished wine at the end of alcoholic fermentation.” Her code? Dry = tastes dry. Medium dry = a touch of pleasing sweetness. Sweet = very sweet.

What makes a Chardonnay buttery?

Once the grape juice is transformed into wine through alcoholic fermentation, some wines go through a secondary malolactic fermentation. This changes the tangy magic acid in the wine—think green apples—to softer lactic acid; think dairy products. Buttery in a Chardonnay refers to this effect.

caballeria de luna white wine sitting among sunflowers

What’s the best serving temperature for white wine?

Most of your crisp, refreshing white wines are best served cold to the touch, between 40 and 50 degrees. That means Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, sparkling wines, and sweet white wines are perfect after a 20-minute ice bath or a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Medium to fuller-bodied white wines should be chilled until cool to the touch, between 50 and 60 degrees, which takes only 30 minutes to an hour in the refrigerator. That means you, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Rosé.

 

More on Temperature
steeple street chardonnay and popcorn

Which foods pair well with white wine?

When pairing any wine with food, a good rule of thumb is to match the weight of your wine with the weight of your food. Light and bright whites pair with vegetable pasta or salads and seafoods. Fuller-bodied whites like Chardonnay pair beautifully with anything buttery, like popcorn or lobster with drawn butter. A white wine with a higher acid, like a Sauvignon Blanc, can pair with an equally zesty dish, or it can balance a rich, higher fat food like fried chicken. That’s where your personal taste comes in! With Traveling Vineyard Sommology tools, like our Pair by Wine and our Pair by Food finders, we’ve created a simple science to help you pair your white wine with flair, every time you open a bottle.

 

Discover Sommology

Why is Chardonnay so versatile? It has to do with the grape’s personality. Chardonnay was at the head of the line when the grape god handed out easygoing personalities.

Leslie Sbrocco, Author of “Wine for Women”

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Leslie Sbrocco book wine for women

Wine Expert Leslie Sbrocco

Special thanks to Leslie Sbrocco, our Director of Sommology, for sharing her wine wisdom and detailed wine information from her book, “Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine” (HarperCollins, 2003).  Shop Leslie’s award-winning book. You can also watch all episodes of her national PBS series, 100 DAYS, DRINKS, DISHES & DESTINATIONS.

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