White wine comes in a variety of tastes and styles. Just like in the red wine spectrum, we have white wines for every palate. As a beginner, getting started in the world of white wine can be somewhat daunting. However, if you read our guide, we have unraveled everything for you.
Shopping or even learning about white wine becomes easier when you break apart the types of grapes. However, there are hundreds of varieties of white wine in the world but there are about 40 common ones. You will only come across a handful at a time. Most wine labels have the grape variety displayed on the bottle (almost all that is, except some French wines). These include types like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, and Riesling among others.
The more you experience white wine, the more your palate becomes used to the flavors and styles. Coming unstuck with technical wine words? Check out the reference guide to wine terms.
Light and dry white wines
These are easy-drinking wines that do not have many complex tastes. They are perfect to start your dinner with or to serve to people who do not often drink wine. As a wine beginner, these are a great place to start!
This wine is crisp and it has a slight acidic taste and aroma. You will mostly find this wine in Italy and Germany and it has different flavors when cultivated in other soils and climates. Some people say that the wine is basic but it is a great addition to your table or picnic basket. It also goes well with foods like shrimp, prawns, and other seafood.
Chenin Blanc is planted in many places in the world and is a very versatile wine. You can make dry or sweet wine with it. In South Africa, it is known as Steen and they have many wineries producing it. It has apples and pear flavors and can be paired with light salads and white meats. You can also enjoy the wine on its own.
Easy drinking white wines
These are other wines that you can start with. They are not very complex for people who are starting their wine journey.
This is one of the most popular grapes that grow in many parts of the globe. It has the aromas of pineapple, green fruits, citrus, and papaya.
When grown in Burgundy in France (where you usually won’t see Chardonnay on the label – rather it will say Burgundy), it adopts a great minerality. Minerality refers to the non-fruit notes and tastes as you get from oysters or sea salt.
This wine is sometimes aged in new oak barrels, when this is the case it picks up buttery vanilla flavors which some people like and some people do not. If you’ve tried an oaked Chardonnay before and disliked it – don’t give up on the wine completely until you’ve also tried an unoaked version.
Chardonnay can be made in a variety of styles and pairs well with white meats. You can enjoy it with roasted chicken, battered fish, fried pork, and it complements green salads too.
Not sure white is what you’re after? Head back a step to the Enjoying Wine at Home Guide.
Herbaceous white wines
Herbaceous refers to the nose (or smell) of the wine containing notes of green plants or herbs. You might catch a hint of freshly mown lawn, celery, dill, eucalyptus, or other smells that remind you of a gentle stroll through a herb garden or french kitchen!
This is Austria’s pride and joy and is planted in more than 30% of their wine farms. You can also find this wine made in the United States, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. The wine can come in a variety of flavors ranging from green tropical fruits and peach and citrus fruits.
Some of the wines have refreshing minerality and oak tastes. In some instances, the variety has had spicy notes. This wine goes well with Vietnamese food or fried foods. It pairs remarkably with fast foods like French Fries, fish, or hamburgers.
This is the most planted white grape in the world and it has aromas of apples and even gooseberries. In some styles, you will taste pears, mangoes, and other fruits. They can be oaked or unoaked and it all depends on the style that the winemaker chooses to go with. The wine should be served with seafood dishes or green salads and fruit bowls.
Light and sweet white wines
Prosecco is Italy’s sparkling wine and it is loved because it is a perfect accompaniment to many dishes. It comes in sweet nectary and floral flavors. It can also take on toasty and nutty tastes like vanilla, cream, and hazelnut. It is a great sweet wine to start with for every person getting into wine. It can be a perfect welcome drink for a garden picnic or day party and it is best served chilled and on a champagne flute.
Do the sparkling options intrigue you? Learn more about champagne and sparkling wine.
Originating from the Rhine region in Germany, Riesling is lighter than some varieties like Chardonnay and tastes of fresh apple and other green flavors. Most people say that very few white wines age well. However, Rieslings can be aged due to the freshness, and they also pair great with white meats like pork, fish, and chicken.
This is mostly fruity and sweet and reminiscent of orange and peach flowers. It has dominant floral flavors and can be enjoyed as a sparkling, dessert, or still wine. It has low alcohol levels and high sugar and its sweetness is best paired with Asian foods with lots of spices.
Bold and sweet white wines
These wines are perfect for dessert wine and are the best sweet wine for beginners. A little goes a long way though – so pour sparingly to start with, or use dessert wine glasses!
Ice wine is a dessert wine made from grapes that freeze while still on the plant. Because the water in the grape turns into ice, it is easy to pick out the other solids and sugars leading to a more concentrated wine.
This technique of winemaking was originally developed in Austria and Germany, but Canada is now well known for its ice wine too. The resultant wine is sweet and a perfect pairing for desserts.
Originating from Hungary, this sophisticated wine is sweet and can age for many years. It is made from grapes that grow in wet areas and then they get moldy and are let to shrivel up during the dry season. Don’t let the mold in the process put you off – botrytis (its official name) is highly prized for the sophisticated taste it produces. It is a high-quality dessert wine which pairs well with cheesecake and sugary desserts.
Full bodied white wines
This wine originates from Southern France and is a great addition for people who are already accustomed to Chardonnay. It is less acidic and more floral than Chardonnay. It pairs brilliantly with veal, duck, or turkey. Add it to the table if your menu involves creamy sauces and lean meats. It’s also one of Lisa’s favourites!
Those are some of the white wines that you can start exploring. When you go shopping for wine, check the wine label and start with the lighter wines and try them with different recommended foods. There is so much to learn and appreciate when it comes to white wine.
So, which wine will you choose to start with? Let me know in the comments.