Red wine may be the favored by most US wine drinkers, but white wine shouldn’t be discounted. Whites can run the gamut from light Pinot Gris to full-bodied Chardonnay; from extra dry and bubbly Brut to sweet ice wine. If you’re new to white wines, here are a few things to look for as you peruse the local wine shop or look around online.
Keep the Occasion in Mind
Are you going to a dinner party, or are you buying something to drink with your partner and a few close friends? Are you celebrating something? Do you want to try something new? If you are going to a party where the host or hostess has asked that you bring wine (or where you’d like to bring wine to serve with dinner) it’s perfectly acceptable to ask what will be on the menu to help you guide your wine choice. Alternatively, you can treat your hosts to a bottle that you would like them to enjoy on their own time, regardless of whether it goes with the meal or not. Bringing something that you already know your friends, guests, or hosts will enjoy is always a safe choice.
Sweet, Dry, Fruity, or Floral?
If you’re not a connoisseur of white wines, a good rule of thumb is that Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, and Pinots are often dry, while Rieslings, Chenin Blancs, Moscatos, and Gewurztraminers tend to be more aromatic and fruity, perhaps even slightly sweet. Chardonnay generally has a bold flavor, while Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc tends to be light, clean, and “green” tasting. Sweeter wines like Gerwurztraminer are generally thought of as dessert wines. Let your palette be your guide. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to read reviews and buy white wine online.
Make it Sparkle
Champagne is sparkling wine from the northeast Champagne region of France. Sparkling white wines from other regions of the world (such as Prosecco) will be similar but are not technically classified as “champagne.” Brut refers to dry champagne or sparkling wine, while doux refers to very sweet champagne. A little bubbly is great for a celebration, but you can also pair champagne and sparkling wine with food just as you would any other fine white wine. Dry sparkling wine in particular can be light and almost palette-cleansing, so it can be a great contrast to heavier foods such as mushroom risotto or even roast chicken and potatoes.
As you try new white wines and pairings, you’ll develop your own affinities, preferences, and tastes. Sweet champagne may not be as “impressive” as Brut, but ultimately, wine tasting is about experimenting with new tastes to find the vintage that you enjoy. Play with vino, take recommendations from those you trust, and open yourself up to the experience.