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In Good Taste

The Basics of White Wine

When it comes to wine, many people assume that choosing a favorite simply involves picking a color: red or white. The red and white distinction makes a great starting point for selecting a wine, but it’s just that—a starting point. To truly enjoy the wine experience, you owe it to yourself to go deeper. 

If you already know that you like white wine, you might be wondering which you like best. Do you prefer dry white wine, or is sweet white wine your top choice? Do you prefer the buttery vanilla notes imbued from a barrel-aged wine, or the clean and crisp flavors from stainless steel aging? If you already have a favorite, perhaps you want to discover a new wine or two. Maybe you’re trying to find the perfect pairing for grilled chicken. Or glazed salmon. Or that charcuterie board you spent hours preparing. Whatever your reasons for wanting to learn more, we’ve got you covered. This article will help you learn more about the most popular white wines and find the one (or ones) that’s perfect for any moment. 

White Wine Production

While wines can be incredibly complex, the winemaking process is relatively simple. Grapes are grown, harvested, pressed, fermented, bottled, and aged. So if that’s all there is to it, the main difference between red and white wine must be in the grapes that are used, right? Yes—and no.

Red wine is made with red grapes, and most white wine is made with white grapes. Wait. Most? Yep, since white wine is traditionally made by removing the grape skin and seeds before the fermenting step, it’s entirely possible to make white wine from red grapes (Hello, Pinot Grigio). But since red grapes have a very different flavor profile than their white counterparts, most white wine comes from white grapes.

Types of White Wine Grapes

Beyond the grapes themselves, the most noticeable production difference happens during the fermentation step. Grapes contain natural sugars, and when eaten and fermented by added yeast, these sugars produce flavors that are consistent with the fruity, floral profile commonly associated with white wine—unless they’re exposed to oxygen. Oxygen is sugar’s natural enemy! OK, OK, it’s not that extreme, but oxygen exposure does remove much of the grapes’ natural freshness and fruitiness. (Good for red wine. Bad for white wine.) To preserve the distinctive aromatics of white wine, winemakers often limit oxygen exposure by fermenting the wine in stainless steel vats. 

Of course, there are notable exceptions to this rule. Some white wines, like oaked Chardonnay, are aged in oak barrels to achieve a specific flavor profile that wouldn’t be possible in a stainless steel container. Some wines, like some people, just have to be different. 

What is “Body”?

If you’ve ever tasted wine with a group, you’ve probably heard someone talk about a particular wine’s “body.” And if you’re like most people, you probably took a sip, nodded your head knowingly, and responded with an insightful “Mmhmm.” Wine is a liquid. How can it have body? Fair question. 

What is Body in White Wine?

Body is a term used to describe how a wine feels in your mouth. As a general rule, a wine’s body is determined by its alcohol content. The higher the alcohol content, the heavier it will feel in your mouth. To keep things simple, most people talk about wine in three categories: light-bodied, medium-bodied, and full-bodied.

Light-bodied white wines are crisp and bright. Usually with an alcohol level under 12.5%, these wines offer a burst of flavor but don’t feel thick or heavy as you drink. Examples include: Riesling and Prosecco. 

Medium-bodies white wines usually have an alcohol content ranging between 12.5% and 13.5%, and they’re often described as smooth and refreshing. Examples include: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Full-bodied white wines inspire descriptions of rich and complex, and they feature the highest alcohol content, coming in at 13.5% or above. Examples include: Viognier and Gewurztraminer.

What is Acid?

Although it sounds more like a science project than a flavor characteristic, acidity brings wine to life, giving it much of its delightful complexity. (And let’s be honest, as far as science projects go, winemaking is easily one of the coolest.) 

What is Acid in Wine?
What is Acid in Wine?

Wine’s acidity is determined mainly by the type of grape used to make it. Grapes with longer growing seasons in warmer climates produce more sugar, which means their acid level is lower. Grapes with shorter growing seasons—or those harvested before they fully ripen—have higher acid levels. 

Acidity gives the wine its crisp tartness, a quality some refer to as the “pucker factor.” In much the same way that biting into a lemon slice makes your taste buds come alive and salivation occurs, the acidity of wine shapes your overall taste experience and highlights other flavors. 

Popular White Wine Grapes

Knowing about wine’s body and acidity can help you discover which white wines you enjoy the most. Understanding the kind of grapes used to make each wine will help you feel more confident when you’re trying to choose the best wine for your next big occasion—or a typical Tuesday night. 

Sauvignon Blanc

Tasting notes: grapefruit, lime, tropical fruit, peach, honeydew, green pepper

Grown in vineyards around the globe, from the Loire Valley region of France to California and New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc produces flavorful wine that is dry and refreshing — but different based on where it’s grown. While French varietals, sometimes called Sancerre, tend to be more herbaceous and floral, California-grown grapes can produce a much richer variety with notes of peach

Chardonnay

Tasting notes: lemon, honeydew, peach, apple, golden pear

One of the most popular grapes in the world, chardonnay grows in a variety of regions. The location influences its flavor qualities, which is why California- and Australia-grown chardonnay exhibits tropical fruitiness while Burgundy-grown chardonnay boasts an apple flavor tinged with a mineral essence. Often fermented in oak, chardonnay picks up a rich, buttery flavor as it ages in the barrels.

Pinot Gris (Grigio)

Tasting notes: fuji apple, peach, mandarin orange, pear

Primarily grown in Oregon and Washington, Pinot Gris brings life to any occasion. Its bright, fruity pear flavor pairs well with just about any dish. Oregon-grown grapes feature a medium body that complements light meats ranging from roasted turkey to grilled chicken. Grapes grown in Washington provide a fuller-bodied white wine with a slightly more tart flavor that goes with just about any seafood dish you can find. 

Riesling

Tasting notes: tangerine, peach, apricot, melon, grapefruit, petrol

Ranging from syrupy sweet to crisp, dry and stony, Riesling varietals offer some of the most diverse flavors of a single white grape. With the most renowned grapes grown in Mosel/Rhine, Germany, and Alsace, France. Thanks to global popularity that has grown through the centuries, quality Riesling can also be found in Washington, New York, and even Australia. 

Viognier

Tasting notes: apricot, melon, citrus, white pepper, nectarine, florals

Similar to Riesling, these grapes from Rhone Valley grow well in the sun-kissed climates of Australia, Washington, California. When allowed to ripen fully, viognier grapes create a full-bodied, aromatic wine with luscious fruit flavors that can include hints of peach and citrus. Interestingly, like Chardonnay, Viognier is often oak-aged to add richness to the wine. 

How Should You Serve White Wine?

Now that you’ve picked the perfect white wine for your occasion, it’s time to think about how you’ll serve it. Sure, red plastic cups and trendy insulated tumblers have their place. (Summer cookouts and pool parties, to be exact.) But if you want to serve your wine in a way that adds a sense of style and reveals your wine’s full range of flavors, you need to pay attention to three key factors: glass, temperature, and tasting

White Wine Glasses Make a Difference

White wine is best served in a traditional wine glass. What’s a traditional wine glass, you ask? It’s a tulip-shaped glass that features a narrower bowl and a smaller opening than red wine glasses. This design helps preserve the fruit flavors of white wine by keeping it at the optimal temperature for longer—which brings us to the second key to proper white wine service.

White Wine Glasses

What’s the Best Temperature for White Wine?

As a general rule, white wine should be served slightly chilled. Serve light, crisp whites like Riesling and Pinot Grigio at 40° to 50° F to highlight their fresh, fruit-forward qualities. For fuller-bodied Chardonnays and Viognier, serve them between 50° to 60° F to bring out their complex aromas and rich textures. 

Best Temps for Serving White Wine

How to Drink & Enjoy White Wine

Wine tasting sounds pretty straightforward. You sip and see what flavors stand out, right? Well, yes — but there’s more to it than that. To fully appreciate the white wine in your glass, you’ll need to use all five of your senses. Or as we like to say: See. Swirl. Smell. Sip. Savor.

Simple Steps To Taste White Wine

See the Wine
Swirl the Wine
Smell the Wine
Taste the Wine
Savor the Wine

Start by looking at the bottle’s label to see your wine varietal and vintage. Then, when it’s poured into your glass, take a moment to look at the wine’s color and clarity. (Good wine should always be colorful and clear. Cloudy wine may be a signal that something in the winemaking process has gone a little sideways.)

Next, swirl the glass to aerate the wine and release its delicate aromas (and to look fancy in front of your friends, but that’s just a bonus perk). 

As the wine settles in the glass, bring it to your nose, inhale deeply, and see if you can identify hints of fruit or spice. With the aromatics setting the stage, you’re finally ready to taste your wine. 

Start by taking a small sip and swishing it around in your mouth, making sure to let it wash over every part of your tongue so that you can experience the full range of sweetness, crisp acidity, and alcohol warmth. Don’t rush through the savoring; it’s the step that will help you learn what qualities you like most in your wines. 

White Wine & Food Pairings

What Should You Serve With White Wine?

Some people like to drink their wine all by itself. Others like to pair it with food. That’s the beautiful thing about white wine; it’s perfect for any preference. Now, if you’re someone who’s always been in the first group—the purists, we’ll call them—there’s a good chance you haven’t tried pairing your wine with food because you’re not sure what foods go with which wines. We get that. Some wine experts dedicate their entire careers to the art of wine pairing, so the prospect of picking the perfect food for your white wine can feel a little intimidating. Fortunately, a little knowledge goes a long way. If you want to expand your wine pairing palette, here are a few simple tips to get you started.

Appetizers: If you’ll be sipping along with savory foods (like hors d'oeuvres or that charcuterie board we mentioned earlier), off-dry Riesling’s light sweetness provides a delightful balance. Opting for salty snacks like pretzels, crackers, and cheese, Pinot Grigio is the way to go. 

Poultry: Whether you’re cooking for yourself or a houseful of guests, main dishes like turkey and chicken are usually a safe bet. To balance the meat’s naturally mild flavor, pair it with a rich, buttery Chardonnay. Serving a spicier dish like Thai chicken or chicken tacos? A full-bodied Viognier can be the perfect companion. 

Seafood: If you are dining on shellfish or light, flaky fish like haddock or tilapia, a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc will provide a fresh, citrus accent. Opting for something more substantial like salmon or swordfish, offset their bold flavor with a sweet Riesling or dry Chardonnay.

Do White Wines Age Well?

We’ve all heard the saying, “aging like a fine wine,” so it’s tempting to think this applies to all wines. In truth, only 1% of all wines vinted will actually improve with 5-10 years of aging, and most wines worth investing in for the purpose of aging are red wines.

The main reason reds age so well is that they are fermented with their skins and seeds, which provide tannins and increased acidity. Over time, these natural additives cause the red wine’s full, robust flavors to mature. 

Unlike those big, bold reds, white wine is fermented without grape skins or seeds. This difference highlights the grape’s natural sweetness and fruit flavors, but it also means that most white wines tend to be at their best within the first couple of years after they’re bottled. So if you’re wondering how long you should wait before drinking that bottle of white wine that’s sitting on your rack, we’ve got four words that you’re going to love: The sooner, the better!

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Summer Picks

Our Favorites

Warm, sunny days require wines that are crisp and oh-so refreshing. With two delicious rosés and a delightful Sauvignon Blanc, our Summer Picks are the perfect addition to your sunshine-filled adventures.

$61.97

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California Wine Mixer Top 3

Our Favorites

Californian wine is a state of mind. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosé, and Red Wine from our California Wine Mixer bundle can transport your state of mind (and palate) all the way to The Golden State.

$77.97

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International Whites

Our Favorites

Experience a world-class wine tour for your tastebuds from the comfort of home. This bundle features incredible selections from France and Italy that will have you ready to grab your passport and hop a plane.

$67.97

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Vine Voyage Top 3

Our Favorites

The Vine Voyage bundle will remind you why France and Italy are two of the most well-known, wine-producing countries in the world. Take your senses to the European countryside with Montepulciano, Rosé of Sangiovese, and Nerello Cappuccio.

$58.97

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Light Reds

Our Favorites

Like the infectious laugh of a best friend, these wines will warm your soul and lighten your mood. Our Light Reds bundle with a Grenache, Coteaux Borguignons AOC, and Pinot Noir are sure to be your new wine besties!

$79.97

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Big Reds

Our Favorites

Big. Bold. Unapologetic. The rich, unmistakable flavors of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, and Bordeaux Rouge in our Big Reds collection are perfect for the unwavering palate that demands something more.

$81.97

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Rosé of Sangiovese

Andiamo

Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. A rosé wine is actually made from red grapes (like the Sangiovese) that haven’t fully ripened by harvesting time. Try as these grapes might, they ended up a little too tart and a little too light in color for a typical red; but that’s where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink—it’s everything you want in your bottle of rosé and more.

$19.99

Sauvignon Blanc

La Pluma

We couldn’t have rosé and Pinot Grigio at the La Pluma party without inviting its ring leader, Sauvignon Blanc. If Pinot Grigio is the dry, acidic friend of the group and rosé is the always sweet and highly affable one, Sauvignon Blanc exists between the two to create true Zen. An interesting and addictive blend of grapefruits and herbs set this white wine apart and make it incredibly difficult to resist, especially when the temperature is high and your desire for a refreshment is higher. La Pluma Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect poolside or beach companion; just be sure to bring a few bottles because your friends will definitely want to partake, and we don’t blame them!

$23.99

Barbera

Wild Child

The perfect pizza wine. Barbera is a simple wine that’s not only easy for winemakers to make, but easier to drink. It’s low in alcohol and an Italian red wine we implore you try chilled because it’s truly *chef’s kiss*. Classic Barberas are fruity, medium bodied and offer the perfect hint of tartness. It’s also the best of both worlds in terms of light and heavy red wines. Let’s say you’re having a friend over who always prefers a cab, but you’re more of a Pinot Noir kinda gal. Order a pizza and open the Barbera for a perfect middle ground kind of evening. After all, the combo of good red wine and pizza is the great equalizer.

$24.99

Montepulciano

Andiamo

Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

$20.99

Cabernet Sauvignon

Unprecedented

If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

$34.99

Rosé

La Pluma

While it’s the unofficial official wine of summer and warm weather situations, La Pluma’s Rosé is one you can drink year-round, no matter the occasion. All rosé wine is derived from red grapes that didn’t quite make the cut, but the result exceeds expectations in terms of highly-sippable, easy-drinking wine. This La Pluma Rosé is as light as its feathery namesake and is best served extremely chilled for an extremely chill afternoon of nothing but vibes. And maybe a few snacks.

$17.99

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

$19.99

Pinot Noir

Unprecedented

We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

$25.99

Coteaux Bourguignons

Passport

The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.

$25.99

Nerello Cappuccio

Wild Child

This is not your average Italian red. Nerello Cappuccio is a dark-skinned grape variety from Sicily, the Mount Etna region to be exact (yes, the volcano). Although its color is vibrant, you might be surprised to know that it’s a much softer red than it looks to be. Our Nerello Cappuccio is cherry-forward, with other tasting notes of vanilla, light coffee (like your favorite breakfast blend), and minerals. The delicate tannins in this Sicilian wine will surprise and delight you and tastes exceptionally good paired with margherita pizza or arancini balls (drool).

$17.99

Chardonnay

Unprecedented

Ah, Chardonnay. The buttery, oaky, rich white wine that is polarizing in its very nature. This is the type of wine you either love or hate; it’s rare to find someone who lies somewhere in the middle. If you’re in the “love” category, our classic Unprecedented California Chardonnay will surely become a new favorite. Its buttery vanilla nature pairs extremely well with like minded buttery, creamy foods such as brie cheese, lobster, crab cakes, crème brûlée, squash, corn, and mushrooms.

$33.00

Verdicchio

Andiamo

A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you’re into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit bitter, the more you sip, the sweeter it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.

$23.99

Red Wine

Unprecedented

We’d love to introduce you to our old friend: Unprecedented Red Wine. She’s a 2019 blend that has been with us through it all and grown to be one of our more popular wines. She’s a mix of all the best Italian grapes: Barbera, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo with a splash of Mourvèdre and a few others. They’re all hanging out, having one big, juicy, delicious party! Tasting notes include a touch of spice, a hint of leather, and some of the best juicy fruits, including blackberries. She truly gets along with just about everybody!

$24.99

Côtes du Rhône White

Passport

This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.

$23.99

Bordeaux Rouge

Passport

When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.

$21.99

Ventoux Rosé

Passport

You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.

$21.99

Tempranillo

Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.

$27.99

Grenache

La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.

$27.99

Barbera

Andiamo

We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they’re low in alcohol, medium bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we’re in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera is the perfect marriage of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a ladies who lunch kind of afternoon.

$21.99

Vermentino

Wild Child

We couldn’t not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape grows exclusively along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that’s incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it’s “weird” only because it’s not widely known by name, but chances are you’ve probably had it before if you’ve ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.

$23.99

Viognier

Unprecedented

For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.

$24.99

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