Delicate flavors, dry, fruity notes, aromatic, and texture: these terms are often found in white wine descriptions and can leave you scratching your head. Labels might give regions and bland instructions on how best to serve it, but that does not always help when choosing a drinking wine. Often, pairing white wines seem like a job for professionals, but learning a few terms can make all the difference.
Thirteen Common White Grapes
The 13 grape varieties of white wine make choosing your ideal white wine appear more difficult than it needs to be. Most wine varietals also share the name of the grape used to create it, so it pulls double duty in learning the flavors available without having to have tested every wine to understand it.
The list from Wine Enthusiast goes into detail on the most common varieties found in wines currently on the market. The more you study the list the easier it will be to decode product descriptions. Recognize that the grapes used in each company’s recipe alter and enhance the wine flavor too. Most contain the fruity notes found in white wines that we enjoy, but slightly sour notes, herbal flavors, and the dry feel also comes from the grapes.
Oaked, Slightly Oaked, or Unoaked?
Understanding what these terms mean, when used in wine, is the first step. An oaked wine is fermented either fully or partially in oak barrels or with oak chips. This alters the flavor and depth of white wine and introduces toasted, vanilla, spice, smoky, and cedar notes, among others. These wines pair best with main dishes and will complement some appetizers that share the same flavors. Unoaked wines have a bolder fruit flavor and do well with desserts, fruits, and a variety of cheeses. Lightly oaked wines will have a balance between the two and makes them a versatile choice for most occasions.
It used to be a practice only reserved for the elite wines, but many oaked white wines will keep in your cellar or wine cabinet for years. This is great if you find a wine you love and want to keep on hand. It is easy to buy white wine online in bulk too. Aside from saving money, aging your white wine at home will add complexity. However, a few varieties are best consumed while they are young: Prosecco, Cava, and most Moscato and Viognier varietals are a few that fall under this. Mass produced wine varietals, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc, won’t last more than two years without spoiling.
Whether you’ve had a glass of white, or you’ve never taken a sip, you’ve likely read lengthy, exotic descriptions that sound more like a vacation than a wine. The worst is when all you want to know is if it’s good for a main course, appetizer, or to serve with dessert. However, the label leaves you wondering if you should sun on the French countryside and pick warm grapes off the vine rather than buy the bottle to pair at home. Finding the right wine is truly easy; you just need a little research and the reward is entirely worth the effort.