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All About White Wine

all about white wine

Photo by Antonis Achilleos

Warning: Your friends might call you a wine snob after you've read this, because you're going to know everything you could possibly want to know about white wine.

How cold should white wine be?
Whites should be chilled, but there isn’t one right temperature. Dry, crisp, and acidic whites (like Sauvignon Blanc) taste great when chilled to as cool as 42 degrees. But a big, fruity white (like Chardonnay) would benefit from warmer temperatures -- up to 55 degrees.

What are the most prestigious and pricey whites?
White wines that are classified as Premier Cru (first growth) and Grand Cru (great growth) vineyards within the Burgundy region of France are the most sought after among wine aficionados and generally the most expensive whites in the world. The Cote d'Or region and the village of Chablis produce some of the most famous whites.

Is drinking white wine as a spritzer or a Kir bad form?
If you like your whites on ice or doctored with a little sparkling water, go for it -- just don’t give that sort of treatment to a Premier Cru Burgundy. The Kir, an aperitif of white wine laced with creme de cassis (or, more recently, Chambord) was invented in mid-twentieth-century France to mask the acidic taste of cheap wine, a trick that still works and is acceptable today.

What’s a good white wine on its own for cocktails or happy hour?
Think low-alcohol wines that aren’t too rich or sweet, like a dry Riesling or a crisp Pinot Grigio. The purpose of an aperitif is to awaken your appetite, and a heavy, high-alcohol wine will leave you full and tipsy before dinner.

What are the different types of whites?
Pretty much everywhere but Europe, wines go by their varietal, the type of grape used to make the wine (like Chardonnay). In Europe, wines go by their appellation, aka region, or the area in which the grapes are grown. There are 50 or so grapes. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Chenin Blanc Used in Vouvray and other whites that come from the Loire Valley.
  • Pinot Grigio Aka pinot gris, everywhere but Italy.
  • Muscat Often used to make sweet wines like sparkling Moscato d’Asti (Italy) and Moscatel de Valencia (Spain).
  • Chardonnay Used to make white burgundy wines.
  • Sauvignon Blanc Used in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumewines.
  • Viognier Originally from the Northern Rhone, these grapes are difficult to grow and make expensive wines. Pronounced “vee-ohn-yay.”
  • Riesling Called the king of white grapes and just recently gaining popularity; known for being sweet, but Rieslings can also be dry.
  • Vernaccia A crisp, dry white produced near the town of San Grimignano; it’s been produced since the thirteenth century.

White Wine & Food Rules
1. Be sure to match delicacy with delicacy and power with power. Featherweight food like oysters pair well with a light and fruity sauvignon blanc.
2. Your wine should stand up to the dominant taste of the dish. If you take a bite of something salty or spicy and then take a sip of wine, the wine will taste flavorless unless it contains enough acid to balance out the salt flavors. Likewise, sweet foods can make the fruit favors in a wine fade, so tehy require super-fruity wines.
3. Break the rules. The old adage that you should never drink red wine with fish isn't necessarily always true. If the fish is hearty (say, a grilled tuna steak) or served with an intensly flavored sauce, then it will actually work better with a light-bodied red wine (think pinot noir or Grenache).

Tip: To quickly chill a bottle of wine, place it in a bath of half water, half ice for 20 minutes. It’s faster than the freezer.

-- The Nest Editors

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