White Wine Styles and Personalities
Written by Tynan Szvetecz
Filed Under: Wine Tasting
When people discuss the revolution in wine that has happened over the last thirty years, they must emphasize the astounding leap white wine has taken to reach the highest standards of its red wine counter-parts. Thanks to the contributions of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings, Australian and Chilean Chardonnays and the continued exploration of the finest French Burgundies, Bordeaux Blancs and Champagne, there are world-class white wines to match any occasion - and they are available at most any price.
For those interested in pinning down their favorite style of white wine, here is an overview of a handful of the most important white wine personalities...
1. Breezy and Simple
These whites aren't going to knock your socks off. They are specialties from the old world concocted to unobtrusively be paired with light foods - light Italian foods in particular. These wines are quite dry with a mellow, non-fruity aroma. With shellfish they are delightful, but people from the United States, South America and Australia may find them a bit too subtle and mellow.
Fruit / Flavors: Dry and acidic with Mellow fruit
Wine Types to Look For: Most Italian Whites (Soave, Frascati, Orvieto, Verdicchio, Lugana, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco), Unoaked Chablis (Burgundy)
The Marlborough region in New Zealand has become world famous for its mouth-wateringly delightful Sauvignon Blanc, replete with flavors of lime and gooseberries. A great companion to food and increasingly enjoyed on its own, this style of wine is like the life of the party - always full of new stories and new surprises. Drier-style Rieslings from New Zealand, Australia, Mosul in Germany and Alsace in France are wonderful young and also age to perfection.
Fruit / Flavors: Gooseberries, lime, peach (in Riesling), Asparagus
Wine Types to Look For: Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, Chile, South Africa), Riesling (New Zealand, Australia, Alsace in France, Mosul in Germany), White Bordeaux (Dry-white Bordeaux from France), Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume (from Loire Valley in France)
3. Sleek and Nutty
These wines are often over-looked in the new world today, but they are the style that began Chardonnay's popularity in the new world back in the 70's. A Chardonnay from Australia or California would give you little idea of what defines wines from this group - typically French oaked whites from Burgundy and oaked whites from Graves and pessac-leognan in Bordeaux. These wines will be crisp, sleek and described as more minerally and steely than peachy or butterscotchy.
Fruit / Flavors: apple, lemon, undertones of nuts and cream
Wine Types to Look For: White Burgundy (Burgundy in France), Graves, Pessac-Leognan (Bordeaux in France)
4. Toasty with Tropical Fruit
No white wine style describes the wine revolution better than the New World-specific Chardonnays of Australia, South America and California. They are full of ripe fruit, strong oak and a buttery aftertaste. This wine personality is bold and voluptuous.
Fruit / Flavors: peach, apricot, pineapple with toasty and buttery aftertaste
Wine Types to Look for: Chardonnay (Australia, California)
These wines often have not-so-subtle undertones of flowers, herbs and random scents that seem to come from the skin-care section of the department store. They are best paired with certain foods, particularly spicy foods like Chinese Cuisine or authentic Spanish and South American dishes. Not surprisingly, some of the best are from Spain (Albarino) or Argentina (Torrontes).
Fruit / Flavors: Floral: roses, perfume and Spices: corriander etc
Wine Types to Look for: Gewurztraminer (Alsace in France), Viognier (Rhone Valley in France), Albarino (Spain), Torrontes(Argentina)
6. Succulent and Sweet
Often called desert wines, the personality of these wines is surprisingly balanced yet decadent. What stands out most about the best- made wines from Sauternes is how well the sweetness is offset by an appropriate level of acidity and alcohol.
Fruit / Flavors: Ripe Peaches, Pineapple, Butterscotch and Honey
Wine Types to Look For: Sauternes and Barsac (France), Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese (Germany)
The wonderful thing is that everybody is familiar with sparkling wine, thanks to traditions like Champagne at weddings and on New Years Eve, but the sad thing is that people don't drink them nearly enough. These wines are not only great on special occasions, but also wonderful every day. The wide variety of food pairings available to sparkling wine is also impressive - this wine compliments foods ranging from fish and chips to the best gourmet appetizers.
Fruit / Flavors: Melon, peach, apple, pineapple, nutty, bready aroma
Wine Types to Look for: Champagne (France, more expensive), Sparkling Wine (Australia, California, New Zealand: good value), Prosecco (Italy), Asti (Italy), Cava (Spain), German Riesling Sekt (Germany)
Naturally there are quite a few other white wine personalities, and even within this group there are wines that embody more of a character from another group than what they are traditionally known for. All things considered, these personality styles are enough to get started on the road to finding the right synergy with your white wine.