White wine, some people love it, others swear they only drink red. But you shouldn’t overlook a nice glass of white wine without first diving in to see what you like and don’t like, avoiding sweeping judgments or assumptions along the way. This might surprise you, but there is a plethora of white wine styles out there, and they go fantastically well with all types of food, even steak.
The trick to figuring out what you like, though, is trying a sampling of some of the more popular styles out there, which will help you be more informed about how to tell your server or wine shop professional what you enjoy, so they can help point you in the right direction as you drink more and more bottles of white in the future.
With that idea in mind, these are the six wine varieties and styles that will give you a great introduction to the world of white wine. Take this list to your local wine shop and have them recommend a bottle that falls under each category. Then head home, and get to studying!
Types of White Wine for Beginners
Chardonnay is the most popular white wine on Earth, so it’s a good variety with which to start on your white wine journey. But Chardonnay has some haters, especially those who aren’t very fond of the oaked version, but give it a try, because you might love it. Those who are fond of oaked Chardonnay love the wine’s rich vanilla flavors and the luscious, rich, and often rounder mouthfeel the wood aging can often provide. It’s this backbone that allows Chardonnay to even stand up to a steak — if you dare. If you find you’re fond of this style you will probably be a fan of other white wines that see oak, including some white Bordeaux as well Grüner Veltliner and Viognier. If you’re not a fan, it’s time to try unoaked Chardonnay instead.
These are wines that are either aged in stainless steel, or sometimes placed for a short time in neutral oak — meaning the oak barrel has been used so many times prior that it won’t impart its rich vanilla flavor in the wine. Unoaked Chard — popularized by Chablis in Burgundy — has none of those buttery vanilla flavors you might find displeasing. Instead it’s just delicious green apple, lemon, and maybe even a bit of pineapple. If you find yourself loving these flavors, you might want to try Chenin Blanc next.
Summer in a glass, this is a wine that was born in France, but really saw its rise come when it found a new home in New Zealand. Chances are most people you know who love Sauvignon Blanc love the New Zealand version: It smells of fresh-cut grass with a nice zippy acidity that is as refreshing as a glass of lemonade. But if you’re looking for a subtler wine that isn’t as aggressive both in terms of the acidity and the grassy notes, head to Sancerre for the most refined version of the wine. If you find you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, your next stop on the white wine express could be Vermentino or Verdicchio from Italy or Torrontes from Argentina.
The most popular white wine of Italy, Pinot Grigio has refreshing flavors of lime, lemon, and green apple. Often very dry — not sweet — the wine is great with seafood. If you enjoy Pinot Grigio also try Assyrtiko from Greece or Albariño from Spain.
Riesling – Dry:
Riesling is the most common white wine in Germany. It is often thought of as very sweet, but in fact, some of the top Rieslings in the world are bone dry. To ensure you have a dry Riesling, grab a bottle from Austria (the driest of all regions), the Alsace region of France, or find one labeled Trocken if it’s German. These wines have the lemon, lime, pineapple, and apricot flavors Riesling lovers adore, but don’t have the cloying sweetness; however, if sweetness is what you’re after, Riesling can fill that role for you as well.
Riesling – Sweet:
Sweet Riesling is also made in Germany as well as in parts of the U.S. Ask your wine merchant to point you in the direction of the sweeter stuff. If you’re a fan, you might want to try Moscato or Gewürztraminer next.
White Wine FAQ
What Is the Most Popular White Wine?
Overall, Chardonnay is the most popular wine globally, but this varies by specific geographical locations. In Italy, for example, Pinot Grigio is the most popular selection.
Is White Wine Sweet or Dry?
White wine can be sweet or dry.
Is Champagne a White Wine?
Champagne is traditionally made with a blend of three different varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
How Many Types Of White Wine Are There?
There are endless styles of white wine, but these are six popular types: oaked Chardonnay, unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, sweet Riesling, and dry Riesling.