White Wine 101: Everything You Need to Know

Friends, I am so excited to introduce this month’s featured spirit — wine! Who doesn’t love a good glass of vino?

I don’t know about you but, despite my love for cocktails, I always feel a little unsure about wine. So, I enlisted the help of wine expert Rachel Von Sturmer to help me this month. Rachel’s entire website is dedicated to helping ladies become wine foxes.

If you want to find new wines to try and wineries to visit, as well as learn more about wine and wine etiquette, you must check out Rachel’s site. You can even go to her (virtual) wine camp! Finally, a camp for grown-ups!

This month, Rachel will be here on Mondays to tell us the basics of white, red, rosé and sparkling wine and I will chime in on Fridays with a wine cocktail! There’s plenty of vino to go around and much to learn, so grab a bottle and a corkscrew and read on. Here’s Rachel. // susannah

There’s nothing like a crisp glass of white wine on a sunny day in Summertime. Every wine region in the world makes its own version, but today we’ll cover some of the classic grapes and regions to look out for, along with serving suggestions.

Classic White Wine Grapes

Chardonnay

Sometimes called the ‘Winemaker’s Grape’, because it can be played with in the winery to produce many different styles. Chard can range from medium to full bodied, and in a cooler climate will have good acidity and flavors of citrus and apple. When grown in a hotter climate, you can find tropical fruit tastes.

The use of oak aging is very popular, but becoming contentious. New oak gives a distinct vanilla toastiness and mellowness to the wine. You can also buy Chard fermented in stainless steel that is not oaked at all, giving a more vibrant and bright flavor.

Chardonnay can also be creamy and buttery, which could be mentioned on the label as ‘lees aging’ (where the wine rests on the spent yeasts for a time), or malolactic fermentation, where the harder malic acids are converted to softer tasting lactic acids.

Key regions for Chardonnay: California | Margaret River, Australia | Burgundy & Chablis, France.

Riesling

This is a very popular white variety that is being seen more and more. It can be racy, dry and vibrant (think Oregon and Alsace), ranging to succulently sweet, with honeyed tones (think Germany).

I love it for the white flower aromas and complexity of flavors, and winemakers love it for its ability to express terroir, that ‘special something’ about where it was grown.

Rieslings are capable of extended aging, and they can develop a gorgeous gold color in the bottle. Look out for the tell-tale diesel scent as it ages.

Key regions for Riesling: (ranging from dry to sweet) Germany | Alsace, France | Oregon | British Columbia.

Sauvignon Blanc (SB)

This can be a love it or hate it grape. In cooler climates, it can be super zingy, with green pepper, grassy and guava notes, which is the profile of the iconic New Zealand version.

Acidity is SB’s calling card, making it crisp and refreshing; to preserve those flavors it’s usually made in stainless steel tanks. If you see a California label for Fumé Blanc, it’s just SB that’s been oak aged.

Key regions for Sauvignon Blanc: New Zealand | Chile | Bordeaux & Loire Valley, France.

Serving Temperature

The best way to serve white wine is chilled, but not too cold. The colder it gets, the more closed up the flavors will get. Think of taking a cold casserole out of the fridge and heating it in the oven; you don’t really smell it until it starts to warm up.

Ideally, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the buttery, floral, or citrus notes in your glass, when the wine’s about 50°F, which takes about two hours in the fridge. If the bottle has been chilled for longer than that, take it out a few minutes before pouring.

Other Serving Tips

The ideal glass for white wine will have a fairly narrow bowl which helps focus the aromas towards your nose, but you can simplify things by using the same mid-sized glass for both reds and whites, such as this one.

Holding your glass by the stem will help keep your wine cool, but if the wine is too cold and closed up, cup the bowl with both hands for a moment to bring its temperature up by a couple of degrees.


RACHEL VON STURMER

Rachel von Sturmer is a Vancouver-based wine and spirits writer and classically-trained chef. Check out her site for a free email wine course. When shes not tasting and reviewing wine, shes channeling her love of food, wine and travel into a guide to British Columbias wine country and completing the WSET Diploma. Follow her on Instagram at @rachelvonsturmer.

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  1. Erika says

    I’m so excited for this series! I’m very unsure about wines, too. I’ve been delving more into beers this past year, and have been thinking about trying more different types of wine now that I’m feeling a little more comfortable with the beer world. This will be a good start!!

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