Types of white wine

White wine is delicious, refreshing and versatile. Spoilt for choice? Let us steer you in the right direction.

people drinking white wine

Picking the perfect bottle to tantalise your tastebuds on a summer’s eve can be tricky. If you haven’t already got a go-to grape or region, then deciding where to start can be baffling.

Should you reach for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio? And, furthermore, which country produces the best – and best-value – white wine? Should you choose an Italian, French or antipodean bottle?

Stick with finder and we’ll guide you through the essential flavours, most popular countries of origin and the distinct characteristics offered by some of the UK’s favourite white wines.


Chardonnay

Even if you don’t know the first thing about white wine, chances are you’ve heard of Chardonnay. It’s one of the most popular white wines in the UK. This wine originated in Burgundy, France, but is now created all over the world.

The first thing you’ll notice when you take that initial sip of Chardonnay is its complexity. One bottle can differ quite dramatically in flavour to the next. Chardonnay is an easy crowd-pleaser and is available either ‘oaked’ or ‘unoaked’, depending on your flavour preference.

Oaked Chardonnay varieties offer subtleties of vanilla, crème brûlée and even toast, while unoaked bottles are fruitier and generally medium-high in acidity, and will present a dash of zing that’s sure to excite your palate.

McPherson's The Full Fifteen Chardonnay 2015
McPherson's The Full Fifteen Chardonnay 2015

Laithwaites

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay
Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay

Cellar by Waitrose & Partners

Warwick Estate First Lady Chardonnay, 2013
Warwick Estate First Lady Chardonnay, 2013

Fortnum & Mason

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc offers a refreshing accompaniment to an array of dishes from Chinese sweet-and-sour to a roast chicken dinner. The major wine regions producing this white are scattered across South Africa, France, the USA and Argentina.

Like Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc is available in oak-aged and unoaked variations and the effects are similar. Oak-aged bottles will offer essences of butterscotch, nutmeg, marzipan, and brioche, whereas unoaked varieties call on fruity fans of quince, pear, passion fruit, lime, and other equally tempting sweet, yet refreshing treats.

There are several acidities on the market ranging from medium-high to high.

L.A.S. Vino CBDB Chenin Blanc 2015
L.A.S. Vino CBDB Chenin Blanc 2015

Fortnum & Mason

Pinot Blanc

If you’re looking for a versatile wine, Pinot Blanc is a great option. The best grapes are thought to originate from Europe, specifically Alsace (northeastern France), the Alto Adige wine region of Italy, and in areas of both Germany and Austria.

Pinot Blanc is a grape that achieves a medium to full-bodied wine with a good level of acidity. Like Chenin Blanc and, of course, Chardonnay, it responds well to the process of oaking. Pinot Blanc can present differing characters that include hints of apple and almond, and occasionally feature a smoky edge.

If you like a tartier finish to your pallet, this is one to try.

Fortnum's Alsace Pinot Blanc, Domaine Bruno Sorg
Fortnum's Alsace Pinot Blanc, Domaine Bruno Sorg

Fortnum & Mason

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is growing rapidly in popularity throughout the UK, and when you look at the profile of this white, it’s not hard to see why. This wine is light, easy to drink, simple and subtle in flavour, and yet utterly refreshing. If you’re shopping for a bottle, it’s recommended to look out for one that originated in Northern Italy.

The most common characteristics of Pinot Grigio are a light, crisp and dry finish. Pair the wine’s characteristics with complimenting aromas of lemon, green apple and essence of blossoms and you’ll be amazed by its tasty simplicity.

Petit Rozier Weather Station Pinot Grigio
Petit Rozier Weather Station Pinot Grigio

Marks & Spencer

Martisor Pinot Grigio
Martisor Pinot Grigio

Cellar by Waitrose & Partners

Gruner Veltliner

Gruner Veltliner is the staple wine grape of Austria. The end result of the creation process is two distinctly different variations on flavour. Both offer aromas of citrus, offset by fruit and hints of herbs, and the unusual trademark dash of white pepper.

If you’re looking for a lighter, fresher wine that spotlights the fundamental citrus character choose a bottle originating from Weinviertel.

If you choose a bottle from the Wachau, Kremstal or Kamptal regions, the overall experience will be spicier, heavier and offer more complexity. Wines originating in these regions offer plenty of texture with characteristics comparable to honey, or marmalade.

Stift Gottweig Gruner Veltliner ‘Messwein’
Stift Gottweig Gruner Veltliner ‘Messwein’

Fortnum & Mason

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is another crowd-pleaser. It is one of the oldest and most highly rated white wine grapes the globe has to offer. The very best bottles originate in the French Loire Valley and Bordeaux, as well as Marlborough, New Zealand.

Sauvignon Blanc differs to the majority of white wines. The flavours produced are distinctly green. If you opt for a Sauvignon Blanc that originates from a cooler climate, you will notice strong sensations of limes and green apples. Choosing a Sauvignon Blanc made in warmer climates will result in riper grapes that produce fruity flavours of peaches and passionfruit.

The underlying effect of a great Sauvignon Blanc will take you on a journey through gooseberries and grass, finishing fresh and flavoursome with jalapenos and peppers.

Small and Small Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Small and Small Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Naked Wines

Windfall Sauvignon Blanc
Windfall Sauvignon Blanc

Cellar by Waitrose & Partners

Viognier

Viognier is a wine grape that is now grown widely across the globe. Bottles originate in European countries including France, Italy, and Spain, as well as further afield in Chile, Argentina, Australia and Japan.

The Viognier grapes offer a rich texture and an aromatic experience. Striking fruit flavours are characteristic of this style of wine, and it you have a good nose, you should be able to pinpoint aromas of chamomile, lavender and thyme.

Riesling

If you’re looking for something a little different, give Riesling a try. This white originates in Germany and is unlike anything else on the white wine market.

Riesling is an extremely aromatic white grape that gives sensations of pears, crisp apples, and peaches. If you’re a wine enthusiast with a keen palate, you may pick up on hints of honeycomb in there too.

Whilst most people think of Riesling as a sweet wine, the truth is you’ll find it variations of sweetness and you can buy according to your personal taste.

Moscato

If you haven’t got around to sampling a bottle of Moscato yet, there’s no time like the present. This sweet Italian wine is positively brimming with flavour.

Strong, sweet fruit flavours dominate the experience. You’ll notice a fusion of peaches, lemons, oranges, apricots and nectarines holding their place on the frontline. And yet, in the background, hints of vanilla, caramel, and jasmine await to make this a flavour that keeps on giving.

Moscato is a medium-acidity wine that is commonly quite sweet in flavour.

Brown Brothers Special Late Harvested Orange Muscat & Flora
Brown Brothers Special Late Harvested Orange Muscat & Flora

Cellar by Waitrose & Partners

Semillon

Sémillon is a considerably underrated white wine. Sweet varieties are commonly produced in France. And yet some of Australia’s most prestigious dry whites are Sémillon also.

When Sémillon grapes are used to create sweet wine, an array of flavours present, including stone fruits such as apricots, peaches, and mangoes.

To create a dry Sémillon wine, a special set of controlled conditions are essential to achieve quality. In the Hunter Valley situated slightly north of Sydney, the conditions are said to be almost perfect for producing unoaked, dry Sémillon.

Tyrrell's Single Vineyard HVD Hunter Semillon
Tyrrell's Single Vineyard HVD Hunter Semillon

Marks & Spencer

Marsanne

Marsanne is a variety of white wine grape originally from Rhône Valley. This grape can also be found in the region of Savoie and in Switzerland.

The Marsanne grape is known for its depth and tempting textures. A delicious aroma featuring staples of roasted nuts, pears, and honeydew melon, with just a hint of spice and blossoms is one to savour and enjoy. Aged Marsanne wines enhance in complexity resulting in rich flavours and a silky, enticingly exotic texture.

Marsanne grapes are used in the production of both dry and sweet whites and pair perfectly with seafood.

McPherson's Charlie's Block Marsanne 2016
McPherson's Charlie's Block Marsanne 2016

Laithwaites

Gewurztraminer

The very best Gewurztraminer wine comes from Alsace where the growing conditions are perfect for cultivation.

This white assaults the senses, with complex aromas of tropical fruits, pepper and sensuous spices. What you’re left with is a slightly intriguing bitter taste that is, whilst odd, quite enjoyable.

Gewurztraminer wines are usually dry, and yet feature a palate cleansing fruit filled flavour making it the perfect wine to serve with a spicy meal, or cheese board offering.

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