Most people think of white wine as a light, crisp, sweet drink. But there are many white wine varietals ranging from dry to sweet, fruity to earthy, and with a range of calories in wine.
With such a wide array of options, knowing these differences is important for anyone looking to purchase quality wine, not just a wine negociant. This can often feel overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting to learn about wine.
Read on to learn about both sweet and dry white wines, some popular Italian varietals, and the most popular white wine. We’ve also got a list of red wine types if that’s what you prefer or you can check out oru comprehensive wine type chart.
Sweet White Wine Types
Sweet white wines are often what people think about when they are first getting into white wine. These wines are light and easy to drink, so they're a good place to start. They're also good for practicing the standard wine pour because too much sweetness can get old fast.
With that in mind, here are the most popular sweet white wine types:
- Moscato. One of the most famous sweet wines, Moscato is beloved for its fruity flavor with notes of orange, lemon, and pear. It is light-bodied with a low wine alcohol content of only 5.5% ABV. Due to these facts, Moscato is a great place for beginners to start testing out sweeter varieties of white wine. It also has one of the lowest numbers of calories in white wine, so it's even better!
- Riesling. Another perennial favorite, Riesling wine is actually available in both sweet and dry varieties. Sweet Rieslings are beloved for their delicate balance of acidity and sweetness, making them one of the most balanced options on the market. It has a deliciously fruity taste with notes of apple, orange, limes, and honey.
- Sauternes. Another famous sweet wine, Sauternes is a tropical flavored and high acidity wine from France. It is also sweeter than many other whites due to the increased amount of sugar in wine. The flavor profile is tropical with notes of tropical fruits, apricot, and ginger. It's generally reserved for pairing with dessert or certain cheeses.
- Ice Wine. Ice wine is a unique white wine made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. It tends to have notes of tropical fruit like pineapple, mango, and papaya along with herbs and honey. It is one of the sweetest white wines on the market, making it a prime choice for discovering the answer to “does wine freeze?” by making slushies.
Dry White Wine Types
Many of the most loved white wines have a deliciously dry mouthfeel. They still feel lighter than red wines, but have a crisp bite to them. They are the perfect foil to spicy, flavorful dishes and can help cleanse the palate. They also have fewer tannins in wine than red wine, so you can avoid the headache.
Here are five of the best dry white wines.
- Chablis. This dry, light-bodied wine is a great place for a wine drinker to start. It has soft, floral notes accompanied by a great citrus taste. It often has undertones of minerals and salt. It pairs well with a wide range of foods including fish, veal, and things like a charcuterie board, so it's a good choice for a wine and cheese happy hour.
- Chardonnay. The more flavorful cousin to Chablis, chardonnay is a medium-to-full-bodied wine. It has strong fruity notes ranging from apple to papaya with hints of oak and vanilla. This is a great place to start for beginners and the complexity is also good for learning the ins and outs of smelling wine.
- Chenin Blanc. With a high level of acid in wine, this wine is known for its light body and strong citrus flavors. It's not too dry and is a great choice to accompany any meal. Many winemakers also offer oak barrel aged wine styles, so you can often find Chenin Blancs that are reminiscent of a Chardonnay with a bit more of a citrus kick.
- Pinot Grigio. A relative of Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio is a very light, zesty, and refreshing white wine. It has a citrus taste with salty undertones and a honey-like aroma. This makes it one of the go-to summer wines, so you can often find this on menus alongside summer cocktails.
Italian White Wine Varietals
White wines from Italy are second-to-none. These wines can be sweet, dry, or somewhere in between. Most Italian white wines are varietals. This means that the grapes are only grown in a particular area and the wine is held to a high standard. Trust us when we say you'll love these wines so much you'll likely never find out the answer to “can wine go bad?”
Here is a non-comprehensive list of popular Italian white wines varietals.
- Pinot Grigio
French White Wine Varietals
Nearly all French white wines are varietals, named after the wine region in France where the grapes are grown, and are not blends. This means they are well-respected and revered for their quality, aromas, and rich flavor profile. If you're starting to learn about wine, you'll become very familiar with these wines.
Here are a few of the most popular French white wine varietals:
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Chenin Blanc
- Pinot Gris
Best Type Of White Wine
There is no single best type of white wine, but the most popular white wine varietal in the world is Chardonnay. Winemakers, bars, restaurants, and enthusiasts alike all love Chardonnay. It is a common feature on menus aimed at food and wine pairing and can be found at nearly every event that serves wine. This is all due to how easy it is to grow the grape and how flexible the flavor profile is. Unlike other varietals, different vintners can truly leave their mark on Chardonnay by blending in other grapes, adding sugar, and more. With so many options available, it's truly a must-have for any wine list.
Wine or Wine Not?
White wine is the entry point for most people and there are both dry and sweet options that are sure to hit the spot. Make sure you know the difference between the types of wine so you can practice menu engineering and make your flavors perfectly match.
Whether you're looking for cooking wine recommendations, or you want to experiment with new varieties of wine, we can help. We can also recommend some wine glasses with pour lines so you can learn to pour properly or even a great electric wine opener, so you don't have to stress when opening one of these great wines.