Fans of white wines love them for their refreshing fruity taste, lightness, and great pairings they make with vegetable, fish, and seafood dishes. But, given the wide variety of varieties and brands, choosing an excellent white wine becomes daunting.

In this article, we will explore the features of white wines and help you navigate their diversity. Then, to help you stock your white wine collection, we’ll share our list of the best white wines to try in 2023.

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What is special about white wine?

Harvest time

The harvest time for white grapes typically starts earlier than the harvest time for red ones. Still, there are some exceptions here. To make sparkling wine of red grapes and achieve the desired acidity in the finished wine, winemakers harvest grapes in late July to early August — at a slightly unripe point. For white grapes used to make late harvest and dessert wine, the harvest time is later in the wine growing season, when more sugars have accumulated in the berries.

Grape varieties 

Most people believe that only white grapes produce white wine. But this is only partially true. The wine gets its color from the pigments contained in grape skins. There are a few grape varieties like Malbec, Syrah, Pinot, and Cabernet varieties (the so-called “tenturiers”) in which anthocyanins are present in all parts of the berries. The juice is colorless or transparent in most grape varieties with slight yellow, green, and pink hues. White wine production technology involves mandatory cleansing of the berries from the skin. Therefore, winemakers can use not only white grapes to produce white wine.

The most popular grape varieties in white wine production include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Semillon, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat.

Winemaking techniques 

As mentioned above, grape skins and seeds don’t participate in fermentation in white wine production. Therefore, pressing occurs as quickly as possible. In addition, strict temperature control is essential, and periodic refrigeration takes place as needed. To ensure optimal conditions for the yeast, it is crucial to maintain a temperature of about 68°F.

Unlike in red wine production, winemakers often prefer stainless steel tanks to oak barrels to age white wine (with oaked Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc,  and Sauvignon Blanc being exceptions). Oak aging enables winemakers to soften the taste of wines with high acidity. In addition, it gives white wine a velvety or creamy texture, as well as flavors and aromas of vanilla, baking spices, butter, pineapple, and coconut.

Unoaked wines typically are refreshing and have fruit flavors and aromas. The bouquet may contain notes of green or tropical fruits, depending on the production region.

Alcohol content 

The alcohol content in white wines may range from 6% to 20% ABV.

Dry-fermented white wine can have an alcohol content of 8.5 to 15%, which depends on the grapes’ sugar content. To produce semi-dry varieties, winemakers stop fermentation at a particular stage, leaving a small amount of sugar, which leads to a slight decrease in the alcohol content.

The ripeness of the grapes also determines the concentration of alcohol in the wine — the later the harvest time, the stronger the drink. As a result, young white wines have a lower alcohol content — between 6% and 12% depending on the region.


For white wines, high acidity is typical. Tasting a high-acid white wine may feel like biting into a green apple. Due to the acidity, the wine acquires a more balanced taste. In addition, the acidity has an invigorating and refreshing effect, making the drink pleasant to sip on a hot summer day. Finally, acidity ensures the preservation of the drink, due to which various chemical processes slow down, and the aging process goes slower. As a result, the flavor and aroma bouquet becomes richer and more complex.

White grape varieties with high acidity are Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chenin Blanc. Medium-acid white wine is Pinot Grigio, and low-acid whites are wines from California Chardonnay.

Sugar content 

During the fermentation process, the sugar contained in grapes converts to alcohol. What is left by the end of the fermentation is residual sugar measured in grams per liter (g/L). 

Based on sugar content, white wines can be bone-dry, dry, off-dry, sweet, and very sweet. Here is what the sugar content looks like in these types of wine:

  • Bone-dry white wine contains less than 1 g/L of residual sugar
  • Dry wine contains 1-10 g/L of residual sugar 
  • Off-dry wine has around 10-35 g/L of residual sugar
  • Sweet wine has 35-120 g/L of residual sugar
  • Very sweet wine contains over 120 g/L of residual sugar

Sauvignon Blanc typically falls in the category of dry wines, while Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are closer to off-dry wines. Riesling is a classic example of sweet white wine.

Storing and serving white wines 

Like any other product, wine has its storage conditions. Following simple wine storage rules will help preserve and enhance the drink’s taste. 

First, keep the wine out of direct sunlight and fluorescent lights. One of the key differences between red and white wines is that white wine is more sensitive to light than red wine.

Second, keep the temperature cool. The optimum temperature for storing white wine is 45-65°F. At a higher temperature, the wine will begin to mature too quickly, not having time to develop its best qualities. At a lower temperature, its maturation will slow down. The temperature must be constant, as its fluctuations or sudden changes can negatively impact the quality and taste characteristics of the wine.

Finally, try to keep the humidity between 65% and 80%. The optimum humidity level will keep the cork from drying out, minimizing evaporation and preventing air from entering the bottle.

When it’s time to open a wine bottle, beware of the optimum serving temperature of 45°F-55°F. Colder temperatures may prevent you from experiencing the whole bouquet of wine. So after opening a bottle, keep it cold in the same bucket.

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White wine styles 

White wines differ in their variety of styles and flavors. First, let’s look through the typical white wine profiles.

Light and refreshing 

Light and refreshing white wines are notable for their freshness and delicate aromas of flowers, herbs, white berries, and various fruits. These wines, as a rule, aren’t aged in oak barrels and thus retain their bright varietal aromas, which sommeliers also call primary aromas.

Light white wine food pairings are very versatile. They go well with many foods and are pleasant to drink on different occasions — at a picnic, family dinner, or a romantic getaway. It’s better to drink them young, within a year or two after harvest, while they are bursting with fruit flavors and pleasant acidity.

Light whites include such wines as Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio) and Chenin Blanc.

Sweet and aromatic 

A particular category of white wines is sweet wines with bright and multifaceted fruit and floral aromas. Just like in good lemonade, the residual sugar in this type of wine balances the acidity, thus ensuring a balance of flavor.

Riesling is a great option if you prefer wines on the sweeter side.

Bold and dry

Bold white wines are notable for their rich flavors and aromas. Produced using special winemaking techniques like oak aging, these wines taste more intense and smooth. In addition, full-bodied white wines undergo malolactic fermentation, which converts malic acid into softer lactic acid.

The classic in a bold white category is the Chardonnay from warmer regions like California. Wines from Viognier — a rarer grape variety — also fall in this category.


Wines characterized as herbaceous are typically light-bodied whites. They have a strong taste with pronounced fruity notes and herbal aromas — green apple, melon, gooseberry, pepper, and grass. Herbaceous notes tend to come from early harvested wines.

Sauvignon Blanc is the most notable representative of herbaceous-style wines.

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Best white wines that you should try in 2023

Ready to head to the wine store for a bottle of white wine? To help you pick the right one, we have rounded up the best white wines on the store shelves.

California Chardonnay 

Chardonnay is probably the most popular white wine worldwide. The taste and color of Chardonnay wines largely depend on the vineyard region. It acquires a rich aroma of tropical fruits and spices and a beautiful golden hue in warmer climates. It has a fresher, more elegant taste and soft straw color in cooler areas. 

The flavors and aromas of Chardonnay wines also differ depending on the aging method — in steel tanks or oak barrels using French oak barrel fermentation techniques. The specific notes of oaked Chardonnay are vanilla, baking spices, butter, and caramel. In addition, unoaked Chardonnay has notes of fresh citrus, apple, and tropical fruits, as well as the aroma of white flowers. Oaked Chardonnay has a dense body and low acidity. Unoaked varieties have medium to high acidity. 

Chardonnay goes well with many foods, but gourmets recommend pairing it with hearty meats, fish, mushrooms, and creamy cheeses. Due to its density, Chardonnay is difficult to pair with appetizers. Still, if the dish on your dinner table is high in butter or cream, but lacks a lush bouquet of aromas, then Chardonnay is your best friend.

Sauvignon Blanc 

Sauvignon Blanc wines have lively acidity and well-defined herbal and fruity flavors — green apples, melon, pepper, lime zest, and gooseberry. 

The aromas and flavors of the drink greatly depend on the wine-growing region and the harvest time. For example, Sauvignon Blanc wines made of grapes harvested early in the growing season tend to have herbal aromas and a grassy taste. Conversely, wines made from grapes harvested later have more fruity notes.

Sauvignon Blanc wines pair well with vegetables, hot spices, cheeses with a bright taste, seafood, fruits, and various dishes from around the world.


Riesling wines can be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. These are always high-acid wines with recognizable heady aromas of green apple, pear, and citrus fruits.

Another feature of Rieslings is their relatively low alcohol content. 

We suggest you serve Riesling with sushi, fish, pork, vegetables, and chicken dishes, as well as antipasti or light snacks.

Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio

Pinot Gris is a famous white mutation of Pinot Noir grapes grown in many countries across the globe. Its light fruity aromas appeal to most gourmets and tasters. Although the grapes are dark and pink-red, Pinot Gris falls into the category of white varieties because of the uncolored juice. As a result, most Pinot Gris wines have a golden color with varying hues.

Pinot Gris wines do not need aging, so drinking them young is better.

Wines made from early harvest berries are notable for a mild taste and neutral aftertaste. Wines from the late harvest grapes are semi-sweet wines with a rich mouthfeel and slight bitterness. 

In general, Pinot Gris wines have a delicate taste with bright acidity. The flavors and aromas display notes of citrus, white peach, pear, honey, and flowers.

Pinot Gris wine goes well with meat, seafood, and various sour dishes.


Sémillon is a noble white grape variety with a special, refined taste and aroma. Exquisite white wines from Semillon have a fruity and herbal bouquet with notes of pear, lemon, fig, herbs, and saffron. These wines are mild, buttery, not acidic, and strong.

When used as an auxiliary component in white wine blends, Semillon grapes give softness to the finished product. In blends with Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon removes excess acidity and harsh aroma, and in blends with Chardonnay, Sémillon retains the elegance of the bouquet, making the taste richer.

Sémillon pairs well with a variety of seafood, as do most white wines.


Viognier is a rare grape variety producing unusually aromatic white wine. The main feature of Viognier is its powerful, rich, and complex flavor profile. When sipping this wine, you may spot notes of mango, pineapple, and apricot, combined with the fragrance of orange or acacia flowers. Viognier maintains its originality even when mixed with a significant proportion of other grape varieties, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.

Spicy cuisine, fruit salsa, grilled fish, and chicken will go well with Viognier.

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc wines can be light and refreshing or full-bodied with a rich, fruity bouquet. The level of acidity in wines from Chenin Blanc is usually above average. The aroma bouquet traditionally contains yellow apple, pear, peach, and honey notes.

Chenin Blanc wines pair well with chicken in a creamy sauce, baked pork, fish, and vegetable dishes.

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Final notes 

Finding the best white wine is a challenging task for novice wine lovers. We hope our selection of the most popular white wines will help you navigate the variety of options and choose the one that suits you best.