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Best White Wines: Info & Basics

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Peter H. Best Wine Club

White wine is an easy-drinking, all-season favorite at restaurants, bars and homes around the world. Whether you prefer dry white wine, sweet white wine, or something in between, the sheer variety and meal pairing potential of this drink is undeniable.

If you're new to the pleasures of wine drinking and are wondering what the best white wine is, or simply looking to enjoy the most popular white wine available today, read on - this wine guide will give you the answers you need.  We'll also cover some of the most popular wine clubs in the US which gives you the opportunity to sample and purchase white wine online.

Best White Wine Clubs

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How Is White Wine Made?

First things first: what is white wine made of anyway?

Wine is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from grapes. The name of the grape variety, like Chardonnay, Riesling or Chenin blanc, is used to describe the wine that it produces. 

After the grapes are grown and harvested in a vineyard, they are picked, peeled, and crushed to produce the raw grape juice that wine is made from.

Then the magic of fermentation begins.

The crushed grapes and their juice are placed in vats and allowed to ferment. This process converts the natural sugars in the grapes into alcohol and begins to transform the grape juice into wine. After fermentation, the wine is either bottled or transferred to oak barrels or metal vats to be aged. Ageing allows the wine to develop the variety of flavors that wine drinkers love to experience - both by smelling and tasting their favorite glass of good white wine.

White wine made with green grapes is most common, but sometimes darker-colored grapes are used to make white wine too.

So exactly what is a dry white wine?

Dry white wine and sweet white wine taste very different- here’s what makes each of them unique.

The sweetness of a wine is due to both sugar and alcohol content. The sweeter the grapes, and the higher the alcohol content, the sweeter the wine will become.

  • Dessert wines, the sweetest wines of all, are made by adding extra sugar to wine during fermentation to enhance its sweetness.
  • The best sweet white wine will still have a nice round flavor and just a little acidity to cut through the sweetness.

Dry white wines are the opposite

they usually contain less alcohol and sugar and are more acidic.

Here’s an easy rule of thumb: the sweeter the wine, the more alcohol and sugar it contains. The drier the wine, the more acid it contains.

What is the difference between white and red wine?

The main difference between white wines and reds is the same as the difference between red and white grapes: the color of their skins. Since white wine is made by peeling and crushing the grapes before they are fermented, the pigments in the grape skin don’t influence the wine’s color that much.

By contrast, red wine is made by leaving the skins on the grapes and crushing them, then fermenting and ageing the juice like white wine. This allows a substance called tannin, which is found in red grape skins, to give red wine its rich, deep flavors.

One of the major differences between white and red wines is the time they take to mature.  Since red wines are rich in tannins, they can be very strong-tasting and need to mature for several years before drinking.

White dessert wines like Marsala, as well as Riesling, are some of the best sweet wines for beginners to sample. If the dryness of other wines is a little too much to take at first, starting out with a sweet white wine list is a great way to explore the world of wine.

 Top 6 White Wine Clubs

There are thousands of vineyards around the world, producing a huge array of wines. That makes it hard to choose the best sweet white wine or select the best dry white wine to pair with your next meal. Wine clubs are a great way to sample a variety of excellent wines that have been hand-selected by expert wine tasters. Depending on the club and the subscription you choose, you’ll receive a selection of wines each month, bimonthly, or quarterly.

If you really like one of the wines they send, they’ll be happy to help you order a few more bottles or a case for your enjoyment. Here are three of America’s most popular white wine clubs:

California wine club

The California Wine Club is famous across America for its selection of easy-drinking white wines. Some of the best tasting sweet wine is produced in California, where most of the club’s wines are sourced. They also provide wines from other wine producing regions in North America and other continents.

A number of delicious Calfornian Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay white wines form part of the club’s extensive offering.

The California Wine Club offers a variety of subscriptions, starting from $40 per month.

WINC

There’s no better time to get started with Winc’s white wine club than now. All the first boxes come with $20 off, whether you’re looking to order white wine or not, though this is certainly the area Winc specializes in. As a new customer, you simply need to fill out the quick quiz available on its website, answering questions about your taste preferences, in order to get a tailored selection of the most premium white wine varietals available that have been hand selected by a team of experts.

Winc is a California-based winery that’s been around since 2012, thanks to the help and expertise of winemaker Brian Smith, a known sommelier in the industry. What sets its white wines apart is that the whole process takes place in the US; challenging the stigmas of American wine and reputations of vineyards around the world. From chardonnay to riesling, Winc uses all the popular types of white grapes to create its exclusive, own-brand bottles of wine.

Vinebox

Vinebox is an exclusive wine club that offers subscribers the chance to sample some of the world’s finest wines - by the glass. Their wine experts assess more than 11,000 candidate wines, selecting only the finest 1% to be included in their selection.

Every 3 months, Vinebox ships subscribers 9 vials of wine, with each one containing enough wine to fill a glass.

The exact wines included in a Vinebox package are a carefully guarded secret, but the company provides some of the world’s best wine wines - from Chardonnay to Chablis.

A Vinebox quarterly subscription is priced at $79 per person, or $71.10 per person for two people.

Wine Insiders

To have all your favorite white wines delivered, you can count on Wine Insiders to bring the best varietals from around the world. Its team of experts has been hand selecting the best wines since 1982, creating clubs with the most essential flavors and grapes to suit all pallets. The company scours all the best winemaking regions like Argentina, Italy, France, and South Africa in order to deliver the white wine clubs Wine Insiders is known for. 

There are dozens of award-winning whites available on the website with prices starting at just $9.99 for one bottle. Whether you prefer sauvignon blanc, chardonnay or a mixture of all the white grape varietals, Wine Insiders partners with some of the most experienced and sophisticated winemakers across the world to make it happen. Plus, if you have friends to share your passion with, you can get $25 off an order every time you refer a friend who places an order of their own.

WSJ wine

The Wall Street Journal’s wine club has an excellent reputation for the quality and pricing of the wines it supplies to subscribers. Each month, they provide a case of 12 wines, including some of the most popular and best tasting sweet white wine on the wine tasters’ lists.

The white wines on the WSJ wine club’s list include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and a number of delicious Pinot Grigios that are well suited to casual dining.

The WSJ Wine Club offers an introductory rate of $69.99 per month.

Firstleaf

Firstleaf is known as America’s number one wine club. The hundreds of wines available on its website are all sourced from some of the most established vineyards and winemakers in the world, with more than 90% of them having earned some kind of award from the industry. Firstleaf gives you a truly tailored experience that allows you to expand your interests in wine and try flavors from various continents you haven’t explored before. Or, if you’d prefer, you can try more of the homegrown stuff that the US has to offer. 

Start your journey with Firstleaf by taking its quiz on the website. Simply let the algorithm know the types of whites you’re looking for and the ones you’re willing to try and you’ll have them at your door within no time at all. The price never changes, either. For six bottles, you’ll always pay the club price maximum of $90, or $15 each.

Best White Wine Clubs

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Types of White Wine

There are many delicious types of white wine and each is produced by many different white wine brands across multiple geographic areas

Knowing your white wines will let you enjoy your wine tasting experience to the fullest. Here are some of the main sweet white wine types and types of dry white wine that you’ll find on every good wine list.

Chardonnay

Main Flavors: Green apple, pineapple, a hint of citrus

To answer what is Chardonnay, this versatile white wine grows successfully in vineyards around the world, but it originates in Burgundy, France. When wondering is chardonnay sweet, the answer is neither sweet nor dry, but it does embody some of the same delicious flavors as many sweet wines.

Apple, pineapple and citrus flavors add a pleasant acidic finish and cut through the sweetness to create a well-rounded taste.

Chenin Blanc

Main Flavors: sweet red apple, melon, ripe pear

Chenin Blanc is another wine with French origins, originating in the Loire region. Depending on the climate and region where it is grown, and how long it has matured, it can range from sweet to off-sweet, or even dry. A glass of Chenin Blanc is a treat for the nose and palate, with soft fruity aromas and flavors like apple, pear and melon.

Gewürztraminer

Main Flavors: Grapefruit, allspice, a hint of licorice

If you’re a fan of sweet wine Gewürztraminer should definitely be on your wine list. This German cultivar is also grown in France and Italy and produces a sweet, luxurious wine that goes very well with spicy dishes.  Riesling gewürztraminer is a blended cultivar that brings the sweet fruity flavors of Gewürztraminer together with the acidity of Riesling to produce a lighter, easier-drinking wine.

Grüner Veltliner

Main Flavors: apple, stone fruits, and sweet citrus

One of the most unique types of white wine, Grüner Veltliner is grown extensively in Austria. It shares some of the fruity characteristics of Gewürztraminer, but also offers a deeper palate of peach, apricot, and earthy flavors. Grüner Veltliner is often matured in oak barrels, which produce a mellow smoky flavor in the wine.

Marsanne

Main Flavors: Sweet almond, white peach, confectionary

Marsanne is one of the most popular sweet wine types, with a pure, decadent flavor that makes it ideal as a dessert wine.  Marsanne’s relatively low acid content gives it a full-bodied character that encourages slow enjoyment. This is definitely a wine to be savored with good conversation on a lazy Sunday or holiday.

Muscat

Main Flavors: Sweet citrus, orange, tangerine

Muscat brings the sweetness and body of Marsanne to your palate but adds a delightful citrus tang that will remind you of orange cake and sweet marmalade. Grown predominantly in France and Italy, Muscat is a great dessert wine and sparkling wine.  It’s also common to find Sauvignon Blanc Muscat and other dry white wine blends, combining citrus sweetness and the green acidity of a drier wine.

Pinot Blanc

Main Flavors: Subtle green apple, a hint of citrus and apricot

Pinot Blanc is like the light, subtle side of chardonnay. Crisp and green, with less weight and more drinkability, it’s a great choice for warm summer days or laid-back dining. In terms of comparing Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Blanc, the lower alcohol and sugar content of pinot blanc make it lighter than Pinot Grigio, which has a sweeter and bolder flavor.

Pinot Gris/Grigio

Main Flavors: Sweet pear, melon, a dash of lime

Pinot Grigio, known in France as Pinot Gris, is a sweet but light white wine that goes well with a variety of dishes. This wine is well-suited to outdoor dining and Mediterranean-style meals. Many people ask is Pinot Grigio sweet and is Pinot Grigio dry? Interestingly, it can be both. With elements of dry and sweet, and a well-balanced flavor that comes from lower alcohol levels, Pinot Grigio is a great all-round wine.

Riesling

Main Flavors: Lime, apple, apricot, stone fruit

There are so many Riesling types out there, from decadently sweet aged varieties to off-dry Riesling that’s great with a seafood platter or delicate salad. When asking is Riesling wine sweet, the answer is not so straightforward. Some varieties are definitely on the sweeter side, while others are drier and lighter. This makes Riesling one of the most versatile white wines of all.

Roussanne

Main Flavors: Citrus, fresh lime

If you prefer semi sweet white wine, Roussanne should definitely be on your white wine list. The green citrus flavors and lower sugar content make this wine light and refreshing.

Sauvignon/Fumé Blanc

Main Flavors: Green grass, basil, earthy flavors

Sauvignon Blanc has a subtle flavor profile and is less sweet than many white wines. It has a strongly green taste, with hints of grasses and herbs. This is partly due to the mineral soils where the sauvignon grape grows so well. When inquiring is Sauvignon Blanc sweet, the answer is generally no, but it’s not the driest white wine either. Sauvignon Blanc is ideal for wine drinkers who would like to experiment with a drier palate. Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes called Fumé Blanc - this may indicate that it has been oak barrel-matured.

Sémillon

Main Flavors: Herb, melon, fig

Sémillon Cépage, commonly known as Sémillon, is a dry, delicate wine that is low in acidity. This makes it a good keeper, since it can mature and become more flavorful over time - something that only red wines can usually do.

Viognier

Main Flavors: peach, orange peel, apricot

You may have seen it on a bottle but wondered what is Viognier? This dry white wine is less well-known compared to some wines on our list. It combines dry and fruity flavors and can be intensely citrusy.  When answering what type of wine is Viognier, the simplest explanation is a rare white wine - mostly because it’s difficult to make. Viognier is sometimes added to Syrah (a red wine) to add some fruity notes to its rich flavor.

Main White wine regions

White wine is produced in countries all over the world. but certain regions stand out for the high quality and flavor of their wines.

The French regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy are home to some of the finest white wine vineyards on earth. The Loire Valley, which produces excellent Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, isn’t far behind. Burgundy in particular is probably one of the best Chardonnay regions you could visit, with award-winning vineyards by the dozen.

Top quality Riesling is produced in Germany’s Mosel region, with its soil and climate producing sweet, acidic grapes that are perfect for this type of wine.

Closer to home, California's Napa Valley is home to some of America’s finest wine producers and has gained a reputation for being one of the world’s best pinot grigio regions.,

Best food that goes with white wine

Pairing a delicious white wine with an equally delicious meal means double the enjoyment - and it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Here’s how to pair white wine with a variety of food.

In general, try to match sweeter wines with desserts or pastries, and dry wines with savory meals. Sweet goes with sweet.

  • White wines that come in both sweet and dry varieties - like Riesling and Semillon can be paired with different foods.
  • Dry Muscat food pairing options include spicy dishes like curries - or enjoy it with canapes before dinner.
  • The best white wine for seafood is usually Chenin Blanc - but Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are great options too.
  • Gewurztraminer packs a lot of flavor and needs to be paired with dishes that can hold their own. Spicy meals and sharp-tasting cheese go very well with this type of wine.

Last Tips

Ultimately, enjoying wine comes down to personal preference given the numerous options ranging from dry white wine, sweet white wine, and the huge variety of wine cultivars that are available.

When you choose the best white wine to serve at your next get-together, the tips and info in this guide should help you to enjoy your wine tasting experience to the fullest.

If you’re still wondering what types of white wine to buy, joining a white wine club is a great way to sample some of the best white wine available today. Explore our wine club reviews to learn more.