From lean and crisp to oaky and buttery, white wines come in a diverse array of styles. Made just about everywhere but generally most successful in cooler climates, the most recognizable varieties are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, although indigenous varieties are plentiful throughout the world and often intriguing. Often misunderstood, white wine can be anything from a simple and refreshing aperitif to a robust accompaniment to a hearty meal, and some of the best can age for decades.
To preserve freshness and primary fruit flavors, white wines are fermented at cooler temperatures than reds. Unlike red winemaking, the colorless juice is not left in contact with the grape skins during the fermentation process. The winemaker has the choice to encourage or prevent malolactic fermentation, which turns tart acidity softer, creating creamy, buttery flavors. Another important decision is whether and how to use oak—the barrels’ age, provenance, and length of use will all help to determine the style of the final wine, in terms of both flavor and texture. White wines can vary in color from nearly clear lemon-green to medium gold to even orange or brown, depending on age, grape variety, and winemaking methods.
Nikolaihof Vinothek Riesling 1997Riesling from Wachau, Austria