White wine ranges in colour from pale lemon, through gold, to green, indicating a youthful wine, to orangey and brown indicating the wine has some age.
White Wine Grapes.
Nearly all white wines are made from white grapes although there are exceptions such as the red grape pinot noir used in the making of Champagne or white pinot noir in Pinot d'Alsace.
The quality and taste of white wines vary enormously depending on the grape type variety, the environment in which it grows, the climate, weather, it's rain and sunshine ratios and the nutrients and goodness it absorbs through the soil.
White wine grapes are crushed to break the skins and then pressed for their juice which contains sugar, acids and water whilst the skins, seeds and stalks are discarded.
To ferment the wine, yeast is added and this 'must' is then transferred to a vessel for fermentation, which may be a stainless steel tank, oak barrel or either an open-topped concrete or wooden 'fermenter'.
The wine then ferments at a temperature of between 12 and 22 degrees Celsius. This low temperature will ensure the fruit aromas are preserved and fermentation will take around two to four weeks to complete.
Thereafter the wine may be aged and is left to mature in either barrels or in vats of either neutral wood or stainless steel.
Oak flavouring either by resting in oak barrels, or with the addition of oak staves or chips to impart flavour, or in the case of lesser wines, oak essence may be added. French and European oak barrels, whilst far more expensive than their American counterparts is due to their being able to ensure smoother tannins, and more subtle flavours of nuts and toast.
Some, but few have the potential to age further in the bottle, but most are very expensive as these are not easy to produce and are more sought after.
The most consumed whites are dry (not sweet), and are the most consumed. Well known dry whites include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Albarino, Viognier and Muscadet to name a few.
Each grape type has its own taste profile with those that are 'bold and dry' eg Semillon, 'herbaceous' eg Verdejo, and others are light and zesty eg 'Chenin Blanc'.
Once more coveted than dry whites, one often immediately thinks of the sweet wines from Sauternes, Bordeaux, but there are many other popular sweet wines (dessert wines), including Moscato d'Asti, Ice Wines, Muscat, and Tokaji Aszu. (Tokaji was the first recognised wine region located in Eastern Hungary, way before Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne).
Sparkling White Wines:
The most famous of which must be Champagne which itself is made in many styles from sweet (doux/demi-sec) through to Brut to extra Brut (very dry). There's also Prosecco from Italy, now hugely popular in the UK, Cava from Spain and English wineries producing top-end sparkling wines made in the same way as Champagne, the 'champenoise method', where secondary fermentation take place in the bottle. Others include Rielsing Sekt from Germany, Asti Spumante from Italy and American, Argentine and South African (Cap Classique) sparkling wines.