Types of white wine
We have refreshing white organic wines from all over the world, from familiar favourites such as sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio, to incredible indigenous varieties like Hárslevelü and Xarel.lo. Whatever style of wine you prefer, we believe that the best white wine is produced using organic methods, with minimal intervention, giving the best tasting results, as well as creating a healthy, sustainable environment in the vineyard.
Making white wine
White wine is when the grape juice is fermented with no or very limited contact with the skins. Although not always true, winemakers tend to ferment white wines at cooler temperatures than their red wines to retain the fruit’s natural freshness and flavours.
Just as with red wines, winemakers have several options open to them, depending on what sort of wine they hope to make. By allowing the wine to spend time resting on the lees (the grape skins, dead yeasts and other sediment), they can add texture and flavour. Fermenting and / or ageing in oak can add depth, roundness and complexity and add to the wine’s ageing potential. Then there is what is known as malolactic fermentation. Here it can be the choice of the winemaker to let the wine (or encourage it by adding certain bacteria) to go through this secondary fermentation, which converts the harsher, zingy malic acid, into the softer, creamier lactic acid. This will supposedly improve the mouthfeel of the white wine. Virtually all red wines go through this process. There are of course many other adjustments and (more so with non-organic) chemical additions, which can be used to alter the flavour and feel of the wine.
Types of white wine – dry to sweet.
As you might guess, the answer is in the sugar! During fermentation, the grapes’ natural sugars are turned into alcohol. If all of the sugar is converted, then the wine is dry but where some sugar is left over you begin to experience off-dry and medium-dry wines. This is often a stylistic choice on the part of the winemaker.
From time to time people describe a white wine as sweet when it is not actually a ‘sweet wine’; what they’re often referring to is the richness and ripeness of the fruit that can give a wine a sensation of being sweet.
A true sweet wine is one where the residual sugar levels are high, sometimes in excess of 120 grammes per litre. This is in sharp contrast to a dry wine which would have no more than 15 grammes per litre.
There is a well-established system to describe the dry/sweet scale for white wines. The numbers 1-9 are used, with 1 describing the driest (bone dry) style of wine, for example a Muscadet
and to the other end 8 or 9, which is the sweetest (dessert wine style) such as Sauternes
Some famous white grapes and what makes them so…
Perhaps the two biggest names of the white wine world are chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Both are French in origin but these days you will find both of them pretty much everywhere; from England to Tasmania, Patagonia to Penedès.
Chardonnay is often said to be the winemaker’s dream because it is so malleable. It has proven hugely adaptable to the world’s terroirs and it can be made to meet almost every person’s palate; whether you like your whites oaky and dense, or crisp and balletic, there’s a chardonnay wine for you. It’s also true that chardonnay is responsible for some of the world’s greatest and longest-lived white wines. Look no further than the great wines of Chablis or Meursault.
Sauvignon blanc is a sprightly, vigorous sort and whilst the Loire Valley (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) has centuries of experience with the grape, it is arguably the New Zealanders in the Marlborough region, who have put it on the global winemaking map. You will find oak-aged examples but Sauvignon blanc is loved by many for its uninhibited zippy, grassy, gooseberry, lemongrass and passionfruit flavours. Like chardonnay, you find it planted around the world.
Walnut Block Collectables Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealand
Punchy, verdant and crisp with plenty of zesty citrus gooseberry flavour. A classic Marlborough Sauvignon.
Macon Villages – Domaine Verpaille
Delicious creamy Chardonnay based white, with soft vanilla and rich pineapple flavours. Lovely food match too.
For some white wine-lovers, riesling is the greatest grape of all. It is perhaps the one variety that can do everything well. It’s responsible for sublime sweet treats, outstanding mineral-driven dry wines and pretty much everything in-between (oh, and some sparkling too!) but for some reason, people haven’t yet fully fallen at the feet of this great grape. Pity but also rather good news if you like a bargain; riesling wines are often very good value for money.
Mosel ‘Beetle’ Riesling Trocken Qualitätwein – Weingut Romerkelter
Uplifting and racy, with full on lime, kiwi and passion fruit flavours that will enliven any taste buds!
Grüner Veltliner’s charms are undisputed and its role as a fine wine grape are well-known but it’s still very much a grape of Austria, rather than a global phenomenon. Famous for its peppery, full-bodied wines, Grüner Veltliner deserves to be in the top five (top ten at least) of the great white grapes of the world.
Grüner Veltliner Weinviertal – Weingut Bauer
An Austrian speciality. Clean grassy aromas and lush green apple flavours with hints of white pepper and spice.
Looking for something different…
Xarrel.lo. This white grape is indigenous to Catalonia in the north-east of Spain. A main player in the production of cava, you can also find it as a single-varietal white. Crunchy and characterful, it has an herbal, citrussy character that we just love. A refreshing alternative to sauvignon blanc
DO Penedes Xarel.lo Curiós – Albet I Noya
Unoaked and full of clean, melon and citrus fruit flavours, well balanced with natural acidity. A refreshing and versatile white wine to be enjoyed with or without food.
Hárslevelü. A native grape of Hungary, you’ll find it in Slovenia and Romania too. Although it’s most famous for its part in the thrilling sweet wine known as Tokaji, we like the smoky, herbaceous and full-bodied dry whites it makes. Deliciously different.
H17 – Hárslevelü – Meinklang Somló (Hungary)
Grown on an extinct volcano, a rare wine with fleshy stone fruit flavours and bracing minerality. Time is spent on its skins and the sulphur levels are low.
Verdicchio. Becoming a lot more mainstream, this white variety from Italy’s Le Marche is a cracker. It can be bone-dry, mineral and almond-like in one wine and rich and fleshy in another. This has much to do with whether it’s been sourced from the vineyards at a higher or lower altitude. Verdicchio can age impressively too.
DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore – Barone Pizzini
A wine with good ‘weight’ and gravitas in the mouth. Savoury and dry, it has flavours of yellow plum and mandarin with a pleasant nutty edge.
How to serve white wine?
Uncork, unscrew, pour and relax…
Yup, it’s pretty much that straightforward but it is worth giving a bit of thought to the temperature. Ice-cold and you risk muting much of the aromas and flavours which is a shame given how hard the winemaker has worked to deliver you something delicious! Too warm and you’ll miss the crunch and vibrancy that makes white wines such a thrill. The normal suggested temperature range is somewhere between 7°C and 14°C, with the zippier sauvignons performing best at the chillier temperatures and the creamier chardonnays doing best at the warmer end of cool.
Enjoy your organic white wines for the purest expressions of variety and authenticity of ‘place’.