What Does White Wine Taste Like?

Friday, May 8th, 2020
woman drinking glass of white wine

So, you are new to wine and want to know what to expect from white wine. Is it sweet? Is it bitter? Where should a beginner start? We will break it down for you.

White Wine for Beginners

White wine is usually the easiest place to start to grow your taste for wine. Often the sweeter the wine, the better. In the world of wine, sweet is the opposite of dry. If you choose to develop your palate, you’ll likely move into drier whites, then start exploring reds. You will always want to refrigerate white wine, serve it and drink it cold. White wines are often used as aperitifs before a meal and drank in between meals and with dessert. There are several entrees that white wines also pair nicely with—as a simple rule of thumb, think white wine with white dishes, such as white meat/fish and white sauces.

Sweet White Wines

There are several sweet wines out there, but the three most common ones are: Moscato, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. These wines generally pair well with desserts, cheeses and spicy dishes.


Made with Muscat Blanc grapes, Moscato is recognized for its sweet citrus, peach and apricot flavors with a hint of floral notes and succulent, fragrant aromas. It comes in many styles, from still to semi-sparkling and full-on bubbly. It’s a perfect dessert wine!


First, you must learn to say it, “ge-VOORTZ-tra-meener”, or “Girls Are Meaner” for a joke. It is of course, a German wine though widely available in the United States. Gewürztraminer is like the grown-up version of Moscato. While Gewürztraminer wine has many similarities to Moscato it also has higher alcohol levels, more striking aromatics and lower acidity. The first aroma you pick up from a Gewurztraminer is a sweet rose. You might pick up grapefruit, pineapple, peach, apricot, orange, and/or cantaloupe fruit flavors with a hint of honey, ginger, incense, allspice, cinnamon, and/or smoke. Try it with cheese and roasted vegetables.


Riesling is an aromatic, deliciously refreshing wine that tastes like the nectar of apples, apricots, peaches and pears and comes in a tall slender glass bottle. Usually crisp, due to its high levels of acidity, Riesling is known for its strong floral aromas. It can be sweet, but it can also be dry. Every brand is different. If it comes from Germany or California you can assume it’s sweet, unless it is marked dry. Always pay attention to label markings and descriptions on Rieslings. One of the most food-friendly wines around, Riesling pairs with everything from sushi and seafood to spicy foods like Thai and Indian curries (it’s famous for cooling off the palate!). It’s most popularly enjoyed as a dessert wine.

Malvasia Bianca

Malvasia Bianca is lesser known as it does not grow in many places outside of Spain. Spanish settlers brought vines to New Mexico in the early 1500’s making New Mexico one of the oldest wine producing regions in the United States. Produced from one of the world’s oldest variety of grapes. This wine is fresh and fruity with overtones of honey, it pairs well with spicy dishes.

Light and Dry White Wines

So fresh and so clean. With little residual sugar, these light-bodied and dry whites are refreshing and gluggable. Foodwise, they play nicely with lighter dishes like grilled salmon, oysters, light pasta sauces, lemon basil chicken, and other white meats.

Pinot grigio (pinot gris)

Easy-drinking, people-pleasing pinot gris (that is the grape; pinot grigio is Italy’s version of the wine). This white is known and loved for its zesty acidity and fruit flavors (lemons, limes, green apples). Don’t know what bottle to bring to a dinner party? Pinot grigio/gris is likely to pair with at least something on the menu.


Hailing from Burgundy, France, Chablis is made with 100 percent Chardonnay grapes but tastes nothing like the oaky Chard you may think of as “typical.” Chablis has a citrusy, mineral-like, and almost salty taste —but in a refreshing way!

Chenin Blanc

A shining star in South Africa and France’s Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape that comes in many styles. Drier expressions tend to be tart, with flavors of pear, yellow apple, and ginger —pour a glass alongside your takeout sweet-and-sour chicken.

Bold and Dry

There may be other whites that can fall in this category, but the best known is Chardonnay! Chardonnays really show up and have the oomph to stand up to rich, flavorful dishes like lobster with butter sauce, risotto, hard cheeses, and chicken divan.


Chardonnay is the world’s most popular white wine as well as one of the most varying, with taste profiles that run the gamut depending on the growing regions and aging process. French Chardonnay tends to feature citrus and flinty flavors, and California Chardonnay is often aged in oak barrels, which creates a buttery flavor and creamy texture. New Mexico Chardonnays are typically clean and crisp with a light citrus flavor.

How to Experience Wine

We have only touched on the most common white wines. You will run into many others. The best way to experience wine is to order a glass, breath in the aroma then take a sip—do not gulp. Explore what it tastes like and the way it makes your tongue feel. Every wine will have a different affect. Make sure you make note of the wines you try and the ones you really like so you can find them again. Not every bottle of the same kind of wine will taste the same—some are wildly different. If you have the opportunity to do a wine tasting, do it. It will really help you to understand the flavors and find the types of wines that best suit your palate.


Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.