As I have mentioned several times in past blogs, I am a diehard red wine drinker. Almost any red wine will do. But I must admit that over the years I have also developed quite a liking for white wines. My enjoyment of white wines has come from my deliberate effort to expand my palate and try as many wines as I can. I recommend you do the same.
I, like most wine drinkers, have several favorite white wines: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Semillon and Riesling. These five wines cover the entire white wine spectrum from light-bodied to full-bodied. Most of the time when I choose a white wine it’s because I am pairing foods with it. I enjoy Sauvignon Blanc with salads and seafood. I select Chardonnay to pair with salads, fish and lighter white meats.
The two most popular white wines in the world are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Yes, there is a difference between the two. Generally, a person likes one or the other. Let’s examine the differences.
The Chardonnay grape originated in the Burgundy region of France and is, of course, now grown all over the world. Chardonnay is the most produced wine in California. Chardonnays are a dry, full-bodied white wine that offers any number of flavor profiles. From the minute you put it in your mouth it covers your palate with weight, texture and flavors. Its primary fruit flavors are apple, yellow melons and pineapple.
Chardonnay can be aged in stainless steel tanks or in oak barrels. When aged in oak the taste often becomes creamy and has hints of vanilla and butter. In today’s wine world Chardonnays tend to lean toward the oaky side while Old World Chardonnays tend to be smoother and less oaky. Our Glenwood Cellars Chardonnays are more of an Old-World style wine that has a less oaky taste.
Chardonnay pairs well with the following foods: Meat pairings include chicken breasts, turkey breasts and pork loins; Fish pairings such as halibut, trout, cod and salmon; Seafood pairings include lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp, clams and oysters; and finally Cheese pairings include soft or semi soft mild goat’s or cow’s milk cheeses.
Like the Chardonnay grape, the Sauvignon Blanc grape is green skinned. Sauvignon Blanc originated in the Bordeaux region of France. It is believed that it gets its name from the French words sauvage (meaning “wild”) and blanc (meaning “white.”)
Sauvignon Blanc wines tend to be crisp, lighter-bodied and dry. Depending on where the grapes are grown, Sauvignon Blanc can cast aromas and flavors of green grass, fruits such as gooseberry, grapefruit, white peach and green apple as well as lime and Asian pear. If the wine is aged in oak you might get additional flavors such as vanilla, coconut, butter and cream.
Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with the following food groups: Cheese pairings include softer more briny and sour cheeses such as goat’s milk and crème fraîche; Meat pairings include chicken, pork and turkey; Seafood pairings include fish such as sea bass, perch, sole, halibut and snapper; and Seafood pairings include mussels, crab and lobster.
So which wine will it be?
If you want a fuller, rounder and oaky wine you’ll want to choose a lightly oaked Chardonnay. If you want a leaner, fresh, vibrant wine, perhaps with hints of grapefruit and fruit, you’ll want an unoaked Chardonnay.
If your taste leans towards a wine that is dry, crisp and tighter you’ll want to choose a Sauvignon Blanc. A Sauvignon Blanc usually has higher acidity levels than Chardonnay.
The difference between the two wines is very large, so much so that there are supporters and opponents of each, like many other wines. Frankly, I have come to like them both. Most of the time my selecting one over the other is driven by what food I have selected. There are so many flavor profiles of each that I recommend that you continue to taste examples of both to determine what type you will enjoy.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- February 18th – National Drink Wine Day
- March 3rd – National Mulled Wine Day
- April 17th – International Malbec Day
- May 3rd – International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 9th – World Moscato Day
- May 23rd – International Chardonnay Day
- May 25th – National Wine Day
- June 8th – National Rosé Wine Day
- June 20th – National Lambrusco Day