Today is National White Wine Day, and it’s somewhat refreshing when a day devoted to wine is not founded by a company trying to sell its own products or even promote its own industry. In fact, National White Wine Day was created by writer and holiday enthusiast Jace Shoemaker-Galloway. While not very well-know, Shoemaker-Galloway loves holidays, having invented many of them and registering them with national and international bodies. We completely approve of this, especially as she seems to love white wine as well! As this is National White Wine Day, we will take a look at some of the diversity of American white wines, and please see our collections below to celebrate!
A Brief Introduction to White Winemaking
It’s difficult to discuss the diversity of white wines without, at least briefly, mentioning a few points about how white wine is made. In general, white wine is made from grapes that have yellow or greenish skins, and there usually is extremely little interaction between the juice of the grapes and the skins of the grape. Red grapes also produce white or clear grape juice (with a few of exceptions) but there skins are soaked with the juice, thus adding red color and tannin to the wine. There are some white wines that can be made from red grapes with little or no skins contact, but let’s leave these for another blog. Here, we will focus on some winemaking factors that either make a wine light and crisp or more full and rich.
Crisp Aromatic White Wines
Once the juice is extracted from the grapes, winemakers have a number of options when it comes to producing the wine, and many of their options are narrowed down by the grape variety and the type of wine they want to craft. For crisp white wines that are refreshing, particularly in summer, grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling are often put in temperature-controlled steel or concrete tanks for fermentation. These wines are often fermented at low temperatures, which preserves both the acidic content of the wine as well as floral and fruit flavors. These wines are frequently have bright acid, citrus notes, and crisper more tart fruit profiles. A great example of a cold fermented wine is Easton’s 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is fermented at 55 degrees, and according to winemaker Bill Easton, this preserves “complex and exotic fruit flavors…key lime, casaba melon, and papaya.”
An additional component to creating crisp summer sipper is the prevention of what is called malolactic fermentation (or malolactic conversion). Through a bacteria process after the primary fermentation of the wine, malic acid naturally converts to lactic acid. What results is a thicker, more round wine that often includes notes of butter or cream. While these notes can be delicious in wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling have fruit expression that would be dampened by this process; so, winemakers can halt this before it happens. Jax Y3 Sauvignon Blanc is cold fermented in concrete tanks, does not undergo malolactic fermentation, and according to their winemaker this “helps preserve the characteristics of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, fruit forward and crisp with a bright minerality finish.” This broad style of white wine capitalizes on the natural aromatics of the grape variety, and they are almost always top candidates for sipping on a porch on a hot summer day.
Malolactic Fermented Wines and Oak
As mentioned above, wines such as Chardonnay (and often Viognier) will often go through malolactic fermentation. Some Chardonnays do not go through this process, while some only go through partial malolactic fermentation. In short, this determined the level of buttery-ness and roundness of the wine. The lactic acid that is converted from malic acid is not as tart, so fruit profiles for these wines tend to be a bit more ripe tasting. Think about the difference between tart citrus like lemons and limes vs. ripe apples and pears. Jax Y3 Chardonnay is an example of Chardonnay that has a balance between full malolactic fermentation and primary fruit aromas. According to Wine Enthusiast this wine “is a light, delicate white, with aromas of honeysuckle and Meyer lemon zest. High in acidity, it invites green apple and pear flavors…” This is a great option for Chardonnay drinkers looking for a wine that’s a bit more lean and acidic than some other examples from California.
Oak usage is also a major factor when it comes to white wines, particularly with Chardonnay. Oak can impart a number of flavors into wine. A few notable notes are vanilla, baking spices, nutmeg, all spice, and toast. As wine is aged in oak (or fermented in oak) these flavors slowly seep into the wine through the wood. Different type of oak, how much the barrels are charred, and how new the oak allow winemakers to choose how these flavors get into the wine. New oak imparts more flavor, but if the oak has been used it will impart less flavor as the oak has been somewhat washed out by its previous usage. Many winemakers are cautious to not over-oak a wine, as this can be similar to over-seasoning your food. Sometime you want to taste the actual ingredients without just tasting salt and pepper. A prime example of a great Chardonnay that uses oak but still has bright fruit characteristics is the 20016 Rhys Alesia Chardonnay. With only a small percentage of the wine aged in new oak barrels, one can detect hints of vanilla without it becoming overwhelming. The wine has also gone through malolactic fermentation, so expect this wine to be full, round, a bit toasty, while retaining fruit notes like apples and even kiwi.
There are many more components to how white wine is made, but this is just a taste of how certain crisp wines retain their acidity and freshness as well as how more full-bodied and rich wines are crafted by their winemakers. These styles of wine can be found all over the country, and all of the wines mentioned above can be found through the links below. As you sip, pick out some of these winemaking techniques the next time you taste! Cheers and happy National White Wine Day!
National White Wine Day Wines From