Usually 9 – 14 % Alcohol By Volume
Vintage dating is important when judging a region’s weather for that certain year. In years past, wine makers, no matter how talented, were not able to improve the vintage if the weather was poor. Allowing customers from around the region to decipher whether a certain vintage was adequate for consumption. However, in the past twenty years, the advancements made in technology and viticulture has given winemakers more to work with. Vintage dating does matter, but winemakers are now able to produce a big, jammy wine, bursting with fruit flavors from a hot climate. The very next year could be cool. This would cause the wine to be more subtle, lighter in body, and possibly even more eloquent.
Deciding on a harvesting date for White Wine Production depends on the varietal and the style of wine. Some grapes are more acidic than others and need more time on the vine for sugar development. Other varietals are vinified into lower alcohol wines and do not need the same amount of sugar during fermentation. No matter what the grape type, balance is critical.
Destemming and Crushing White Grapes
Destemming and crushing white grapes is optional in the White Wine Production process. Some wineries treat white varietals in the same way that they treat red ones. These grapes can be macerated in their skins for up to two days to add body. But many wineries forgo this step altogether and immediately press white grapes.
Whether they are destemmed and crushed or not, pressing white grapes is a very gentle process that must be done carefully. If the grape bunches are left intact during this process, it is known as whole cluster pressing. This White Wine Production technique minimizes the amount of malic acid and tannins in the must.
Adding to Fermentation Containers
After pressing, the winemaker has another decision. What type of fermentation containers will be used? The style of the wine will dictate which container will be used. Oak barrels impart soft tannins and vanilla flavors. Stainless steel tanks allow the winemaker to control the fermentation temperature and produce crisp white wines. Wooden vats and concrete tanks are largely neutral.
Sulfur Dioxide Addition
After the grapes are pressed and the must is moved to the fermentation containers, sulfur dioxide is immediately added to prevent oxidation and spoilage. White wines generally require less sulfur than red wines.
The next step in White Wine Production is clarification. The must can be cooled for a period of time to remove excessive sediment. Fining agents can also be added at this time, which will remove the natural yeast.
Selecting Yeast Type
Once the wine is in its container and has been clarified, the winemaker adds a selected yeast type that has been cultivated in the lab. This gives him/her more control over the rest of the White Wine Production process.
White Wine Alcoholic Fermentation
Most white wine alcoholic fermentation takes place between 50 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The part of the process is longer and less intense than it is for red wines. This gives white wines the fresh, aromatic characteristics that they are valued for.
Barrel aging white wine only works for certain varietals, notably Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Some other white grapes are aged in barrels, but most rely on their fresh, fruity forward characteristics.
White Wine Malolactic Fermentation
One of the most important stylistic decisions a winemaker has is whether or not he/she will allow white wine malolactic fermentation. This process converts sharper malic acid to softer lactic acid. Because tart acidity frames most white wines, the majority of white wines skip this part of the White Wine Production process. Barrel aging and malolactic fermentation often go hand in hand.
White wines that undergo barrel aging and malolactic fermentation are often allowed to age for a period of time “sur lies.” This term refers to wines that are aged in contact with the dead yeast cells that remain after fermentation is complete. Some winemakers continually stir the lees during aging.
White wines that are not malolactically fermented undergo racking immediately after alcoholic fermentation is complete. Wines aged sur lies are racked after they have been aged sufficiently. No matter when racking is done, the sediments are allowed to settle at the bottom of the container. The wine is then siphoned off of the top and separated from the sediment.
Clarification & Bottling
After racking is complete, white wines can be further clarified using a number of White Wine Production methods. These include filtration, fining, cold stabilization and electrodialysis. All of these techniques make white wine visually brilliant, although some are more invasive than others.
After the wine is clarified to the winemaker’s specifications, it is time for bottling. Most wineries either own or rent bottling machines, but very small producers may bottle by hand. Inserting corks is next followed by adding the wine label.
White Wine Production
Aligote - (ah-lee-go-tay) A thin-skinned grape of unexceptional quality grown in Burgundy and Bulgaria. It makes tart wines of moderate alcoholic content. In exceptionally hot years, they can have good weight and richness. The varietals best wines came from Burgundian villages, especially Bouzeron, where the quality may be improved by the addition of a little Chardonnay.
Auxerrois - (aus-ser-whah) Auxerrois is grown in Alsace and in England. Often confused with Pinot Blanc but it is much fatter than Pinot Blanc. So it suits cooler situations. Its musky richness has immediate appeal, but it is inclined to low acidity.
Bouvier - (boo-vee-ay) A modest quality grape variety significantly cultivated in Austria and one which, under its Ranina synonym, produces the “Tiger’s Milk’ wine of Slovenia.
Burgundy – (ber – gun – dee) Chardonnay grapes that are grown in this region are known to be the greatest of all chardonnay grapes grown throughout the world.
Chardonnay – (shar – doh – nay) Chardonnay grapes produce a rich, complex, dry white wine. The finest white wine of the Burgundy region in France it is sometimes described in associations with apples, ripe figs or melons. It can also be described as creamy or buttery. Sometimes this wine is combined with oak aging, which develops in quality as the years pass. Best time for sampling should be two to five years. Chardonnay is one of the three major grapes used in production of champagne.
Chenin Blanc – (shehn – nan – blahn) A white wine ranging in taste from clean, crisp and fruity, to rich, sweet and honeyed. It has a good acidity level, thin skin, and a high natural sugar content, making it very suitable for either sparkling or sweet wines, although some dry wines, notably Savennieres, are made from it. Makes for a great aperitif.
Clairette - (K-lar-et) A sugar-rich intrinsically flabby grape best known for its many wines of southern France.
Gewurtztraminer – (ge – vurts – tram – ee – ner) a grape that is highly aromatic, yields a lightly spicy white wine that ranges from off – dry to sweet. The traditional Gewurtztraminer was originally in the Pfalz region of Germany. However, it has been successfully transplanted into Alsace, South Africa, some regions of Eastern America, and California. The California offspring has softer characteristics than it’s ancestors in Germany.
Johannesburg Riesling – (joe – hon – iz berg – reez – ling) The finest grape of Germany. In San Jose it can range from slightly dry to very sweet (usually medium sweet and fruity). Rieslings typically have a wonderful balance of sweetness and acidity.
Muscat - (moo - s - cot) A family name for numerous related varieties, sub-varieties, and localized clones of the same veriatal. All of these veriatals have distinctive, musky aromas and a pronounced grapey flavor. The wines that are produced range from dry to sweet, still to sparkling, and fortified.
Pinot Blanc – (pee – no- blahn) A varietal that is best perhaps in Alsace, where it is best produced properly by building a wine high in fruit. Pinot Blanc’s are usually high in alcohol content with a good grip and well balanced.
Pinot Gris – (pee – no – gree – s) A variety undoubtedly at its best in Alsace, where it can be produce succulent, rich, and complex wines of great quality, and a spiciness seldom encountered elsewhere. It is also responsible for many sweet fortified wines throughout the world.
Riesling – (re-sling ) A classic German grape variety. Although other German grapes and crosses can make good commercial wines. The Riesling can be produced in such a manner in which tremendous fruit-acidity ratio that is in a class of their own. It is light in body and low in alcohol, yet intensely flavoured and very long-lived. With bouquet that may be referred to as “petrolly.” The grape’s susceptibility to botrytis also makes it one of the most scintillating producers of intensely sweet wines.
Semillon – (sea – mill - e – on) In sauternes and Barsac, this is the grape particularly susceptible to botrytis, or “notable rot.” Melon or fig is the best to describe this varietal.
Sauvignon Blanc / Fume Blanc – (so – vee – n’yohn – blahn) (foo – may – blahn) A white wine grape that is noted for its grassy, herbaceous aroma and lively, even aggressive acidity. However, it is at its best when produced in the central vineyards of the Loire, where the wine is cultivated into an extremely dry and aromatic wine. Originally marketed as a semi – sweet wine, Robert Mondovi developed the first Fume Blanc.
Sylvaner - (sil-va-ner) Originally from Austria, the variety is widely planted throughout Central Europe. It is prolific, earily maruring and yields the dry wines of Franken and Alsace. It is also widely believed to be the Zierfandler of Austria. It has a tart, earthy, yet neutral flavour, which takes on a tomato-like richness in the bottle.
Ugni Blanc - (ug-knee-blahn) A variety that usually makes light, even thin wines that have to be distilled, the Ugni Blanc is ideal for making Armagnac and Cognac.
Viognier – (vee – in – yea) Viognier is an individual shy bearing vine. Producing the famous superb dry wines of Condrieu and Chateau Grillet from the Rhone Valley.
Xarello – (zuh-rel-o) Very important to the sparkling Cava industry. A spanish grape makes firm, alcoholic wines, softened by Parellada and Macabeo grapes.