Photo: KnowInsiders
Photo: KnowInsiders

For centuries, the most popular white wine grape on the planet has been Chardonnay. Winemakers love this French grape because of its ability to grow anywhere, as well as its malleability in the winery. We have become used to a certain style of Chardonnay in the U.S: deep, golden-hued wine with dollops of vanilla and butter and often a smack of sweetness from its high alcohol content. But we have evolved. We still dig deep and big Chardonnay, but winemakers across the major wine regions in the U.S. and abroad are showing that there’s more to this grape than wood and butter.

These are the wines we feel we should celebrate this year. White wines from Austria and Oregon made from the same grape with different expressions. Enjoy this list, and know that this is just the beginning. These wines will start you off, but if you like what you see and taste, explore more in the region and style of that wine to see how diverse white wine can be.

The 11 Best White Wines To Drink In 2021

1. Château d'Yquem Sauternes 2001

2. Screaming Eagle Sauvignon Blanc 2016

3. Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon

4. 1990 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru

5. Domaine Georges Vernay Condrieu Coteau de Vernon, 2016

6. Far Niente Chardonnay

7. 2016 Liquid Farm Golden Slope Chardonnay

8. Dutton-Goldfield Rued Vineyard Chardonnay 2018

9. Hyde De Villaine Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay

10. Clos Henri Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc 2019

11. Tank Garage Winery Skin Flick Skin-Fermented White Wine 2018

A Brief History of White Wine

White wine was referred to as ‘wiyana’ in ancient Hittite inscriptions of Mesopotamia around 2500 BC. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates wrote about using ‘vinous white wine’ and ‘bitter white wine’ to heal his patients.

The ancient Romans are said to have borrowed several winemaking techniques from the Greeks. They particularly enjoyed sweet white wine. As more of Europe got added to the Roman empire, wine production became more diverse.

At the dawn of the modern age, winemakers experimented with new techniques like noble rot and secondary fermentation, which further boosted production. This gave birth to both expensive and rare wines, and popular wines like the French Champagne, Spanish sherry, and Hungarian Tokay.

Today, you’ll find a range of white wines produced in all wine regions from France to Argentina.

1. Château d'Yquem Sauternes 2001

Photo:cultwine
Photo:cultwine

Château d'Yquem in the Sauternes district of Bordeaux produces some of the world's best dessert wines.

The 2001 vintage is a classic white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes with delicious aromas of peach, pineapple, coconut, and nutmeg. Like some Bordeaux vintages, this wine will age for around 70 years. And a 97 score from Wine Advocate makes it a collector’s favorite.

Price of Château d'Yquem Sauternes 2001: $430+

2. Screaming Eagle Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Photo:jammywine
Photo:jammywine

Made in the prestigious Screaming Eagle winery in Napa Valley, California, this 2016 vintage offers citrus fruit flavors and an aromatic finish. Enjoy its layered complexity with a light green salad or simply serve it as an aperitif.

Price of Screaming Eagle Sauvignon Blanc 2016: $2,333

3. Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon

Photo:winemag
Photo:winemag

Dragonette Cellars winemaker Brandon-Spark Gillis seems only capable of making world-class, complex, utterly lip-smacking, and satisfying wines. He also has the good fortune of working with vineyards that lie atop ideal marine and sandy soils where warm days are bookended by cool mornings and evenings—the perfect growing conditions for making exceptional sauvignon blanc. Tack on a year of a particularly cool growing season, and you’ve got lightning in a bottle (that you can drink).

Expect flavors of crisp apple, pear, peach, lemon, minerals, and delicate herbs. This is a beautifully dry wine with a crisp and refreshing finish.

Price of Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon: 32,99 US$

4. 1990 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru

Photo: vinous
Photo: vinous

Next on the list of the most expensive wines in the world is the Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 1990.

A bottle of this vintage red will cost you $21,200, but according to experts, it’s well worth the investment.

1990 produced a fantastic wine, due to a well-balanced harvest, rich in plentiful healthy grapes.

Price of 2009 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru: $21,200

5. Domaine Georges Vernay Condrieu Coteau de Vernon, 2016

Photo: bougebouteille
Photo: bougebouteille

Boasting a viticultural tradition spanning three generations, Domaine Georges Vernay has produced award-winning Viognier wine year after year. In this 2016 Viognier wine, the winemaker manages to capture Condrieu’s best flavors with notes of sea breeze and citrus zest.

Price of Domaine Georges Vernay Condrieu Coteau de Vernon, 2016: $121

6. Far Niente Chardonnay

Photo: farniente
Photo: farniente

The creamy, succulent flavors of citrus and stone fruit and toasty oak helped put the Napa Valley on the map in the 1970s, and this bottle shows why. It carries a buttery richness and a balance that makes it a natural pairing for food and heft that proves that "winter white" isn't just for your wardrobe.

Price of Far Niente Chardonnay: $69.99

7. 2016 Liquid Farm Golden Slope Chardonnay

Photo:jbwinetalk
Photo:jbwinetalk

James Sparks, Liquid Farm’s award-winning winemaker, got his start making wine for Dragonette Cellars and has made a name for himself striving for purity, typicity, and minimalist expression of his vineyards. (Incidentally, Brandon Spark-Gillis made the first Liquid Farm wines, and James is his brother-in-law). The 2016 Golden Slope Chardonnay is an excellent example of Sparks’ finest achievements in winemaking and you’ll want to dive in to see what all the fuss is about.

Notes of honey-drenched apples, vanilla, and salted French butter are underscored by marzipan-like nuttiness. Bold and zippy, this wine has a full-bodied minerality and nominal staying power.

Price of 2016 Liquid Farm Golden Slope Chardonnay: $53

8. Dutton-Goldfield Rued Vineyard Chardonnay 2018

Photo: winemag
Photo: winemag

The Russian River alone produces a wide variety of Chardonnay styles, but what I find interesting about this one is that it has direct connections to the grape’s home in Burgundy while being uniquely American. This wine is laser-sharp, yet grippy and deep. There is a subtle hint of oak, and enough acidity to balance everything out. It represents the elegance that only California sun can give Chardonnay.

Price of Dutton-Goldfield Rued Vineyard Chardonnay 2018: $55

9. Hyde De Villaine Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay

Photo: the-buyer
Photo: the-buyer

Carneros, one of the cooler subregions of Napa, has the right moderate macroclimate for stunning Chardonnay. Please be sitting down when you first sip this golden wonder. It’s so balanced, it’s maddening — with whiffs of fancy French butter and hints of caramel that are harmonized by wiry acidity winding through the wine like a whisper. Sharing this bottle will be an exercise in patience.

Price of Hyde De Villaine Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay: $76

10. Clos Henri Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Photo: ruoutot
Photo: ruoutot

Beloved for its verdant, herbaceous nose, wines made from this high acid grape balance a tropical fruit with plenty of mineral notes that make it taste beautifully fresh. New Zealand, in particular, has become famous for their sauv blancs and this bottle from Marlborough is an excellent example of why with bright citrus mixed in with a pleasing dose of green pepper and shale notes.

Price of Clos Henri Petit Clos Sauvignon Blanc 2019 : $18.99

11. Tank Garage Winery Skin Flick Skin-Fermented White Wine 2018

Photo: travelswithcasey
Photo: travelswithcasey

Everything Tank Garage Winery (which has a small, funky tasting room in Calistoga, CA) produces is intentional—from the artsy labels to the tongue-in-cheek descriptions to the inventive blends. This one's comprised of five different grapes: Vermentino, Roussanne, Verdelho, Pinot Gris, and Trousseau Gris. They all ferment on their skin, which gives the wine an orange hue and notes of orange marmalade, honey, and candied lemon peel.

Price of Tank Garage Winery Skin Flick Skin-Fermented White Wine 2018 : $82.00

How Do You Serve White Wine?

White wine serving temperature

White wines are best served between 3 to 7°C (38 to 45°F.) On the other hand, richer whites like Chardonnay should ideally be served at 7 to 12°C (45 to 55°F.)

Food pairing with white wine

Whether you’re cooking up a storm or ordering at a restaurant, pair your glass of fine white wine with:

  • Poultry: A humble chicken roast or a lavish Thanksgiving stuffed turkey
  • Seafood: Shrimp, crab, lobster, or fish
  • Cheese: Lighter styles of Havarti, gouda, and muenster
  • Appetizers and salads

As a rule of thumb, white always goes best with lighter flavors. But you can also sip on the sweeter varieties with some spicy food like Asian cuisine.

Glasses to serve white wine

The right wine glass will let you enjoy the color, aroma, and flavors of white wine.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting your white wine glass:

  • Always choose a fully transparent glass so you can enjoy the light golden color of the wine.
  • Sparkling wines are best served in narrow glasses or flutes that will allow the bubbles to rise to the surface and preserve the bubbles for longer.
  • Light, dry whites like a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or a Chenin Blanc should be served in a stemmed glass with a U-shaped bowl and a small opening.
  • Full-bodied whites like Viognier, Chardonnay, Trebbiano, and Grenache Blanc need stemmed glasses with a rounded bowl and wide rim, Vinovest cited.
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