White Wine Styles: crisp, sleek, soft, rich
- Read about crisp white wines
- Read about sleek white wines
- Read about soft white wines
- Read about rich white wines
(You can also read about the red wine styles.)
Crisp white wines
Crisp wines are white or rose wines with a light to medium body. They are light in color and have plenty of acid, which makes your mouth water.
The aromas of crisp wines include green apple, lemon, citrus, and honey. Common flavors include green apples, grape fruit, lemon, lime and citrus. The % alcohol for crisp wines is typically 12.5% or less. Common descriptions of crisp wines include refreshing and light.
Examples of crisp wines include Rieslings from France, Germany and New Zealand; unoaked Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, Sancerre France, and Washington State; and Pinot Gris from New Zealand and the Pinot region of Italy. (back to top)
Sleek white wines
Sleek white wines have less acid and more body than crisp wines. In other words, sleek wines are medium bodied wines that (literally) won’t make your mouth water.
Typically, sleek wines are made from either Sauvignon Blanc, Rieslings, Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. They are rarely treated with oak, but if a sleek wine is oaked, the oak will be French, perhaps air dried before being used. Sleek wines maybe treated with malolactic fermentation.
The aromas from sleek wines include apple, pear, and peach. Some may also express minerals or wet rocks. The flavor profile for sleek wines includes red apples, pears, and spice.
Examples of sleek wines include un-oaked Chardonnays (Chablis), new world Rieslings, Pinot Gris from New Zealand, and some Pinot Grigios from Italy. (back to top)
Soft white wines
Soft white wines are medium bodied wines with a mellow palate, and a slightly richer texture than sleek wines.
Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes are use to make most soft wines. Soft Sauvignon Blancs are treated with oak and are typically subject to malolactic fermentation. This wine making technique turns maleic (think tart green apple) into lactic acid (think subdued red apple), softening the wine and adding body.
Examples of soft wines made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes include Pouilly-Fume from France, as well as most Californian Sauvignon Blancs and “Fume Blancs”. Soft wines made from Chardonnay grapes include the classic example of Pouilly Fuisse from France. (back to top)
Rich white wines
Rich wines are the biggest white wines. All rich wines are full bodied, and they have the highest % alcohol for white wines. (Some rich wines can have 14% alcohol or more.) They are all very big in the mouth and have a long finish, but after that comparison there are more differences in aroma and taste in rich wines than most people can imagine.
Several grapes can be used to make rich wine. Chardonnay is the by far the most common, but the Viognier grape and the Chenin Blanc grape (in France) also make some very full-bodied wines. Rich wines are always treated with oak, either as a part of the fermentation process, aging process, or both. They also undergo malolactic fermentation, producing rich, often buttery texture and flavors.
Some rich wines are aged on their lees, which are the yeast and other biological stuff left over after fermentation. This treatment produces a flavor most often associated with white wines from Burgundy in France.
Examples of rich wines include Californian and Australian Chardonnays (those treated with wood), Grand and Premier Cru wines from Chablis, and wines from the Cote d’ Or and Cote de Beaune in France. (back to top)