Can't decide whether to serve Chardonnay or Riesling? We make entertaining a crowd easy with our guide to the five most common types of white wine, the foods and cheese they pair well with -- plus helpful tips on how to properly store and serve white wine.

By Holly D'Anna
June 09, 2015
White wines

From Pinot Grigio to Moscato, this complete guide will introduce you to the five most common types of white wine, the best foods to serve with them, and how to pair them with cheese. On the next page, you'll find some of our favorite recipes to complement each of these wines.

White Wine Type: Pinot Grigio

This mildly fruity white wine has citrus tones and is made from darkish gray grapes in Italy and France. Pinot Grigio's mild and moderately acidic character makes it a great table wine that pairs well with a large variety of dishes. When grown in France, these grapes produce a richer and fruitier wine that can accompany a heftier flavor palate in seafood, white meat, and poultry dishes.

Good food pairings: light fish and chicken dishes, appetizers, salads, flavorful seafood and turkey dishes

Look for these labels: King Estate (Oregon), Robert Pepi (California), Josmeyer (Alsace), and Ecco Domani (Italy)

White Wine Type: Chardonnay

One of the most popular white wines in America, Chardonnay boasts a wide range of flavors depending on the bottle you pick up. From fruity influences, such as pear and apple, to oaky and vanilla flavors, this classic white wine will go with almost anything.

Good food pairings: seafood-base soups, roast turkey, rich cheese dishes, mild fish, creamy pasta dishes, corn, crab, shrimp, chicken

Look for these labels: Benziger (California), Columbia Crest (Washington), Starvedog Lane (Australia), and Kim Crawford (New Zealand)

White Wine Type: Riesling

This bright and tangy white wine is well known for its fruitiness, but also comes in dry and off-dry (subtly sweet) varieties. The best way to tell whether you're purchasing a dry or a sweet Riesling is by checking the alcohol content on the bottle; wine under 10 percent will be noticeably sweet, wine in the 10-12 percent range will be off-dry, and wine over 12.5 percent will be noticeably dry but will still carry a hint of a honeyed fruit flavor.

Good food pairings: spicy appetizers, ham and ham loaf, fruit sauces, chicken, light fish, and pork dishes

Look for these labels: Kendall-Jackson (California), Chateau Ste. Michelle (Washington), Pierre Sparr (Alsace, France), and Kuhl (Germany)

White Wine Type: Sauvignon Blanc

Regional climates can create vast differences in the same type of wine, and Sauvignon Blanc is a great example. In its native France, this white wine is light and dry with herb and mineral nuances. In California, it carries an oaky flavor, and in New Zealand, the wine displays bold and fruity flavors.

Good food pairings: lemony fish or chicken dishes and high-acid cheese, such as goat or feta

Look for these labels: Robert Mondavi (California), Chateau Bonnet (Bordeaux, France), Indaba (South Africa), Cooper's Creek (New Zealand)

White Wine Type: Muscat/Moscato d'Asti

Known mostly as Moscato, this sweet white wine is low in alcohol content and perfect for summer sipping with fresh fruit. It pairs well with most desserts and its soft bubbles make it a great alternative to champagne for those that enjoy sweeter sparklers.

Good food pairings: fresh berries, fruit tarts, biscotti, and other light appetizers and desserts

Look for these labels: La Spinetta, Elio Perrone (Italy); Quady, St. Supery (California)

How to Serve White Wine

Serve white wines chilled (anywhere from 45-55 degrees). To do this, put the wine on its side in the refrigerator for three hours or put the bottle in a bucket filled with ice and water for 30 minutes. Once the bottle is open, keep the wine cold in the same bucket. Don't serve white wine too cold, however, because that can mask flavor and aroma.

Next, see our favorite recipes to pair with white wine.

Whether you try these recipes for dinner tonight or for a special occasion, you'll know the perfect white wine to complement your food. We selected three of our top recipes that pair well with each white wine, based on the basic food pairings found on the first page.

Recipes to Try with Pinot Grigio:

Recipes to Try with Chardonnay:

Recipes to Try with Riesling:

Recipes to Try with Sauvignon Blanc:

Recipes to Try with Moscato:

Want more recipe and wine suggestions for a special occasion? See our favorite romantic food and wine pairings, below.

Poppy Seed Flats

Host a fabulous wine and cheese party with our suggestions for white wine and cheese pairings. We recommend buying handcrafted artisan cheeses--resist the urge to serve little cubes of cheese. When in doubt, choose cheeses made from each of the three sources of milk -- cow, goat, and sheep -- to create a wide flavor palate. Not all white wines pair well with cheese, but we get you started with cheese pairings for three different white wines.

Pinot Grigio

Pair this light and mild Italian white wine with Scamorza cheese, a firm and mildly smoky cow's milk cheese from Italy.


This tangy and sweet white wine pairs well with Gruyere, a mild and nutty cheese made with cow's milk from France and Switzerland.

Sauvignon Blanc

Fresh goat cheese, with its earthy and mild flavor, goes great with this bold and fruity white wine.


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