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White wine for Red Wine drinkers

We are hosting another wine tasting (our fourth) and trying to come up with new themes. Most of our friends are Red Wine drinkers, so we thought we would surprise them (not tell them) and make our next theme all about white wine.

Does anyone have any suggestions? We like to keep the prices around the $20 (CAD)/bottle.

We will be doing food pairings as well, usually in the form of plates of meat & cheese and other handy items. open to suggestions here too!

We are usually 8 people, seated tasting at the dining table.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. I don't have a suggestion as to wine, but how about if you make it a blind tasting and see how many of them can tell if the wine is red or white? That might sound easy but without visual clues, it may not be all that obvious with certain wines.

    1. I'm a red wine drinker, and at the end of a cooking class a number of years ago, the instructor (who is also the school's sommelier) served a white wine I really enjoyed, an Italian white: Terradora Fiano de Avellino. Terrific complexity, depth and finish. Sells for about $17 - $20 US.

      1. See "Help! Red wine lover needs to switch to white" www.chowhound.com/topics/384367

        How many bottles are you planning to open?

        My reccos would include: Chenin Blanc and Muscadet from the Loire; Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or the Loire; Riesling and/or Gewurztraminer from Alsace; Gruner Veltliner from Austria; Riesling from Germany or Austria; Chardonnay from France and the New World; Viognier from California, Australia or southern France; and Soave, Verdicchio and Lacryma Christi (to name only three) from Italy. Of course, there are plenty of other candidates as well. Hard to provide specific wine recs without knowing what's available to you. Food recs are best discussed after you've finalized your lineup.

        21 Replies
        1. re: carswell

          I second these recommendations. I am a red wine lover, and prefer it almost all the time, but some of these wines are among my favorites. I suspect your friends who love red wine favor the structure, tannin, and complexity of red wine. And they're probably used to the tired, familiar American-style chardonnay that has become so popular -- big, buttery, oaky, flabby American chardonnay that takes like a stick of juicy fruit gum. No thanks.

          I suspect I'm a lot like your friends, and I assure you that carswell's suggestions give you the best shot at converting them to whites (at least for the night). Pick a white that has chalky, flinty, mineraly characterisitcs with a crisp acidity balanced againt herbal or floral characteristics. That will produce a white wine that even a red wine lover will appreciate because of its complexity and legnth.

          In general, throw out all American-style (or New World) whites if you're serving red wine lovers. They are too flabby and oaky for red wine lovers. You should focus on German, Austrian, and French (or Old World) white varietals instead. They produce a far more interesting glass of wine to a red wine lover, in my opinion. And remember, too, that a chardonnay from Robert Mondavi will taste nothing like a chardonnay from France (a Chablis or Pouilly-Fuisse, for example). An American riesling has nothing whatsoever in common with a German Kabinett-classified riesling. The Old World versions are typically drier, more complex, and more interesting than their New World counterparts.

          I would add a few to my list, too, in addition to what carswell recommended. Here are my recommendations in order of preference:

          1. Sauvignon Blanc (France -- Loire Valley -- Pouilly Fume AOC)
          2. Chenin Blanc (France)
          3. Chardonnay (France -- Burgundy Pouilly Fusse AOC or Chablis AOC)
          4. Riesling (Germany Kabinett classification or Austria)
          5. Gruner Vetliner (Austria)
          6. Gewurtraminer (France or Germany)
          7. Pinot Grigio (Italy)

          Good luck! I'd love to hear the outcome, whatever you decide to serve.

          1. re: foodiesf

            With the exceptions of the German riesling and the Austrian GV, you're not going to find that many great examples of these varietals in the under 20 dollar price point, unfortunately. Yes, you can find an alsatian gewurz under 20 but they won't be premier crus and they are often as or more boring than the "new world" wines you find unattractive.

            1. re: Chicago Mike

              Perhaps not in Chicago. But you can certainly do so here in the Bay Area with so many wineries and wine merchants located here. One stop at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley or K&L Wines in San Francisco will produce a dozen options at around the $20 price point. And both ship across the US.

              K & L Wine Merchants
              638 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

              Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
              1605 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

              1. re: foodiesf

                Chicago is home to some of the largest wine wholesalers, retailers, and auction houses in the world.

                You won't find quality Loire chenin under 20,... baumard clos du papillon is 30, clos du serrant is 75 at K & L...

                quality alsatian gewurztraminer under 20 (K & L have no premier crus listed... the grand crus they do have are going to be far less impressive), or

                quality chablis/ pouilly fuisse under 20 ... KL's grand cru chablis starts at $50, let alone their premier crus if they have any...

                just my opinion but I don't think a red wine nut is going to be swooned by a 3rd rate chablis or chenin or anything else... they're going to need to be hit in the face with a great furstentum premier cru gewurztraminer (for ex.) or a baumard savenierres, etc.... and you can't get those wines in the posters price range anywhere.

                1. re: Chicago Mike

                  I didn't mean to offend Chicago's status. Forgive me. But, that being said, I disagree that you need a Premier Cru or Grand Cru to enjoy a truly oustanding wine. That is simply not true in my experience. These aren't wine judges from Wine Spectator, just "normal" wine fans who prefer red wine. And there are literally hundreds of non-Premier and non-Grand Cru wines from the appellations I mentioned that are outstanding.

                  I won't argue about prices or wine options. Just walk down the street to K&L and spend 30 minutes in their shop, or at Kermit Lynch's in Berkeley, and you'll come away with a case of top-notch white wine for around $20 a bottle that will impress any red wine afficionado. I know because I'm a regular at both, and I have found some great wines at decent prices at both places.

                  1. re: foodiesf

                    «I disagree that you need a Premier Cru or Grand Cru to enjoy a truly oustanding wine.»

                    Right. Some of Jo Pithon's 2005s are available in Alberta. The excellent 2005 Les Pépinières Anjou retails for $24 (including 15% sales tax) here in Quebec, probably less out west. Marc Brédif's perfectly serviceable 2005 Vouvray is under $20. The delightful Clos de la Briderie (80% Chenin, 20% Chard) usually runs around $16. A couple of years ago, when I asked my "I hate white wines" brother-in-law to pick up a white for sipping before dinner, he showed up with a $12 B&G Vouvray that, while hardly exciting, was well made and true to type and, more to the point of this thread, knocked his red-lovin' socks off.

                    There's lots of fine white Burgundy in the $15 to $25 range. I'm lately enamoured with Domaine de la Cadette's 2005 Bourgogne Vézelay "Cuvée la Châtelaine". Brun's Terres-Dorées Beaujolais Blanc is a perennial favourite. Both run C$20 (taxes included).

                    Similarly, Trimbach's and Hugel's basic Gewurztraminer bottlings are delicious wines with plenty of character. It could even be argued that they might be more approachable for the uninitiated than many of the full-bore (and often overblown) high-end cuvées.

                    1. re: carswell

                      frankly I've never been impressed with a "basic" trimbach or hugel... they are so thin vs. a great alsatian cru as to be nearly 2 different wines.... try them side by side with an Albert Mann Furstentum from a great year and see the difference.

                      This is what I'm talking about when it comes to 'surprising" a red wine nut... IMO all a basic trimbach/hugel is going to do is confirm everything they don't really like about white wine.

                      1. re: Chicago Mike

                        Beg to differ. The Trimbach and Hugel are quaffable and food friendly, unlike so many of the monster Alsatian crus with their high alcohol and residual sugar -- wines to admire, perhaps, but rarely to love. Not everyone thinks of lush as a selling point. Not everyone thinks bigger is better.

                        And, after years of attending and organizing tastings and hanging with sommeliers and wine advisors, I know for a fact that even confirmed white wine resisters often love those basic bottlings.

                        1. re: carswell

                          again, an obvious palate difference.

                          I do note that the market obviously sees a difference in the wines as well... if it didn't they would be equivalently priced.

                          BTW, if the poster is looking for the best quality "lower priced" gewurztraminers, I'd look to some of the more popularly priced delicious gewurz' from Germany, not Alsace.... but again, these are just patently not the equivalent of a great classified Alsace but IMO they have much lusher fruit development dollar-for-dollar than alot of their lower-priced french bretheren...

                          I note I've gotten maybe a half-dozen postings claiming that there's no difference between a 15 dollar chablis and a chablis premier cru... that there's no difference between an unclassified alsatian gewurz and a single-vineyard cru....

                          I guess my only reply is that it's a matter of palate... I admit to having a grosser, perhaps more "bacchanalian" palate that is attracted to lusher wines with deeper fruit layers... if I had one of the more "subtle" palates of the other posters, perhaps I'd appreciate these more simple wines more, who knows... but with my gross palate I often find them insipid and suspect that's the hang-up that these "red wine lovers" have also.

                          1. re: Chicago Mike

                            «I do note that the market obviously sees a difference in the wines as well... if it didn't they would be equivalently priced.»

                            See zin1953's "way off base" comment below.

                            «I note I've gotten maybe a half-dozen postings claiming that there's no difference between a 15 dollar chablis and a chablis premier cru... that there's no difference between an unclassified alsatian gewurz and a single-vineyard cru....»

                            Why do you always revert to putting words in your interlocutors' mouths? No one has claimed that. What people have said is that, contrary to what you claim, it's easy to find delicious and representative $20 white wines that even red wine lovers will enjoy.

                            And red wine lovers often aren't hung up. Many just haven't been exposed to delicious white wines at any price point.

                            1. re: carswell

                              I also agree that it's "not too difficult" to find delicious white wines under $20... and I've listed numerous candidates.

                              I would disagree, again just based on my palate, that unclassified alsatian gewurztraminers and 15 dollar unclassified chablis is going to fill the bill and "surprise" a red wine drinker who finds white wines uninteresting.

                              1. re: Chicago Mike

                                "I would disagree, again just based on my palate, that unclassified alsatian gewurztraminers and 15 dollar unclassified chablis is going to fill the bill and "surprise" a red wine drinker who finds white wines uninteresting."

                                I think there is a difference between red wine drinkers who have been exposed to many different white wines and prefer reds, and those red wine drinkers who have tried a few insipid Chardonnay-in-a-box wines, but who have never really explored white wines in any significant way. I would say that a majority of "no-white-winers"are in the second category. If you expose them to something other than generic chardonnay, they will often be pleasantly surprised. So different varietals will intrigue them, as will different styles of chardonnay (like a Chablis). Well chosen less expensive whites still have a chance of making an impact.

                                Here is something I hear all the time from people who are exploring wine: "I started drinking white wine, then moved onto reds because they were more strong in flavour. Now I am discovering that there are some really great white wines, and I am drinking them again." Here is my theory, humbly submitted, and feel free to comment and disagree. When you first start drinking wine, it is easier to approach a cheap white wine, as you can find inoffensive generic white wines fairly easily, whereas bad cheap red wine can have some very off-putting tannins and flavours. Also, white wine will not often clash outright with many types of food, and so it makes it easier to match with food pleasantly. As the wine neophyte becomes more interested in wine, they begin to want more of the stronger flavours and they gravitate to red as they get more experience choosing wines that are to their taste. And they start to tire of generic insipid white wines, and turn their back on the entire genre. As they get more and more confidence about their wine choices, they then get more excited about trying different wines, and start to expose themselves to better quality, more interesting whites, and discover that whites can be complex and fascinating.

                                There are a lot more interesting reds at lower price points that interesting whites, especially in the $15-20 price range. So it is much easier to be enamoured of red wine when you are starting out in the world of wine. But if you carefully choose your whites, you will find that many of your "red-wine-only" friends will be more than happy to drink white with you. Because good wine is good wine!

                                So to go back to the original post, are these red wine drinkers in the first category or the second category? If they are in the second category, then a well-chosen flight of white wines may be just the thing to open up a whole new world of wine exploration!

                                1. re: moh

                                  Moh you've given an excellent backgrounder on the development of various categories of red wine nuts...

                                  In coming up with some "white wines to surprise them", I've keyed on the "surprise" factor... what wines, under 20 bucks, have the best chance of "blowing them away"... and moreover, the wine by itself, not as a match with a particular food.

                                  Because if that doesn't happen, then what we get is reinforcement of the red wine nut's opinion that white wine isn't that interesting.... (an opinion that's understandable given the incredible amount of insipid whites out there), as you've been able to dissect the reasoning quite well.

                                  Hopefully, through this interesting thread the poster can develop an interesting list of wines to try on their friends.

                                  1. re: moh

                                    *I think there is a difference between red wine drinkers who have been exposed to many different white wines and prefer reds, and those red wine drinkers who have tried a few insipid Chardonnay-in-a-box wines, but who have never really explored white wines in any significant way. I would say that a majority of "no-white-winers"are in the second category. If you expose them to something other than generic chardonnay, they will often be pleasantly surprised. So different varietals will intrigue them, as will different styles of chardonnay (like a Chablis). Well chosen less expensive whites still have a chance of making an impact. *

                                    I think your taxonomy of "red wine drinkers who don't like white wine" is probably accurate, but don't know that I agree that the majority are the type who haven't tried any whites other than a chard-in-the-box.

                                    Maybe that's just because I put myself in the former category. Because I vastly prefer red, I've certainly tried a lot more reds than I have whites, but that doesn't remotely mean I haven't tried a wide variety of white wines. I just generally find few that really excite me, or even more to the point, hold my interest through a whole bottle.

                                    I think trying to predict what white wines a red wine drinker will like is a difficult task, because I don't think there's any particular type or style of white wine that analogizes in any particularly direct fashion. Using myself as the example, I've enjoyed (1) Martinelli Chardonnays (because they're made like a red wine, my wine vendor tells me); (2) German reislings (particularly with certain foods, as discussed below); (3) various "oddball" wines like Txakoli (again often because of friendliness to certain foods).

                                    I think one of the best strategies for opening up the eyes of a red-wine drinker to white wines is through food pairings. If an option, I may have a glass of a white wine with a dish that calls for it, but when ordering a bottle will almost always gravitate to reds even when I know a dish would work better with a white, simply because I get bored with a full bottle of most white wines. In a tasting scenario, you don't have that issue and can demonstrate the success of white wine / food pairings. I only started to get really excited about reisling when I had one with some spicy Thai food (when I'd normally drink beer). I love drinking Txakoli with simple fish and seafood dishes b/c it's practically like another squeeze of lemon.

                                    1. re: Frodnesor

                                      Very excellent points Frodnesor! Especially about the food pairings. I think that is key.

                                      Re: first or second category: I suspect that most of the people on this board who don't like white as much are in the first category: tried lots, just not that excited. But most of the "no-white-winers" I meet are in the second category. I don't know how many times people have tried a good white wine with me and said, "hey that's better than I thought" and become more willing to try other white wines. They just haven't had a lot of exposure because it is harder to find good cheaper white wine at their usual price point. There are a lot of casual wine drinkers in the world, and a surprising number are stuck in the red wine only rut.

                                      1. re: Frodnesor

                                        "taxonomy of red wine drinkers".... love it!

                                2. re: Chicago Mike

                                  The market may "see a difference" and, thus, set the price of two different bottles of wine at two different prices. But let's not pretend that the "market" sets its prices based on quality or deliciousness. So many factors impact the price that have nothing whatsoever to do with the ultimate question -- is this a delicious, quality white wine that is true-to-type that will likely be enjoyable to someone who usually perfers red wine? That's the question here. And, it's absolutely not fair to say that one wine is more delicious, or is higher quality, simply because "the market" sets that wine's price higher than another. That price could be inflated by the brand value, advertising expenses, the economic situation of the vintner/producer, the cost of production, the cost of labor in the area, transportation expenses -- none of which necessarily translate into a more delicious or higher quality wine,

                                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                                    It's not that there's "no difference" between an "unclassified alsation gewurz" and a "single-vineyard cru." There are a lot of differences. But those differences don't necessarily translate into making the higher classified wine a better, more enjoyable wine. That's simply not true. And it's not even the point of the AOC classification system. It's not meant as a predictor of taste or even quality. At best, it's one indication of a winemaker's reputation...nothing more and nothing less.

                                    We all know plenty of wines with good reputations that we don't like. And I personaly have had truly bad bottles of wine from reputable vintners. So, let's be fair and not overstate the importance or worth of using price or "classification" to measure a wine's value to the consumer.

                                    1. re: foodiesf

                                      the difference is very stark and true in my personal experience.

                                      1. re: Chicago Mike

                                        I agree -- the difference is stark. But the difference is one of reputation only. A classified growth was well-known in 1855 when the French government first started classifying its wine regions and villages. To that extent, the difference is stark. The newer winemaker wasn't well known to the French government in 1855. But that's the only difference. It can but doesn't necessarily translate into any other differences -- such as taste or quality -- as you insist.

                          2. re: zin1953

                            Folks (this refers to hounds in general, not just zin1953), Chowhound is meant to be a friendly place to share tips and information, rather than a knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish. We'd like to ask all participants in this sub-thread, to please let it go.

                  2. Under 20 bucks for GREAT white wines that will instantly appeal to almost any palate:

                    German rieslings

                    Soave Classico Superiore (100% garganega grapes, and delicious).

                    Many other varietals you're going to be hit or miss finding something sensational under 20 bucks.... unlikely to find a great chenin for that, chardonnay you could get lucky... there are some excellent sauvignon blancs for your price, but a "red wine drinker" might not find sauvignon quite so interesting... you're not likely to find a great gewurztraminer in that price range (i never have)...

                    but I'd be surprised if they didn't really love the riesling and soave superiore.

                    If you would consider a frizzante to be a "white wine" then everyone loves moscato d'asti and you can find that in your range easily... would be a nice textural break.

                    Those 3 wines will almost certainly get you some "converts" to white wines. :)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Chicago Mike

                      Ditto all of the above recommendations. Soave gets no love. My go to moscato has been NV michelle chiarlo. easy to find, inexpensive, lovely.

                    2. Typically those that dislike white wine find the drier ones tasteless and the fuller ones like well oaked chardonnay, riesling, etc, too sweet or cloying. What for me fits the bill for them are white Rhone grapes like Marsanne. They can have body and be assertive but without seeming cloying.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Chinon00

                        Marsanne is a great recommendation, but can you find really tasty examples under 20 bucks ?

                        1. re: Chicago Mike

                          I'm drinking this right now:

                          Producer: Chateau de Nages
                          Appellation: Costieres de Nimes
                          Varietal: 60% Grenache 40% Roussanne
                          Price: $8

                          No Marsanne but I think that it again would fit the bill for a curious red wine drinkers.

                        2. re: Chinon00

                          Chinon00, that's an excellent suggestion too. I forgot about Rhone whites. I've found some excellent Rhone whites for $15-$20, and they often are Marsanne and sometimes blended with Roussane, Claret or other grapes.

                          And thanks for mentioning the word "cloying." That is the perfect description.

                        3. I am not wine expert...i like what I like....and i am a red wine drinker.

                          A local vinyard has a Cabernet Blanc that is very good ($19 CAD). I've also had white shiraz that is pretty good too, i think there are several varieties out there.

                          The whites i still like are pinot grigio, or an unoaked chardonnay

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: im_nomad

                            Just to clarify - "Cabernet Blanc" is not a white wine, but a blush wine made with Cabernet Sauvignon (read: RED) grapes.

                            I concur with the above on Rhone Whites. As one who really despises Chardonnay, there are some amazing Rhone Whites out there and I'm a true fan of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier.

                            1. re: Carrie 218

                              thanks Carrie...to be truthful, the variety i tried (Jost, in Nova Scotia), must have had such a pale blush that i never noticed ! All i know is i really liked it, and i'm not a white wine drinker. I'm also not a chardonnay fan either, but have tried at least one unoaked (and i'll probably be kicked off the board for this, lol, but it was Jindalee or Naked Grape), and liked it.

                              Anyway, as for the OP request for food pairings, i plucked this off the Jost site for the Cab Blanc....in case it's something to try !
                              "The 2006 Cabernet Blanc was made from the free run of Nova Scotian Cabernet Franc grapes nurtured by the family of Dr. Al McIntyre of Racca Vineyards in Habitant, Nova Scotia. This wine is clear in colour with a slight pink hue. It has a beautiful tulip nose with faint candied pineapple & green apple tones. There are green apple, gooseberry & spicy sour cherry flavour nuances. This is a very versatile wine that will pair well with pork, salmon, halibut or light fish & chicken."

                              1. re: Carrie 218

                                p.s. should've posted the link....for anyone visiting the area, it's a nice place to check out (they also have a Pinot Noir Blanc)


                            2. Under $20 Alsatian White: Hugel Gentil. It is affordable, and very drinkable. It's not a grand Cru, but it is a lovely quaffing beverage, and I have found that even my red wine die hard friends like this bottle. Should also be pretty easy to find.

                              An Albarino from Spain is cheap and affordable, and very approachable. You will certainly find one for under $20.

                              For a little over $20, if you can find it, the Txomin Txakoli from Spain as well. Lovely!

                              A pleasant surprise for a very nice price: McWilliams Riesling, about $16 dollars here. From Australia.
                              Have fun!

                              1. had a Sebastiani Dutton Ranch Chardonnay (04 or 05) that had a honey core that hit the middle of the palate. Absolutely delicious and about $18. Definitely has enough flavor and action for red wine drinkers. If I had any clue what I was going to drink at the time I would have bought a case of it. Have not found anything like it (or it) since.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Icantread

                                  Although it may be delicious to folks who like white wine, something described as having a "honey core" is not likely going to be something that a red wine lover will like. In fact, a "honey" flavor and sensation is the direct opposite of "tannin," which is what gives red wine its character and structure. I would be very surprised if anyone who really favors red wine will drink anything described as having "honey" notes unless its a Sauternes or other botrytis-affected dessert wine.

                                  1. re: foodiesf

                                    that is a fair statement. I should have noted that this wine was not sweet at all. The "honey" I noted was more of a flavor than anything else and while it hit the middle of my palate when I drank it (the front was typical chardonnay), the way it overwhelmed my mouth at that point was as desirable as a fruit forward red wine. It held far more flavor than a typical white would and i thought maybe the strength of that punch would appeal more to a red-wine drinker. Could obviously be quite wrong. My experience was that the red wine drinkers present enjoyed it as well.

                                2. foodwise .. consider pairing food with wine .. I think there are foods that just cry for a particular white wine ... spicy Asian, seafood, I know that seems cliche but I think red wine drinkers will appreciate the complexity & variety of white wine if the food choices are designed for white wine. Also .. be sure to watch the temperature and don't serve it too cold! Have fun .. consider Rose next ...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: oliveoyl

                                    to make matters worse, I mentioned that I am in Canada, prices are much higher than in the states!

                                  2. You could always start by teasing them with a vin gris made with a red wine grape such as pinot noir which should bridge the barrier between the red and and white (at least at the conversational level). I have always found that my friends with red wine bias are actually okay with characterful whites such as the sweets (not sure of what you can get for $20 but maybe a cheaper Sauternes, Barsac or Monbazaillac) and they never ever turn their nose up at champagne or similar fizz which could allow you to introduce some chardonnay varietals as a follow up.