Which white wine would convert a fan of reds?

Ray Isle posts an interesting question on his Facebook page. Since Facebook as all the appeal of a leper with cooties these days thanks to their recent privacy decision, why not bring it up here as well? Here’s his question: “if you want to convert a red wine drinker to drinking white, what do you think is the best white wine out there for the job?”

I’ve contemplated this very question several times. It probably matters which type of reds the person is accustomed to drinking. If it is a lighter-bodied red, the conversion is most likely painless since the shift would be changing some fruits on the same chassis of high-acidity. So it probably is someone who likes low-acid, “big” reds who doesn’t like the acidity of some whites. In which case, there are white Rhone varieties such as viognier, marsanne, roussanne that might fit the bill. It’s hard to say in the abstract, but that seems plausible in theory.

There’s also the context: put the red-wine drinker with lunch under an umbrella on a 90-degree day and see if the white wine doesn’t just have a little more appeal.

And Champagne is always a good fallback–perhaps a blanc de noirs, to be tricky! Any which way, there’s probably little chance of weaning a dyed-in-the-wool red wine-ophile to a steady diet of whites–I was aiming for admiring and ordering a glass from now and then.

What do you think?

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62 Responses to “Which white wine would convert a fan of reds?”

  1. I’ve tried Albarino on red wine drinkers with pretty good success. It’s a grape variety that, when done right, has the best of all worlds — lush, creamy body with lively acidity to balance it out plus wonderful aromatics and a touch of brine. I like Sete Cepas on the affordable end of the spectrum and Do Ferreiro for a splurge. For a domestic option, can’t imagine a better example than Abrente, a joint project between Michael Havens (who planted CA’s 1st Albarino) and Morgan Peterson.

  2. For me it was Sauvignon Blanc on a hot day. Now I love it and I’ve gone on to dry Riesling with Chinese food. I was a serious red-wine snob, but I’m bending and it was the Sauvignon Blanc!

  3. I used to drink almost entirely reds in a range of taste profiles, but I now drink mostly whites in warm weather and drink them occasionally in the winter. My preferences are Sauvignon Blanc, German Riesling and a range of Italian whites. The most important characteristics to me in a white are noticeable fruit and not too oaky.

  4. Viognier did it for me, and I had definitely been into the full-bodied, big bodacious reds. Now I drink pretty much everything outside of over-oaked chardonnay. Love Chablis, however.

  5. Very tricky with the Blanc de Noirs suggestion, Tyler! Thanks for picking up the question—it seems to provoke a lot of interesting responses (one of my favorites so far being the no-nonsense “why would you want to do that?”).

  6. Didier Dagueneau’s whites did it for me. Pur Sang was a revelation in terroir. Bless his soul.

  7. Was going to say marsanne. Great wines with full body, dry style, similar layers of complexity and aging potential. Great crossover for red drinkers.

  8. A good Orvieto Classico.

    On the other hand, the hell with it. The first time you hear somebody say “It is the first duty of wine to be red” it sounds like a call to arms. But very soon it becomes tedious.

  9. Roussanne! It has the lushness and mouthfeel of a red, and typically doesn’t have either the simplicity, the high acidity or the dousing in oak that I’ve found turns off most of the people who think that they don’t like white wines.

    We have people come into our tasting room every day who think they don’t like whites… they tend to walk out with Roussanne-based wines.

  10. I think a nice OR or Alsatian Pinot Gris can be a good call. They’re full-bodied, with moderate acidity, and not too over-the-top aromatics. If the person is really into shellfish, slip ’em a grand cru Chablis and see what happens. Yes, there’s plenty of acidity there, but there’s also plenty of restraint. A lot of folks (read: men) I know don’t enjoy whites for their more overt stone/tropical fruit and floral notes.

  11. Figured this one out when I thought only a red would do after an evening of pouring and drinking reds. My friend ordered a glass of Movia Ribolla Gialla.

    After sipping it I was salivating for more of his wine and my red became boring.

  12. Tyler,

    Difficult question, there are so many choices. The person is probably not considering food/wine pairing if they are a “red wine” drinker. I find this to be the biggest block to enjoying different wines: rose, white etc… and essentially to “getting” the different wines.

    On the whole a few come to mind: Dry Chenin, Ertes Gewachs Riesling, Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Alsatian Riesling/Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris.

    Good wine , paired with good food will make a believer of anyone.

  13. Same experience as Jason – I will sometimes challenge our red-only tasters to try our marsanne-roussanne blend. The body and mushroom-y character really surprises them!

  14. start with a dry rosé

  15. Good white burgundy. If done properly it almost cannot fail to impress.

    Other option would be riesling because many times good riesling can have red fruit characteristics that would speak to a red drinker. I am specifically thinking about the currant scents one gets in goldtropfchen riesling, I know that I personally have been blown away to get such red scents from a white wine. But I’d not start to sweet for fear of sending them for the hills.

  16. […] 19, 2010 by Petite Chablis Yesterday, Dr. Vino’s Wine Blog posed the following question: what white wine would you give to a red wine drinker to convert them to drinking whites […]

  17. I’ve found a really superior Savennieres will impress any wine drinker.

  18. I’ve had good luck with the right Reislings or, better yet, bone dry Gewürtz.
    I think many red-or-dead drinkers want bang for the buck, and an explosive Gewürz with wild aromas, zippy acidity and some oily heft, can give that palate stimulation that red drinkers might not get on more subtle whites.

    Cartograph Wines

  19. A very interesting question…the wine that converted me from being strictly a red wine drinker was the Bergstrom Vineyards Sigrid Chardonnay.

  20. How could you go wrong with a white pinot nero from the lombardy region of italy? I’ll answer that. You can’t go wrong it has the body of a red and the weight of a white. or is it the other way around? Give it a shot

  21. What about the other way around? I generally go for whites, but would like to drink more reds. Any recommendations?

  22. I will say although I do drink more red than white my greatest wine moments have been white wine. 1987 Leroy Chennevotes (sp?) was absolutely stunning. And Chablis can be downright intoxicating when paired with sushi

  23. Gruner Veltliner would be one my choices

  24. I think lighter Pinots might appeal to many white-wine drinkers. Also, Beaujolais and lighter Italian reds. Maybe Merlot. Basically, French and Italian more than California, Washington, Australia or Spain. This presumes the objection to the reds are that they’re too heavy, too tannic, too big or too something. Now that summer is coming up, I’d also vote for dry rose as a bridge wine – trying to adjust your taste buds to reds in hot weather is probably not the best strategy.

  25. Interesting thread, and it has me wondering if the type of red that one favors would not suggest a specific white rather than a general answer to the question.

    For example, a drinker of higher acid reds like Chianti Classicos or Chinon might well like a mid-weight Sauvignon Blanc or a lesser Chablis.

    A fan of fleshy Merlots, whether from the Right Bank or the US West Coast would probably be more likely to favor a big-bodied lush Chardonnay like Pahlmeyer or Darioush, whereas a fan of Pinot Noir would have lots of choices, mostly Chardonnays that would essentially mimic particular Pinots for body weight, acidity, oak levels etc.

    Beaujolais fans might like Condrieu and those who like the heavier Village bottlings might be inclined more to St. Joseph whites.

    Medoc drinkers would shy away from the aromatic whites and probably also most Chardonnays, but could like dry versions of Albarino or Sauvignon Blanc.

    But the most likely universally accepted white wine for red wine drinkers–>Bubbly.

  26. Vina Gravonia – Rioja So much to think about with this wine. Holds its own on your palate, has all the presence of a red but it something entirely (and wonderfully) different

  27. Pieropan “La Rocca” Soave! That ought to put a cork in any red-only wine drinker.

  28. This is an excellent question for me since I am a lover of red wine and have been trying to find my white wine or lighter wine to drink over the warmer months of summer. For me champagne is a no. I have never liked the bubbly. I have been faithful in trying different whites through our local wine shop wine tastings and can say I haven’t found it yet. I have however opened up to Rose’s as an alternative, unfortunately I have not found this variety readily available in restaurants. So my search continues. I will check back to this post at a later time and share if I have found a white wine that measures up to my favorite reds — cabernets.

  29. You might try an Italian Gavi or a fruity unoaked Chardonnay … The Gavi is on my mind because I finished a really nice one last night. I can’t guarantee either would fill the bill, but I love Cab and don’t care much for sparkling, so I’m like you in that regard as least.

  30. We held a neighborhood tasting for just this purpose since we realized that many in the club were Red-wine bigots and many admitted it. The tasting included, Rousanne, Chardonnay (oak & unoaked), SB, Riesling, Vinho Verde, and a few others. The La Crema Chardonnay and a Marlborough SB were the favorites.

  31. A good angle to win over a red wine drinker may be a white with some age on it. I inadvertently had some success in this area recently with a 1989 Lopez de Heredia–a member of our party announced that she only drinks red wine but liked the Lopez. A Savennieres (as has already been recommended) with some age may also be a good choice.

  32. Riesling . . . my choice is Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvee Sainte Catherine “L’Inedit” . . . a mouthful, not inexpensive (~$70) . . . but able to convert . . . oh yeah.

  33. As a red lover who rarely reaches for the white I think you hit the nail on the head with the temperature/umbrella thing. On a hot day white is great, although even then I prefer a rose.

  34. Viognier! Viognier! Viognier!

  35. I’m kinda scratching my head to see that there have been not one but two endorsements of Savennieres as introductory white wines for red wine drinkers. I’d like to know how a wine widely described as “gloriously austere” and “cerebral” would be found appealing by somebody who favors, say, California Cabernets.

    I must be missing something here…?

  36. I have always struggled with people who proclaim themselves wine lovers yet announce that they only drink reds… Really? You limit your love of fine wine on a glittering generality? Sigh.

    I guess I would press less common whites. Veer from Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc and pair some beautiful whites with the perfect dish. Soave, Falanghina, Torrontes, Chenin Blanc, Viogner… even Seyval Blanc can pair beautifully with a simple capellini with bay scallops and a garlic, lemon, wine sauce. I like to hope that once they understand how exciting it can be to find the perfect wine for the dish, an exclusionary wine drinker could open their heart to the possibilities.

  37. Hear hear Laurie, to Seyval Blanc!
    While heartening to see so many wonderful suggestions, not a one stepping outside the comfort zone of classic varietal grapes.
    In Wisconsin we make a wonderful white wine from NY-grown Seyval that is the perfect answer to “I like red…what do ya got for me?” Hint of sweet up front, nice and crisp finish without lingering too long, and a wonderful pairing for lighter seafood.

  38. Dr. V, I was just talking about this today. We thought that Qupe’s Bien Nacido Cuvee was a perfect red-white transfer wine. It is a blend of Santa Maria valley Chardonnay and Viognier. It’s like sugar and spice and all things nice.

  39. Personally, I don’t try to convert people who are adamant about reds. I find that a lot of them seem to have a bias against whites and can’t even describe the ones they’ve tried (“they all taste the same”). I find the best way to appreciate a white is to match it with food. To me, I appreciate whites with food more than I appreciate them on their own. It was a real epiphany to have a great tasting menu with matching wines. It made me realize the difference between wines that complement food and wines that are compatible with food.

  40. Roussanne. Rich, complex, bold, yet subtle. Would definitely hold a red wine drinker’s interest. My favorite is Tablas Creek’s 2005. Superb!

  41. One might suggest a white Musar. Close your eyes and you would think it was red.

    Or maybe Gérard Gauby’s Le Soula wines from the Roussillon, in the south-west of France. Hell, his wines are so good they would convert a teetotaler.

  42. Point taken, Wine Mule. I was thinking instead of a Savennieres that has widely been described as “oxidized”: the Joly Coulée de Serrant–the idea with either the Joly or Lopez being to challenge the red wine drinker’s perception of white wine.

  43. Laurie and Mule, it’s not bigotry. Some of us cannot drink anything sweet, and even dry white wines tend to have a sweetness that doesn’t work for some people. I can drink white, but only half a glass before I feel like I need to wash it down with water.

  44. Thank you, Cassandra, Laurie and Charlie Olken for the suggestions about reds for white wine drinkers (the if-you-like-this-try-that is helpful reading it in either direction!)

    I’m not adamant about drinking only whites, but I realized that that was mostly what I was ordering, and I’d like to drink more reds for health reasons.

  45. Absolutely, Chateau Faire Le Ponts’ Viognier.
    Full bodied,a little spice to warm you insides while being cool and refreshing!Very enjoyable!

  46. Red wine buffs look for wines with body, texture, depth and complexity. Chardonnay that undergoes malolactic fermentation and battonage (lees-stirring) in barrels can, most of the times, convey this impression.

  47. In my experience, people who say they don’t like white wine have just assumed that all whites are like the ubiquitous generic California Chardonnay. So, anything clean, vibrant and exciting. Knowing their red preferences can help you pick out just the right conversion wine. One such friend is a big Sauternes fan. (Yes, we ribbed him that that is a white wine.) He love the Sauvignon Blanc we chose.

    People have also written off pink, because of White Zin, and Champagne, because of the cheap nasty sparkling crap that comes out every New Year’s Eve.

  48. I appreciate all the suggestions. It will take me most of the summer to try them all and I will do my best to do so. For me my love of red is due to it being what I began my wine drinking experience with. There are a lot of wines just in the red family to become acquainted with. I am not one who drinks wine everyday. So it has taken me awhile to explore the different red varieties and I have a long way to go still. I know for myself I do not snub white wines, however, my palette has become more accustomed to reds and I know them better therefore I tend to stick with them. I am excited for the opportunity to branch out and the descriptions many of you gave have tintillated the senses. I look forward to trying as many of the suggestions as I can.

  49. Great responses! Obviously, it’s hard to say what would work in the abstract so I do hope that someone will be a guinea pig and try some of these things and see what works.

    Thanks for the real-world observations from the winery tasting rooms!

    As to the oxidative quality of Lopez de Heredia whites, I do find that quite a polarizing style in tastings that I have done. The reds are more approachable but I would rate the wines as high wine geek. Savennieres is certainly a cerebral white but I was astonished that in a room of 75 people when I recently poured one (Closel – La Jalousie), that only two people found it unappealing.

    As to flipping the question around, I would suggest a dry rosé if that counts, a good bourgogne rouge or a cru beaujolais (Thivin?). Or how about a Frappato from Sicily? Chill it and serve it with food on the deck, a similar context to many whites.

  50. I would start the conversione with Gravner, Paraschos, Radikon, Podversic and all kind of similar stuff.

  51. I agree with Alan Baker, a good dry Riesling always seems to work well, possibly something from Washington State or the Mosel. I always seem to have to explain to guys “I know Sir, I know. I’m mainly a red wine drinker too, but a time comes in every mans life when he should open his mind and experiment with whites…”

  52. 2002 Guy Amiot Chassagne Montrachet Les Caillerets

  53. Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc

  54. […] Which White Wine Would Convert a Fan of Reds? by Dr Vino – The comments are what make this post awesome. If you are a fan of reds and need some great white wine suggestions, take a browse through this post. […]

  55. I find the “red only” bunch to be closely related to the people who drink neat single malt scotch and smokey bourbons. Their tastebuds just aren’t satisfied with what they call the “thin” wines.
    Maybe it is a masculine thing with them, but they also don’t necessarily like to pair their fav “blockbuster” cabs with anything but thick steaks.
    So these people need to be shocked into the white wine world with the food pairing idea. I love the idea of pitching them a hearty salmon or tuna sushi roll with fabulous Chablis. Nothing can rock a man’s world more quickly than that.

  56. As many said here it depends what’s their favorite reds…….

    Though I would have decanted for an hour or so either
    * a bottle of Chateau Musar White, or
    * a bottle of R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia, or
    * a bottle of Movia white

    either of the above bottles at least 2001 or older

  57. Some great suggestions already out there, but I would try:
    Billecart Salmon Rose as a “tweener” or a barrel-fermented Verdejo, Rousanne/Marsanne or just give them an Alsatian or Germany Riesling with over 10 yrs of bottle age.

    If they aren’t converted after that, they’re hopeless!

  58. Howdy,

    This is a great topic! Since I work in a wine tasting room with retail, I see this happen almost every week. We pour a line of reds and typically include at least one or two white wines in the flight. There are always a couple people who get their feathers ruffled and insist they don’t drink white wine. I just tell them the flight includes it and they’re welcome to dump it out, but since they’re paying for the whole flight they might want to try it.

    I can’t even count how many times these very same people will say after the tasting “Wow, I don’t usually drink whites but this such-and-such was fantastic!”

    I think the key to a “Red wine only” person liking a white wine is introducing them to a non-sweet high quality white wine. My personal favorite is Chardonnay – and I don’t mean from Napa. Mersault Blanc is fantastic, 1er and Grand Cru’s from anywhere do the trick, and Blanc de Blanc from quality grower Champagne houses do the trick. Introducing these to people also serves to show that there is a lot more versatility to Chardonnay than the multinational beverage corporations would have you believe.

    I hope that was helpful, thanks again,


  59. We have a great article coming up about colors of wine and solid arguments about why choose white over red most of the time…

  60. […] is not, I should mention, an extensive list of suggested wines, though you can find some good ones here and here and here. Rather, it’s an introduction into understanding why some people prefer certain […]

  61. I wanted to give some feedback to this discussion after having spent several weeks tasting white wines to see what I would prefer as a devout red wine drinker.

    It has been a confusing path to be quite honest. I knew what reds I liked to drink from the grocery store and at the restaurants I frequent. My search for a white wine started at our local wine shop by attending their weekly wine tastings. Boy, did that open up a whole new realm of information.

    After experiencing a couple of wine tastings, I determined that I couldn’t even identify the specifics of what I preferred even in my red wines. I knew cabs were considered dry and described as oaky, but that was the extent of my wine knowledge. After several other wine tastings I began to get frustrated as more wines, more flavors to determine and more grape varieties were being exposed to me. Too much information and too many different wines in a short period of time wasn’t helping me. But I continued to press on and finally I have come to an initial conclusion. Chardonnay. It seems chardonnay’s are the white wines I prefer. I know some of you mentioned chardonnays and one description in particular really drew me to them. I think it is the buttery flavor I like most.

    Now as I continue to hone my tasting skills, I am inclined to host a tasting at my home focused solely around different chardonnays. Any suggestions would be very appreciated.

  62. I would do a range of oaked and unoaked and include locations in addition to California. If there’s a local wine store you like, they could recommend a range of Chardonnays with different taste characteristics. They don’t have to be expensive, either.


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