White wines are a lighter and fruitier counterpart to red wines. Containing few tannins, and rarely aged in oak barrels, white wines impart a much less imposing flavor and characteristic on the palette than do red wines.
Specific flavors and aromas vary from wine to wine, depending on the varietal and production method employed. Overall, white wines should exhibit bright, fruity aromas, such as apple, pear, peach, apricot, tropical fruit, melon and citrus fruits. In addition, sweeter, candy-like aromas of butterscotch, vanilla, almond, and honey may be present.
The fruity, sweet qualities of white wines have much to do with how they are produced: typically, the grapes are pressed, skins and stems removed, and then the juices collected and fermented. This allows the natural fruitiness of the grape juices to show through in the wines.
White wines should exhibit softer flavors and aromas than red wines. Look for “shy” and subtle qualities in white wines, which can make tasting whites a challenge, while at the same time explain why their non-intrusive characteristics allow them to accompany lighter, aperitif dishes so well.
Depending on the type of white, the finish and aftertaste should be lighter and less instense than a red wine. Tasting a white should end with a mellow finish, not something that bites at the back of your throat.
All in all, look for wines that have a light presence, flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, and finish. Any pronounced characteristics should be agreeable, and not overpowering.