White wine - possibly the best drink in the world, but how do you choose a good one if you've got limited budget and zero knowledge of what makes a decent bottle of plonk? Dawn Davies - Head Sommelier at Selfridges - reveals how to choose a good white for any occasion without breaking the bank...
1. I've got £10 - how can I pick a good bottle of white wine? What are signs of quality at a budget price?
If you're heading to a supermarket the best bet is to go for a New World, well-known producer from the likes of Australia. The quality will always be good and it will be made in an easy drinking style. The more interesting thing to do is go into a small independent and ask the staff this question. People are always afraid they will be judged when they mention price, but in small shops they are normally just happy to help and there are often some real gems from New Zealand or South Africa at this price point that would not necessarily be obvious.
2. What's the difference between Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Semillon and Chenin Blanc?
Sauvignon Blanc is a very fruity fresh white wine, Pinot Grigio tends to be more neutral with pear drop aromas, Semillon can be grassy and round with stone fruit notes and Chenin Blanc is about baked apples and wax. Chardonnay varies in style - if it is oaked it will take on buttery, toasty notes, while unoaked styles like Chablis can be very citrus lead and mineral.
3. I'm on a night out and I want white wine - which type should I ask for?
Many restaurants now have descriptions on the menu so finding wing that appeals to you is the best idea. Don't be afraid to experiment - you will come across some duds and some you don't like, but many may surprise.
4. I'm hosting a dinner and I want to serve a good white wine - which type should I buy? What's a crowd pleaser?
Sauvignon Blanc is often a good bet for a dinner. If you choose one from the Loire like a Sancerre most people will enjoy it. Think about the food and the occasion - a summer BBQ with lots of salad may cry out for a crisp fresh light white wine but a sit-down dinner featuring dishes with a rich sauce may pair better with an oaked Chardonnay.