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White Grape

White Wine Grapes


Wine grape varieties represent only a small portion of the more than 600 kinds of grapes. Each grape variety has its own unique combination of characteristics including color, size, skin thickness, acidity, yield per vine and flavors, however, only a few grape varieties are suited to produce fine quality wine. White grapes develop a color from clear to pale yellow and the specific grape has a distinct fruit flavor. There are little tannins associated with white wine since little or no contact with the grape skins occurs during fermentation. Keep in mind that the name of the wine does not necessarily depict the grape(s) used. More about this in the section How To Read A Wine Label.


·        Chardonnay

This is unarguably the ubiquitous grape for white wine. It takes oak well, and many higher priced Chardonnays are typically fermented and/or aged in oak barrels. When Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels, it may pick up vanilla, butter, spice, toast overtones in its aromas and flavor. In addition, flavors of apples, lemon, pineapple and melon are possible. The grape is so widely grown in several continents that the flavors of the respective wines vary with the climate. The wine is light golden in color and is responsible for such notable wines as various white burgundies and champagne.


·        Chenin Blanc

This white grape is commonly grown in the Loire Valley of France, South Africa and California. It is used in some of the finest dessert wines as well as wines that are fragrant and high in acid. Chenin Blanc can make wines that range in style from dry to very sweet depending at the discretion of the producer. Chenin Blanc will age very well due to its high acidity. Its flavors include honey, beeswax, marzipan, spice and pralines.


·         Gewurztraminer

This grape variety is noted for it floral fragrance and its spicy flavors. It is grown most successfully in France (especially Alsace), the United States (California, Oregon, Washington), Germany and New Zealand.  It does better in cool climates that in warm ones. The aroma is intense and the color is clear. So intense that one either loves it or hates it. The Alsace version is typically dry and considered the best use of the grape.


·        Pinot Blanc

This grape is used to produce light, dry, pleasant white wines.  It is principally grown in Alsace, California, Italy, Germany and Austria. Just as monkfish is known as the poor man’s lobster, Pinto Blanc can be mistaken for Chardonnay. It has a clean, crisp aroma and a light to medium body. It offers delicate aromas and fruit flavors of pears and apples with hints of spice and minerals. The wines made from this grape should be consumed young before the fruit flavors diminish. It is bottled as a single varietal as well as blended to produce dry and sparkling wines.


·         Pinot Gris

This wine is produced in Italy as Pinot Grigio and in Alsace. Its flavor characteristics are spice, and tropical fruits. The Italian version is light bodied with fruit. The Alsace version is full bodied, aromatic and spicy with smokey overtones.


·        Riesling

It is considered one of the “noble” grape varieties for wine making.  It can produce wines of high acidity and elegance in very cool growing conditions.  Its wines usually show fresh fruit flavors and a zesty character.  Riesling has the ability to produce wines that run the gamut from bone dry to very sweet but are usually made in dry of semi-dry styles.  It has perfume aromas with peach and honeysuckle notes and can develop a 'petrol' nose as it ages.


·        Sauvignon Blanc

Originally from Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, the grape is grown in numerous parts of the world. It can tolerate greater heat than many varieties.  Sauvignon Blanc is high in acid and often exhibits 'melon' in the nose and tastes.  If grown in too cool a climate, it can develop an herbal ('grassy') character in its aromas.  Sauvignon Blanc produces large crops at a very low cost. Sauvignon Blanc is often blended with Semillon in the production of Sauternes. It has a clean, fresh taste and enough acidity to make it crisp. It is typically produced as an unoaked varietal.


·        Semillon

This is one of two grapes used to make Sauternes. Originally from the Bordeaux region of France, this thin skinned grape is being produced in the Hunter Valley of Australia. The unoaked versions develop the flavor characteristics of honey, toast, lanolin and citrus. The Sauternes that are produced from this grape along with Sauvignon Blanc develop the flavor characteristics of pineapple, quince and various other rich tasting fruits.


·        Viognier

This grape hails from northern Rhône and has a distinctive taste of peach, apricots and spice. The aroma of the grape is very intense and it has been dubbed the “new chardonnay”, as a reference to its growing popularity and availability. It is also being grown in Australia, US, Chile and South Africa.