Learn about white varietals and blends
The Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, with many of the flavours commonly associated with the grape being derived from such influences as terroir and oak. It is vinified in many different styles, from the elegant, "flinty" wines of Chablis to rich, buttery Meursaults and New World wines with tropical fruit flavors. Chardonnay is also an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne.
Chenin blanc, or Pineau de la Loire, is a variety of white wine grape from the Loire valley of France. Its high acidity means it can be used to make everything from sparkling wines to well-balanced dessert wines, although it can produce very bland, neutral wines if the vine's natural vigour is not controlled. Outside the Loire it is found in most of the New World wine regions; it is the most widely planted variety in South Africa, where it is also known as Steen.
Originally from Germany, Gewürztraminer is primarily grown in Germany, Alsace France, and in smaller amounts in California and Australia.
The variety has high natural sugar and the wines are white and usually off-dry, with a flamboyant bouquet of lychees. Dry Gewürztraminers may also have aromas of roses, passion fruit and floral notes. It is not uncommon to notice some spritz (fine bubbles on the inside of the glass).
It is made into wines of many different styles - much is intended for drinking young in the Heuriger (bars serving new wine) of Vienna, a little is made into sparkling wine, but some is capable of long ageing. The best has proven to be world-class in blind tastings against Chardonnays.
The name Liebfraumilch is today undoubtedly the most popular German wine in the world and has been for centuries a typical Rhine wine.The general characteristics of this wine are its pale golden colour, its fine bouquet and its mild, smooth taste, making it the perfect accompaniment to light dishes such as poultry or fish.
Piesporter originates in and around the village of Piesport on the north bank of the Mosel wine region of Germany. Piesporter style wines range from dry to off-dry and have great fruit notes and floral characteristics. Piesporter is a great wine for sipping.
In Alsace, Germany, Italy and Hungary, the wine produced from Pinot Blanc is a full-bodied dry white wine while in Germany and Austria they can be either dry or sweet. Pinot blanc produces a wine with fruity aromas, often of apples and melons, but it does not have very distinctive characteristics. It is rather high in acidity. Pinot blanc wines are usually made for immediate consumption and seldom meant for cellaring.
Pinot Gris is known as Pinot Grigio in Italy. The Pinot grigio style of Italy is a light-bodied, often lean wine that is light in color with sometimes spritzy flavours that can be crisp and acidic. Although this wine can be very sweet, it will begin to lose its acidity when it is nearly ripe.
Wines made from the Pinot gris vary greatly and are dependent on the region and wine making style they are from. Alsatian Pinot Gris are medium to full bodied wines with a rich, somewhat floral bouquet. They tend to be spicy in comparisons with other Pinot Gris. German Pinot Gris is more full-bodied with a balance of acidity and slight sweetness. In Oregon the wines are medium bodied with a yellow to copper-pink color and aromas of pear, apple, and/or melon. In California, Pinot Gris is more light bodied with a crisp, refreshing taste with some pepper and arugula notes. Pinot Gris is known as Pinot Grigio in Italy.
Riesling is a white grape grown mostly in Germany and the Alsace region of France. Best suited for cold climates, this very aromatic grape is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines.Riesling's natural aromas evoke flowers, apples, pears, peaches, and tropical fruits; petroleum notes can also develop with time in the cellar. Its high levels of both acidity and sugar make it easy to pair with a large variety of foods, from fish or pork to Thai and Chinese cuisines.
Riesling wines can be enjoyed when young, as they exhibit fruity and aromatic aromas. However, Riesling's naturally high acidity make it suitable for extended aging. Riesling is also used to produce late harvest dessert and icewines.
Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France. It is now planted in many of the world's wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. Conversely, the grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon Blanc is widely cultivated in France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, California, and South America.
Depending on the climate, the flavour can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. Wine experts have used the phrase "crisp, elegant, and fresh" as a favourable description of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc, when slightly chilled, pairs well with fish or cheese, particularly Chèvre. It is also known as one of the few wines that can pair well with sushi.
Semillon is a golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, most notably in France and Australia. Along with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, Semillon is one of only three approved white wine varieties in the Bordeaux region. The grape is also key to the production of sweet wines such as Sauternes.
Torrontés is the characteristic white wine grape of Argentina, producing fresh, aromatic white wines. Three criolla varieties exist in Argentina: Torrontés Riojano, the most common; Torrontés Sanjuanino; and Torrontés Mendocino. A grape called Torrontés is also found in Galicia in Spain.
Viognier (vee-ohn-yay) is a white wine grape. Viognier wines are well-known for their floral aromas, that like in Muscat and Riesling wines. There are also many other powerful flower and fruit aromas which can be perceived in these wines depending on where they were grown, the weather conditions and how old the vines were.