8 Grapes Every White Wine Lover Needs To Know

I’ve noticed a trend lately – a sort of suggestion that loving white wine is an indicator that you’re not a “serious” wine drinker or that it’s somehow “un-manly” to drink white wines. Well, as a third generation wine importer (and an unapologetic member of the male population) I’m here to tell you that if you’re not drinking much white wine, you’re missing out!

As you’ll see from the profile below, white wines range from crispy, refreshing and bone-dry through to rich, complex and spicy, through to palate pleasing off-dry patio sipping fodder. And through this range of the 8 grapes every white wine lover needs to know, you’ll soon discover that white wines provide some of the best and most satisfying food and wine matches you can find.


Albarino


WHERE DOES IT GROW?

Spain, Portugal, California + Australia

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Bright acidity, complex minerality and a combination of citrus and stone fruit flavours and aromas including lime, lemon, peach and apple.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN WINEMAKING METHODS?

Albarino grapes are generally used in the production of unoaked aromatic dry white wines. A new trend is emphasizing extended contact and stirring of the lees to add complexity and weight to wines.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Albarino is a great variety to pair with richer and more flavourful fish and seafood dishes as well as grilled or roasted white meats like chicken, turkey or pork.


Chardonnay


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Chardonnay is grown practically every place wine is made, but most notably in Burgundy (France), Italy, California, U.S. Pacific Northwest, Australia, New Zealand + Canada

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Rich and full-bodied white with flavours of citrus fruit, stone fruit and tree fruit usually emphasizing apple, peach, pear and lemon.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN WINEMAKING METHODS?

Chardonnay is produced in a wide range of styles utilizing many different methods; everything from bright, crisp and dry unoaked wines right through richly textured and unctuous barrel fermented wines made using a high proportion of new oak.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Unoaked Chardonnay is a great match with light fish or salads, and Chardonnay with a bit of barrel age works wonderfully with rich creamy pasta, decadent shellfish like Lobster or Crab and roast Chicken, Turkey or Pork.


Chenin Blanc


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Loire Valley (France), South Africa + California

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Bright, refreshing and aromatic flavours usually emphasizing lemon, lime, grapefruit, honey and wet stone minerality.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN WINEMAKING METHODS?

Dry whites are most commonly produced with little or no oak contact, and what little barrel aging is done utilizes older neutral barrels. Chenin Blanc is often used as a blending partner in South Africa with other white varieties like Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier. Loire Valley winemakers also produce some of the world’s finest sweet wines from Chenin Blanc.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Dry and off-dry expressions of Chenin Blanc are wonderful matches for flavourful fish dishes, with off-dry expression also serving as a perfect match with spicy Indian curry.


Gewurztraminer


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Alsace (France), Germany + New Zealand

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Rich, full-bodied white noted for generally lower acidity with explosive flavours of pineapple, lychee, quince, honey and ginger.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN WINEMAKING METHODS?

Gewurztraminer is used in the production of dry, off-dry and sweet/dessert wines which are very rarely exposed to any sort of oak treatment or barrel aging.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Gewurztraminer is at home next to soft and semi-soft cheeses, salads with fresh fruit and white meats like chicken or pork with aromatic spices.


Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Pinot Gris: Alsace (France) + U.S. Pacific Northwest
Pinot Grigio: Italy

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Lighter often mild white with flavours and aromas of flowers, pear, lemon and orange blossom.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN WINEMAKING METHODS?

Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape, but were originally given different names based on whether they were produced in France (Pinot Gris) or Italy (Pinot Grigio). The wines produced in France were generally richer and riper with deeper and more concentrated flavours vs. the wines produced in Italy which were lighter, more delicate and refreshing. As Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio has become a more popular and widely grown international variety, these terms are used in places outside of Italy and France to convey a stylistic sense consistent with the origins of these terms.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Pinot Grigio is pairs with easy casual dishes which include pasta or chicken, and Pinot Gris works well with richer and earthier flavours, like brown butter dressed pasta or Thanksgiving turkey.


Riesling


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Germany, Alsace (France), Australia, U.S. Pacific Northwest, New Zealand + Canada

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Bright, concentrated and refreshing with vibrant acidity framing flavours of lime, grapefruit, green apple and spring flowers.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN WINEMAKING METHODS?

Riesling produces intensely aromatic dry, off-dry and sweet wine styles which are virtually never subjected to oak treatment. Sweet dessert style wines are produced both by late harvest of the grapes (which increases the sugar content and ripeness) as well as in an Icewine (Canada)/Eiswein (Germany) style where grapes are allowed to freeze before they are harvested.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Dry expressions of Riesling are perfect choices with lighter fish and seafood dishes, with off-dry Riesling serving as an ideal pairing with spicy Thai or Indian cuisine.


Sauvignon Blanc


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Bordeaux (France), Loire Valley (France), New Zealand, California, Chile, Italy + Australia

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Lean and racy white with bright acidity and flavours of grapefruit, lime, kiwi, passionfruit and often  a distinctly herbaceous note of freshly cut grass.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN WINEMAKING METHODS?

Sauvignon Blanc is used in the production of fragrant, aromatic and refreshing dry white wines. It is often used as a blending partner with Semillon – and can be enhanced with barrel aging, sometimes employing a high proportion of new oak barrels as is the case with California’s famous “Fume Blanc” style of Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc also plays a major role (along with Semillon) in the production of Sauternes, the world’s most expensive sweet/dessert wines.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Sauvignon Blanc is a classic pairing with fish and shellfish dishes, mild softer cheeses (particularly goat cheese) and salads or salsas featuring tropical fruit.


Viognier


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Northern Rhone Valley (France), California + Australia

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Rich full-bodied white with an almost oily texture commonly displaying flavours of peach, apricot, flowers and fall pie spice.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN WINEMAKING METHODS?

Viognier is almost exclusively produced in a dry style and is often enhanced with barrel treatments – usually employing relatively neutral older oak barrels. In parts of the New World, Viognier is blended with other white grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc + Chenin Blanc.

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Viognier is an excellent match for salads with fish or chicken, bold and flavourful (not spicy) Thai dishes or richer white meats like pork.

Andrew A. Hanna / Winetrader.ca

8 Grapes Every White Wine Lover Needs To Know


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#White Wine #Grape Varieties #Wine 101


More about Andrew Hanna

Pulling corks and pushing cases as a third generation wine importer in Ontario, Canada selling fine wines and spirits produced by families - not factories. Get the full story at winetrader.ca