White Wine Types

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It seems that it would be simple to talk about white wine types since this type of wine is made by processing white grapes. But various grape varieties, the soil of a particular region and the climate all contribute to the result – a unique type of white wine.

Some grape varieties only do well in particular locations on the planet, depending on amount of sunshine and the level of moisture in the soil, for instance.



White-wine grapes are grown in European countries such as Italy, Germany and France. In addition, there are white grapes in California and northwestern states, as well as New York. The grapes are also grown in Africa and in Australia.

To begin the discussion of white wine, it would be wise to list the major or most common white-grape varieties. These are:

Woman walks with the harvest of grapes

  • Chardonnay (perhaps the most popular and widely used)

  • Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris

  • Chenin Blanc

  • Gerwurztraminer

  • Sauvignon Blanc

  • Semillon and

  • Viognier.

If the wine is made from only one variety of grape it is known in the industry as a varietal and the name is capitalized on the label.

As mentioned earlier, the resulting wine depends on many factors. Each type of grape will give a white wine some particular taste. In addition, color and taste are affected by how the grape is picked and handled as it is being made into wine.

Chardonnay (which some have called the “queen” of white-wine grapes) will provide a soft, fruit taste, even some spicy or buttery notes. Sauvignon Blanc, which has its roots (literally) in France, may have a strong herbal presence and grows best in a cool climate. Outside of France, some excellent Sauvignon Blanc wines are produced in New Zealand.

Chenin Blanc, a French grape, is also grown in California. However, experience has shown that this grape, when used in the Golden State, ends up in less expensive wines. Though a wine from the Chenin Blanc grape has been described as light, it also has a slightly higher acidity than some other varieties.

Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris is typically an Italian white wine grape, but it is also grown in the area of France known as the Alsace. United States growers also produce Pinot Grigio wines. Those who experience this type of white wine will notice a definite aroma of citrus.

Gewurztraminer, which most wine experts know as “spicy,” is a German grape (though it also does well in the Alsace). When thinking about this variety, think crisp, but with a bold flavor. Riesling may be the most well-known white-wine grape. It comes from Germany, though growers have had success with it in upstate New York. Riesling is light to medium in body with a specific aroma of the fruit. Semillon is most often used as a blend, as with Sauvignon Blanc. Many consider it perfect as a dessert drink among white wine types.

Viognier, from a particular region of France, is also used in California wines. Expect an almost peachy/apricot hint from this grape. Muscat grapes are typically associated with Italy, Austria and the Rhone region of Germany. This type may be familiar to those who know the table grape by the same name.

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