First, a recap in case you missed our earlier articles in our wine series.
In our first article on wines, we talked about people having enjoyed wine – the alcoholic fermented juice of fresh grapes – for thousands of years, and that wine grapes are different from table grapes, which we eat as fruit.
Then we learned about the differences between the two most common wines – red and white, how red wines are made from dark-coloured grape varieties fermented with the skin to impart the red colour to the wine, and how white wines are made from either dark-coloured or green-coloured grapes fermented without the skin, resulting in yellow-coloured white wines.
Another difference is red wines typically have a more robust flavour and pair well with similarly robust meats such as beef and lamb, and pasta dishes, while white wines are often considered more refreshing and lighter in both style and taste, and hence they pair well with lighter foods such as poultry and fish.
In ‘More to wine than red or white’, we also mentioned rosé wine – which may be the oldest known type of wine as it is the most straightforward to make; dessert wine, which is very sweet and intended to be consumed with or as a dessert course; and sparkling wine, which is usually either white or rosé and which includes champagne.
‘Red hot!’ was all about red wine grape varieties, from the popular Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah to the more uncommon Carménère and Barbera. We also featured the most well-known regions for red wines, from Bordeaux in France to Chianti in Italy.
In this article, we talk purely about top white wines.
Among the hundreds of white wine grape varieties, the most popular is undoubtedly Chardonnay. Its ability to adapt to and absorb the soil’s characteristics results in flavours ranging from mineral and zesty to oak and nutty.
It is the world's most planted white grape and is found throughout the world. Wines made with Chardonnay can be found on almost any wine list in the world.
The Burgundy wine region of France is acknowledged as the home of Chardonnay, although Chardonnays from California and Australia are also popular.
Chardonnay is medium to light in body, is highly acidic with steely minerality, and expresses flavours of apple and pear.
Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape variety best known for its crisp, dry and refreshing white wines.
The traditional home of Sauvignon is in France, especially within the wine-growing regions of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.
Sauvignon Blanc does well in widely diverse parts of the world. It is very expressive of the local terroir, and can range in flavour from grassy to sweet, and in aroma from floral to fruity.
A light-bodied white wine that's fruit-forward with plenty of acidity and medium amounts of alcohol, every region offers a different profile.
A hint of minerality and notes of lime can be found in a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley.
Notes of peaches and grapefruit are often present in Sauvignon Blanc wines from grapes grown in California.
Sauvignon Blanc has become the benchmark white wine of New Zealand, where the intensity of the green citrus and berry fruit flavours is predominant.
In terms of wine production, Riesling ranks among the top three white grape varieties worldwide (along with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc).
The traditional home of Riesling is the Rhone region of Germany, especially the wine-growing sub-regions of Mosel and Rheingau.
Riesling wines are noteworthy for being highly aromatic and high in acidity, usually with floral or tropical fruit notes.
A lovely Riesling may exude flavours of lime, green apple, orange, jasmine, and petrol.
Most assume all Rieslings are sweet, but there are many that are very dry.
Unlike other grape varieties, Riesling is almost never blended with other grapes.
Pinot Gris is a white grape variety that is part of the Pinot family that includes Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The berry skins of Pinot Gris tend to be rose-coloured, and the resulting wines are often deep golden yellow in appearance.
Also popularly known as “Pinot Grigio”, Pinot Gris is a fresh, dry wine that's light in body with moderate fruit notes and acidity.
There are two main types of Pinot Gris wines: within France (and especially Alsace), the wines are spicy and full-bodied, while within Italy, they are lighter-bodied and more acidic.
Semillon is a golden-skinned grape that is used to make both dry and sweet white wines.
The most famous Semillon wine producers are based in France’s legendary Bordeaux wine region, where they make Sauternes sweet wines as well as dry white blends known as Bordeaux Blanc.
In addition to Bordeaux in France, Semillon can be found in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, and Argentina.
Gewurztraminer is a white, aromatic grape variety that is named for a German-speaking province of Italy. However, the traditional home of Gewurztraminer is Alsace, the French wine region located along the German border.
In addition to Alsace, Gewurztraminer can be found across Europe in Germany, Austria, Italy and Eastern Europe.
Gewurztraminer wines are known for having aromas of lychee, roses, passion fruit and flowers.
Viognier is a white grape variety that is most commonly grown in France, California and Australia.
The traditional home of Viognier is the Rhone wine region of France. Over the past two decades, however, California’s Central Coast has emerged as an important new producer of Viognier wines.
Viognier is intensely aromatic, and when perfectly ripened, smells of apricots, peaches, and citrus rind.
White wines made from the Viognier grape tend to be full-bodied, with a lush, soft character.
Chenin Blanc is a white grape variety most closely associated with the Loire Valley of France. In the 21st century, however, South Africa has surpassed the Loire Valley as the world’s top producer of Chenin Blanc wines.
King of grapes in South Africa, Chenin Blanc is versatile and can produce dry, off-dry, sparkling and sweet dessert wines.
Within France’s Loire Valley, the best examples of Chenin Blanc come from Anjou, where it produces dry white wines with notes of apple and quince, and Vouvray, where it produces off-dry white wines with floral notes and honey-like flavours.
Torrontes is a white grape variety that is grown almost exclusively in Argentina, where it is used to create fresh, aromatic wines with moderate to high acidity and a very smooth texture.
Aromas from the best Torrontes wines include peach and apricot.
In terms of drinkability, Torrontes wines are most similar to those made from Muscat grapes.
Muscat ranks among the oldest domesticated grape varieties, with its history stretching all the way back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians and Persians.
There are actually 200 different types of Muscat grapes, but only four primary types are typically used to make wines.
All varieties of Muscat throughout the world are marked by a penetrating aroma of oranges.
When fermented dry, Muscat’s fruit-driven scents and flavours generally impart a hint of sweetness.
It can be made into excellent light sparkling wines or rich dessert wines.
Roussanne is a white wine grape found primarily in the Rhone Valley wine region of France. There, it is often blended with Marsanne in order to create a highly aromatic white wine.
Full-bodied and tasting of lime and citrus, its nervy acids make it a fine blending partner for Marsanne.
The name “Roussanne” is derived from the French word roux, which means russet in English.
This refers to the colour of the golden, reddish-brown berries when Roussanne ripens.
Roussanne wines are known for their flowery, herbal tea aromas.
Garganega is an Italian white grape variety that is primarily found in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.
Garganega is now one of the six most popular white grape varieties in Italy, where it is primarily known for its role in the creation of Italy’s crisp white Soave wines.
The most important white wine grape of the northern Rhone, Marsanne is often blended with Roussanne, Viognier and (sometimes) Grenache Blanc. Marsanne ripens reliably and makes full-bodied, low-acid wines with flavours of almonds, white peaches and lightly spiced pears.
Please provide name of wine – Marsanne from Rhone OR anywhere in France such as the Hermitage that is in stock and available both in AE website and AE Club
In addition, this grape variety can be found within France within the Savoy and Languedoc wine regions.
Marsanne is the principal grape used in the distinctive wines of the Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and Saint-Joseph AOCs.
Albarino (also known as “Alvarinho”) is a white grape variety that is primarily found along the North Atlantic coastline of Spain and Portugal. Spain’s Galicia region is the traditional home of Albarino, especially the Rias Baixas DO, where it accounts for nearly 90% of all grapes grown. Across the border in Portugal, the Vinho Verde wine region is the home of Albarino grape production.