As you should already know, white wine is wine produced by the alcoholic fermentation of the non-coloured pulp of grapes, which may have a skin of any colour.
White wines themselves could be straw-yellow, yellow-green, or yellow-gold. Knowing white wine styles by variety and production area would help with better understanding and appreciating them. Some white wine grape variety could produce dry white wine or sweet white wine. Others could be made bubbly or still.
When only one variety is mentioned on the label, the wine is called a “varietal” and is named after the grape with a capital initial. Varietal wines primarily bring the fruit to bear, because how the wine tastes much depends on the grape variety. Below are seven major white wines styles by variety and production area:
Chardonnay has been the most popular white grape since the 1990s. Pronounced “shar-do-nay”, it can be made sparkling or still. This grape variety is a great choice for fish, including salmon, and chicken dishes. Chardonnay makes the principle white wine of Burgundy (Bourgogne, France), where it originated. It’s quite versatile and grown successfully in most viticultural areas under a variety of climatic conditions. Still, it only amounts to 2% of the world vine areas. Total chardonnay vines cover more than 160,000 hectares (400,000 acres). As at 2005, the biggest states were:
- U.S.A.: California: 44,509 ha; Oregon and Washington state: 3,200 ha
- France: 35,252 ha
- Australia: 22,528 ha
- Italy: 11,800 ha
- Moldavia: 6,000 ha
- South Africa: 8,000 ha
- Chile: 7,500 ha
- Argentina: 5,155 ha
Chardonnay wines are often wider-bodied and more velvety than other types of dry whites, with rich citrus flavours. When fermented in new oak barrels, chardonnay adds buttery tones of vanilla, toast, coconut, and toffee for instance.
Pronounced “so-veen-yawn blah”, sauvignon blanc is grown in the Bordeaux region where it is blended with Semillon, but the Loire Valley and New Zealand also produce some excellent sauvignon blanc varietals. Some Australian Sauvignon Blancs, grown in warmer areas, tends to be flat and lack fruity qualities. Sauvignon blanc usually shows a herbal character suggesting bell pepper or freshly mown grass. The dominating flavours range from sour green fruits of apples, pears and gooseberries through to tropical fruits of melon, mango and blackcurrant. Sauvignon blanc is significantly versatile, paired best with seafood, poultry, and salads.
Sémillon is the major white grape in the Bordeaux region of France. It’s also known as hunter (river riesling), boal/bual of Madeira, Chevrier, Colombier, Malaga and blanc doux. Sémillon is also grown in Chile, Argentina, Australia, and California. The Sémillon wine varietal usually features distinct fig-like character. This white wine type is often blended with sauvignon blanc to delimit its strong berry-like flavours. It goes with fish, but dry Sémillon pairs well with clams, mussels, and pasta salad. Sémillon is pronounced “say-mee-yaw”.
Moscato (mos-cato) is grown in most vine-friendly climates, including Italy, the Rhône Valley, where it is called Muscat Blanc à petits grains, and Austria, where it is called Muskateller. The variety belongs to the Muscat family of grapes along with Moscatel and muscat ottonel. Often sweet and always fruity with a characteristic grape-fruity and musky aroma, Moscato wines are easily recognised by people who have tasted a Muscat table grape. It is best enjoyed on its own, but sweet Moscato wines pair well with dessert.
Pinot Grigio is planted extensively in the Venezia and Alto Adige regions of Italy. It’s also grown in the western coastal regions of the United States of America. Pinot Grigio is called “Malvoisie” in the Loire Valley and “pinot gris” in the rest of France. In Germany and Austria, pinot grigio is known as “Ruländer” or “Grauer Burgunder”. Similar aliases are used in the German-settled regions of Australia. Pronounced “pee-no gree-zo’, this is one of the most versatile of the white wine variety. It is typically crisp on the palate. The dry pinot grigio wines with good acid “bite” usually come from Italy and Germany. Oregon or Alsace Pinot Gris offers aromatic, fruity flavours.
Gewürztraminer (Gah-vurtz-tra-meener) is most popular in wines from Alsace, Germany, the United States West Coast, and New York. It’s known as a considerably aromatic variety. The varietal wines have fruity flavours with aromas of rose petals, peaches, lychees, and allspice. A Gewürztraminer is generally considered not as refreshing as other types of dry whites. This is ideal for sipping. It pairs perfectly with Asian food, pork and grilled sausages.
The classic German grape of the Rhine and Mosel, Riesling grows in all wine regions. Germany’s great Rieslings are usually made slightly sweet, with steely acidity for balance. Riesling from Alsace and the Eastern United States is also fantastic, though usually made in a different style, equally aromatic but typically drier. California Rieslings are much less successful, usually sweet without sufficient acidity for balance.
Riesling wines are much lighter than Chardonnay wines. The aromas usually include fresh apples. The riesling variety expresses itself very differently depending on the district and the winemaking. A riesling should taste fresh. If it does, then it might also prove tastier and tastier as it ages.