There are HUNDREDS of white wine grapes out there, which can be overwhelming when you’re trying to choose just one! Luckily, there are only a few major varieties that you’ll encounter most often. We partnered with Michelle Williams, the wine writer behind Rockin Red Blog, to summarize the major types of wine wines in the world. Check it out!
Chardonnay is unusual because of its versatility; it can be grown in cooler climates or warmer climates. Cool climate Chardonnay can result in notes of green apples, green pears, citrus, and vegetable notes such as cucumber; white stone fruit and melon may also be present in moderate climates; tropical fruit notes such as peach, banana, pineapple, mango, and even fig can be found in warmer climate Chardonnay. In addition to climate, the style of Chardonnay varies depending on three important factors determined by the winemaker: malolactic fermentation, time spent on the lees, and oak treatment; adding some level of buttery, nutty, coconut, and oak flavors the wine.
Flavors: Citrus, green apple, peach, banana, pineapple
Chenin Blanc is a cool climate grape; medium body and high acidity; typical notes include citrus, green apple, lemon, pineapple, green leaf herbaceous notes, pineapple, honey, and white flowers; it can be found in dry, off-dry, and sweet styles.
Flavors: Citrus, ripe apple, pear, white flowers
Gewürztraminer is a widely aromatic, medium alcohol, low acid wine. Gewürztraminer is most notably distinguished by notes of lychee, additional flavors include roses, pineapple, grapefruit, gingerbread, and a sweet/syrupy fruit juice. It is frequently sweet but can be found in off-dry and dry styles as well. A good Gewürztraminer will illustrate its vibrant nose but balance demonstrate balance on the palate between its sweetness and acidity.
Flavors: Grapefruit, flowers, lychee
Marsanne & Rousanne
These two white grapes are known as “sisters,” unsure which one actually came first. Born in Northern Rhône, these two grapes are often blended together for the biggest impact, together then craft full-body wines that are aromatic and elegant. These two grapes are not overly fruity but deliver notes of nectarines, pears, white floral notes, white tea, dried herbs. While Marsanne lacks acidity, Roussanne is a high acid grape, resulting in a well-balanced wine.
Flavors: Nectarines, pears, white flowers, dried herbs
Moscato is a sweet, slightly effervescent wine crafted from the Muscat grape, actually there is not one Muscat grape; rather there is a wide range of this ancient variety indigenous to the Mediterranean. Typically Muscat is a medium acidity wine with inviting aromas of apricot, peach, orange, lemon, pineapple, caramel, and vibrant floral notes of honeysuckle, rose, and jasmine; it is a sweet wine crafted into three styles: sparkling, still, and dessert.
Flavors: Apricot, oranges, tangerines
These are two names for the same grape variety. However, Pinot Gris from Alsace, France is a full-body, dry to off-dry wine with vibrant notes of pineapple, melon, ginger, baking spices, honey and smoky; it is complex yet still crisp and refreshing. Pinot Grigio from Italy offers very little similarity to Pinot Gris from Alsace. Pinot Grigio is typically a dry, light to medium body wine with medium acidity; it is almost neutral in aromas and flavors. Large producers have diluted the quality perception of Pinot Grigio, however if you buy from boutique wineries, it can be a lovely and complex white wine.
Flavors: Citrus, melon, pear
Riesling is an aromatic white grape with high acidity; it is fruity and floral rather than herbaceous; in cool climates it offers notes of green apple, green pear, floral notes, and citrus (lemon, lime); in moderate climates citrus and stone fruit become dominant, along with notes of lime and white peach; Riesling ages well, notes of smoke and petrol develop over time.
Flavors: Green apple, pear, citrus, stone fruit
Sauvignon Blanc is an aromatic grape variety that typically displays strong aromas of green fruit, gooseberry, elderflower, green bell pepper, grapefruit, passion fruit, and asparagus; typically high in acidity, medium body, and almost always dry; requires a cool climate to showcase its herbaceous qualities but can tolerate a moderate climate.
Flavors: Herb, green bell pepper, asparagus, grapefruit, passion fruit
Semillon is a dry white grape, light in body and alcohol but high in acidity. It offers delicate almost neutral citrus aromas in its youth, but well-aged its profile develops complex notes of toast, honey, and nut. Semillon is best known as commonly blended with Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux; blended, Semillon’s full-body adds depth and a richer mouth-feel to Sauvignon Blanc’s crisp and refreshing nature; the two combine to create both dry and sweet (Sauternes) wines in Bordeaux.
Flavors: Melon, fig, light herb
Viognier is a dry, full-body, low acidity, aromatic white grape, it typically expresses strong floral notes such as honeysuckle, along with peach, apricot, mango, musk, nutmeg, and lanolin; creamy in texture, due to its lack of acidity and sweet flavors many assume Viognier to be a sweet wine; however, it is dry.
Flavors: Flowers, citrus, apricot, peach