• Wine world

White grape variety guide

  • Wed, Jun 12, 2024 at 10:30
The world's white grape varieties
White grape varieties offer an incredible diversity of flavours and aromas, contributing to the richness of the white wines we enjoy so much. Whether you're an inquisitive wine lover or a seasoned connoisseur, this guide will help you to better understand the main white grape varieties and appreciate their particularities. Get ready for a sensory journey through the vineyards of the world!

Chardonnay: the chameleon of white wines 

Chardonnay is without doubt the most famous and versatile white grape variety. Originally from Burgundy in France, it has spread throughout the world, finding unique expressions in each terroir.  

  • Chardonnay characteristics: vinified in oak, it develops notes of butter, vanilla and nuts. Unwooded, it offers fresh apple, pear and citrus flavours. 
  • Food pairings: perfect with seafood, poultry in a cream sauce and mushroom-based dishes. 
  • Regions: Burgundy (France), California (United States), Australia, South Africa. 

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Sauvignon blanc: a fresh, vegetal flavour

Sauvignon Blanc is renowned for its lively, herbaceous aromas, often combined with refreshing acidity. 

  • Sauvignon Blanc characteristics: notes of lemon, grapefruit, passion fruit and freshly cut grass. Occasional hints of minerality and gunflint. 
  • Food and wine pairings: ideal with salads, fish dishes and goat's cheese. 
  •  Regions: Loire (France), Marlborough (New Zealand), Chile, South Africa.  

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Riesling: the perfect balance 

Riesling is a grape variety appreciated for its ability to produce wines ranging from dry to very sweet, always with good acidity to balance out the flavours.  

  • Riesling characteristics: aromas of lemon, green apple, white flowers, honey and sometimes oil, especially after a few years' ageing. 
  • Food and wine pairings: perfect with spicy dishes (Asian cuisine), white meats and fruit desserts. 
  • Regions: Germany, Alsace (France), Austria, Australia. 

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Pinot Gris: aromatic richness 

Pinot Gris, also known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, produces rich, unctuous wines, often with an almost oily texture.  

  •  Pinot Gris characteristics: notes of pear, apple, melon and sometimes honey and spices.   
  • Food and wine pairings: excellent with pork dishes, creamy pastas and soft cheeses. 
  • Regions: Alsace (France), Italy, Oregon (United States). 

Chenin Blanc: versatility  

Chenin Blanc is one of the most versatile grape varieties, capable of producing dry, semi-dry, sweet and sparkling wines. 

  • Characteristics of Chenin Blanc: notes of apple, quince, honey and sometimes nuts and white flowers. 
  • Food and wine pairings: goes well with poultry dishes, spicy dishes and fruity desserts. 
  • Regions: Loire (France), South Africa, California (United States). 

Viognier: opulence  

Viognier is known for its pronounced floral and fruity aromas, often combined with a silky texture and low acidity.   

  • Viognier characteristics: aromas of peach, apricot, white flowers and musk. 
  •  Food and wine pairings: ideal with spicy dishes, seafood and chicken dishes.  
  • Regions: Rhône Valley (France), California (United States), Australia. 

Gewurztraminer: exoticism  

Gewurztraminer is famous for its powerful, exotic aromas, often combined with low acidity. 

  • Gewurztraminer characteristics: notes of lychee, rose, ginger and spices. Sometimes slightly bitter on the finish. 
  • Food and wine pairings: perfect with Asian cuisine, spicy dishes and strong cheeses such as Munster. 
  • Regions: Alsace (France), Germany, United States. 

Albariño: Atlantic freshness 

Albariño is an emblematic grape variety of Galicia in Spain and northern Portugal, producing fresh, aromatic wines.   

  • Albariño characteristics: aromas of citrus fruit, peach, apricot and sometimes salinity. Well-balanced acidity. 
  • Food and wine pairings: ideal with seafood, sushi and light fish dishes. 
  • Regions: Rías Baixas (Spain), Vinho Verde (Portugal). 

Sémillon: richness 

Semillon is often used in blends with Sauvignon Blanc, but it also produces some remarkable single-varietal wines, particularly sweet wines.   

  • Semillon characteristics: notes of honey, fig, beeswax and sometimes hazelnut. Good ageing potential. 
  • Food and wine pairings: excellent with foie gras, mushroom-based dishes and fruity desserts. 
  • Regions: Bordeaux (France), Hunter Valley (Australia), South Africa. 

Other white grape varieties 

While the most famous white grape varieties often take centre stage, there are a host of lesser-known varieties that also deserve our attention. These hidden treasures of viticulture offer aromatic profiles that are different from what we are used to.  

  • Grüner Veltliner: Austrian grape variety with notes of white pepper, green apple and sometimes flowers.
  • Muscadet: produces dry, light wines with notes of lemon and minerality, often enjoyed with seafood.
  • Marsanne: used in the Rhône Valley, with aromas of pear, honey and white flowers.
  • Roussanne: a frequent partner of Marsanne, with aromas of herbs, honey and flowers.
  • Torrontés: Argentinian grape variety with intense aromas of flowers and tropical fruit.
  • Verdelho: used in Portugal and Australia, with notes of citrus and tropical fruit.
  • Vermentino: grown in Italy and France, known for its citrus, green apple and floral aromas.
  • Trebbiano: widely planted in Italy and France, often used for table wines and the distillation of cognac.
  • Fiano: Italian grape variety with notes of hazelnut, honey and flowers.
  • Garganega: Italy's main Soave grape variety, with apple, pear and almond aromas.
  • Assyrtiko: from Greece, often praised for its minerality and citrus notes.
  • Petit Manseng: known for its exotic fruit aromas, used for sweet and dry wines in south-west France.
  • Cortese: used for Gavi in Italy, with aromas of lemon, green apple and minerality.
  • Godello: Spanish variety with notes of apple, pear and minerals.
  • Grenache blanc: used in blends in France and Spain, with aromas of apple, pear and herbs.
  • Picpoul: a Languedoc grape variety with lively citrus notes and high acidity.
  • Silvaner: grown mainly in Germany and Alsace, with notes of herbs and green fruit.
  • Müller-Thurgau: a cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale, grown in Germany and Austria, with aromas of muscat and peach.
  • Airén: one of the most widely planted grape varieties in Spain, often used for simple, light wines.
  • Clairette: used in Rhône Valley wines, with apple and pear aromas.
  • Macabeu: Spanish grape variety used in white wines and cavas, with apple and floral aromas.
  • Xarel-lo: used mainly in Spanish cava, with notes of apple, pear and herbs.
  • Cayetana blanca: a Spanish grape variety traditionally used in brandy distillation.
  • Durella: Italian grape variety with notes of lemon and minerals, often used in sparkling wines. 

    Exploring white grape varieties

    Each grape variety brings its own unique touch, influenced by its terroir and winemaking techniques. By getting to know these white grape varieties, you'll be able to choose your white wines better, and enjoy them to the full. 

    Don't forget that the best way to discover them is to taste them. So don't hesitate to organise tastings, visit vineyards, share your discoveries... and let yourself be surprised by the diversity of white wines!  

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