The Classic Whites
Three white wine grapes produce the majority of the world’s most renowned white wines.
[Pronounced SHAR-doh-nay] The king of whites, Chard remains the most popular white wine in the world.
Origins: Chard is one of the most popular white grape varieties throughout North America, as well as the white grape of the Burgundy region of France and one of the Chardonnay is a key grape in Champagne. It's adaptable, so it can grow well all over the world. And it can be crafted by the wine maker into many styles, based on where it grows and how it is made. Chardonnay takes oak well, and many higher priced Chardonnays are typically fermented and/or aged in oak barrels. When Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels, it may pick up vanilla overtones in its aromas and flavor. Chardonnay also ages well in the bottle, though it will not age as long as many red wines.
Flavor Profile: Very easy to enjoy thanks to its full, round body and buttery, appley flavors laced with toastiness (the latter comes from the oak barrels used in making most California Chardonnays).
Goes with: Appetizers, creamy cheeses, egg dishes, shellfish, rich fish dishes, cream soups, chicken or veal in rich cream or butter sauces, pasta in creamy sauces, cheese or mushroom polentas and rice dishes, vegetarian dishes.
[Pronounced SOH-vee-nyawn blawnc] is considered by the greatest chefs to be the most food-worthy of wines. Also called Fumé Blanc (FEW-may blawnc) by some California and Northwest producers.
Origins: The grape of the dry, flinty Sancerre whites from the Loire region in France and the predominant grape of the prestigious white Bordeaux, Sauv Blanc is producing incredible crisp, dry whites in the cool climates of the southern hemisphere — South Africa, Chile, and especially New Zealand.
Flavor Profile: An "in-your-face" wine, reminiscent of grass, herbs, citrus — especially lime & grapefruit, and rich tropical fruits like fig and melon. Sauvignon Blanc is sharp and acidic, an often delicate, light- to medium-bodied wine. Except in California the US, it rarely oaked. Its herbal flavors can range from new mown grass to dill, celery, or asparagus. The more floral versions are reminiscent of orange blossom, honeysuckle, or spices like nutmeg. The fruit of Sauvignon Blanc tends toward citrus and tropical fruits, such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, green apple, pineapple, pear, melon, or lychee.
Goes with: If you like lemon in a dish, serve it with Sauv Blanc. And because of its herbal flavors and acidity, it is the best white to cook with. A wine made to be enjoyed with food, it should be served with grilled fish, shellfish, chicken in light sauces and white wine sauces, teriyaki, ham, chicken and seafood pasta salads, stir-fried vegetables, goat cheese.
[Pronounced REEZ-ling] the Queen of Grapes, is considered by many to be the noblest of white wine grapes.
Origins: The cold climates of Germany and Alsace (on either side of the Rhine River) are the best growing regions for Riesling grapes. So now it is doing well in cold climates around the world, including Upstate New York, Washington State and Michigan in the Northern Hemisphere; and New Zealand and Australia in the Southern Hemisphere. The world’s best Eiswein ("Ice Wine") is made from Riesling grapes allowed to freeze on the vine before handpicking and fermentation.
Flavor Profile: Riesling makes wonderful, complex wines from bone dry to syrupy sweet. Sweet or dry, at its best, it is elegant and delicate, with peachy and melon fruit, honey, and flinty mineral flavors. Unlike most white wines, Rieslings can age gracefully, the drier styles taking on mineral flavors and the sweeter styles more honeyed textures and complex aromas. Riesling is one of the "aromatic" grapes with floral aromas of woodruff, roses and violets. The fruit is more like apples and stone fruits -- pear, peach, or apricot. Signature is the mineral flavors like flint, steel, gunmetal, and in the nose, even a hint of petroleum.
Goes with: Pork roast, sausages, ham, Thanksgiving turkey, spicy foods, oriental seasonings, ham, foie gras, ripening and blue cheeses, cheese and seafood soufflés, smoked salmon, chicken and seafood salads, grilled fish, chicken in cream sauces, Asian, Cajun, Indian foods. Try sweet, late-harvest or "auslese" versions with fruit desserts, baked apples or pears, fruit tarts, or bread pudding.
[Pronounced PEE-noh Gree-joh/PEE-noh GREE] Fastest-growing-in-popularity white wine, this wine is “mild mannered” and balanced.
Origins: Known as Pinot Gris in Alsace and Pinot Grigio in Italy, it is traditionally grown in the cool climates of Germany, France, and Italy and is now grown extensively in the cool climates of the New World - especially Michigan and Oregon (where it is often called by its French name, Pinot Gris).
Flavor Profile: In Italy, it can produce a light, crisp fruit-dominant to an intense, minerally wine; in Alsace and Germany. Light almond, lemon, vanilla flavors.
Goes with: Delicately boiled white fish or fish prepared in light sauces, such as lemon butter, grilled shrimp, steamed mussels, clam chowder, light pasta sauces, Asian noodles, light vegetable dishes, seafood, appetizers.
Origins: Originally from the French Loire region, especially Vouvray, where it produces bone-dry to quite sweet whites that can age for many years. Also successfully grown in California where it was the most popular white before Chardonnay came onto the scene in the 1970's. It is the leading white grape in South Africa — also known as Steen.
Flavor Profile: A fragrant, full, round wine with pear, apple, melon flavors and aromas that can make it seem almost sweet even when it is dry. Its high acidity makes it a good wine to serve with food.
Goes with: The sweeter versions go well with spicy dishes, cheese and fruit; the drier versions pair naturally with seafood and appetizers.
[Pronounced guh-VOORZ-trah-mean-err] Gewurz means "spicy" in German, an apt descriptor for this exotic wine. Don't let the spelling and pronunciation keep you from trying this gem.
Origins: From both sides of the Rhine — French Alsace on the west side, Germany on the east, Gewurz likes a cool climate. There are also some fine domestic examples from Michigan, New York, and the state of Washington.
Flavor Profile: From off-dry to bone-dry, Gewurz may seem sweeter than it is because of its perfume, fruit and spice. The complex flavors -- honey suckle, vanilla, gingerbread, fruit cocktail, lychee, minerals, stones -- make it an intriguing wine that some people love and some find too exotic. The dark pink grapes produce a light to dark golden-yellow wine. The wines are medium- to full-bodied and can seem almost oily. The aromas are intense and floral -- rose, gardenia, honeysuckle, geranium, acacia, verbena and violets. Spice flavors like vanilla, gingerbread, clove, cinnamon, and allspice are common. Fruit flavors range from lychee and mango to peach and apricot. Cooler climate Gewurz tends to the floral side; warmer climate Gewurz tends to tropical fruit flavors.
Goes with: Indian Curries specifically and with spicy food in general, ham and dinner sausages, foie gras, liver pâtés, smoked fish, melon, mild blue cheeses, fresh mozzarella, mild cheddar, apricots & pears, quiches, soufflés, French onion soup, grilled trout, grilled scallops, roast duck, goose or turkey, baked ham, stuffed pork chops, veal Marsala, roast game hen or rabbit, Eggs Benedict, Chinese & Thai dishes and fruit tarts.
[Pronounced VEE-oh-nyay] This delightful, versatile, aromatic white is currently gaining popularity.
Origins: Originally from the Northern Rhone in France where it makes the prestigious white wine of Condrieu and also adds a lovely perfume to the red wine of Cote-Rotie, Viognier is now grown in California and Australia. It is also producing some nice wines in Virginia.
Flavor Profile: Viognier is elegant and accessible with a lovely honeyed aroma and texture , and because of its heavier mouth feel, a nice alternative to Chardonnay. Its flavors & aromas are unmistakable--apricots, kiwi, lychee, guava, mango, pineapple, lime & tangerine, orange blossoms, roses, violets, jasmine, honey suckle. And in spite of all that rich fruit and perfume, it is usually a dry, crisp wine.
Goes with: The crisper, lighter versions (like Gewurz) pair well with spicy food: Thai, Chinese, Indian, Pacific Rim, or Cajun cuisine. Serve it with assorted appetizers, honey barbecued chicken wings, smoked fish, pâtés, cold cuts. Serve with soups and sandwiches, vegetarian dishes. It pairs well with seafood: seafood chowders & curried soups, shrimp and crab salads, sautéed scallops, grilled shrimp, sautéed, grilled, or baked fish. It complements fruit-based dishes and desserts, cold cuts, semi-soft and ripening cheeses, baked ham and roast pork.
Origins: Every Mediterranean country has a famous wine based on this ancient grape variety, varying from light & bone dry, to low-alcohol sparkling versions, to very sweet, syrupy and high alcohol dessert wines. The most well known version is Asti Spumante.
Flavor: The heady apricot, honey, and orange blossom flavors are the flavors of the grape that is often grown as a table grape.
Goes with: The light, low-alcohol versions are THE wine to accompany a sweet heavy dessert. The stickier sweet versions are perfect with that classic Italian first course: melon and prosciutto.