There are nearly 350 different white grape varieties that can be used for making wine. Just as with any red, each provides a distinct flavour and has its own particular provenance. If you’re looking to expand your horizons and learn more about wine, here’s 8 great varieties to get you started.
This should probably be top of your list as it’s one of the most popular varieties and seems to grow anywhere. With a hint of apple and an undercurrent of pineapple, there’s nothing better than a chilled glass of Chardonnay on a summer day. A lot depends on where the grape is grown, as with most varieties. You’ll get a subtly different taste if you buy a bottle from Burgundy compared to one made in Australia or California.
- Sauvignon Blanc
Not far behind Chardonnay is Sauvignon Blanc, a grape that appears a little more herby and has a hint of grass in the aroma. Again, you can get different flavours depending on the location the grape is grown in and even the time of year it is picked. When blended with Semillon and picked late in the harvest, for instance, it is used to make interesting and flavourful sweet wines.
- Chenin Blanc
With its strong apple flavours and hint of lemon drop, Chenin Blanc is often associated with the Loire Valley in France but grows well in areas like New Zealand where it’s one of the country’s biggest exports. A delicious wine for a whole host of meals but great to drink on its own on a balmy spring evening.
With its long history, Muscat has been a staple of the white wine market for many years, cultivation stretching back indeed to Greek and Roman times. It’s a grape that’s widely grown in north west Italy and some parts of southern France. Within this single grape are a number of different varieties each with their own quality and taste – the type of wine that is produced depends a lot on location and climate.
- Pinot Grigio
Increasingly popular in wine stores across the UK, Pinot Grigio is light and refreshing and goes with a wide range of foods and occasions. Most of the strong grape varieties are grown in Tre Venezie in Italy but it also does well in certain areas of Germany. The US, particularly California, has produced a number of wines with the grape which are a little heavier but are the perfect match for dishes such as seafood.
No list of white wine grapes would be complete without a Riesling or two. Most often associated with Germany, you can expect a wine that is crisp and refreshing without seeming too overpowering. You’ll also find wine makers from Washington and Australia who are now making their own brands outside of Europe and which are gaining a good reputation. Ideal when served suitably chilled, a Riesling is the perfect accompaniment to shellfish dishes.
If you want something that has a little more spice and a beautiful floral aroma, this Alsace grape certainly fits the bill. It’s suited to cooler climates and the underlying grapefruit flavour is refreshing and invigorating. You can increasingly find it in other, more obscure, regions such as Oregon in the United States as well as the north of Italy.
With its apricot and citrus rind aroma, Viognier is not necessarily the most well-known white wine grape but it certainly has a lot to offer. It’s one of the more difficult wines to make which may account for it not being so widely available. It is more usually blended with the red wine grape Syrah and is definitely worth a try if you want something different at the dinner table.