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When you’re looking at a wine list, or scouring the shelves at your local wine retailer, it’s likely you’re considering your taste for a Red wine or a White wine. Some people go as far to say they favor Red or White over the other altogether. But more seasoned wine-drinkers know there’s a lot more to wine complexity than the hue.
There are hundreds of white grape varieties, many growing only in specific regions throughout the world, in every corner of the globe. Some of the most common varieties you may see are:
The typical flavors you see in Sauvignon Blanc include: herbal, grassy flavors, citrus, pineapple, peach. The grape itself grows well in several diverse areas of the world, offering a variety of ripeness depending on its growth region. Sauvignon Blanc has become the landmark white wine of New Zealand, as intense flavors of green citrus and berry fruits are most dominant. However in California, though it’s made in a variety of styles, the grapes are often ripened and barrel-fermented to carry a more tropical, peachy Chardonnay flavor profile.
The typical flavors you see in Pinot Grigio include: citrus (lemon, nectarine), fresh pear, melon. The Pinot Gris grape creates a light, pairable, energetic wine - usually one that forgoes the oaky, alcohol flavors that other white wines may obtain. Another versatile grape in terms of growth, though the most popular regions include Alsace, France and the Pfalz region in Germany. Not to mention, Oregon is well known for producing electric, pear-flavored wines that carry a sense of lively fruit-sweetness; Washington produces an intense, tart Pinot Grigio, and then there’s California, who produces a little heavier Pinot Grigio.
The typical flavors you see in Riesling include: Green apple, apricot, honeysuckle, peach, citrus. Riesling has an impressive range when it comes to structure and texture, ranging from dry and stony to floral and sweet. Riesling is yet another versatile grape in terms of growing region, most notably hailing from Germany, Alsace, Washington, Australia, and even upstate New York. From bone dry Rieslings to the sharp, crisp, and bright late harvest Rieslings, to ice wines, Riesling is always a great choice when looking for a wine to quench your thirst on a warm summer day.
The typical flavors you see in Chardonnay include: green apple, papaya, citrus, pineapple. Chardonnay is another versatile and popular grape variety that is grown all over the world. Chardonnays that hail from Burgundy offer a more mineral-based flavor, whereas California and Australia produce more tropical ripeness and richness.
Chardonnay is known for taking well to new oak, picking up buttery aromas from malolactic fermentation, and its notable toasty, vanilla aromas from aging in new barrels. Depending on the methods used by the producer, Chardonnay can be made to obtain various tasting profiles: buttery and toasty, crisp and stony, or freshly fruity with citrusy and green apple flavors.
The typical flavors you see in Gewürztraminer include: grapefruit, florals, talc, lychee. The Gewürztraminer grape peaks in Alsace, where an intensely floral, aromatic, spicy wine is produced, ranging from bone dry to delectably sweet. In regions such as Oregon or northern Italy, where the climates are cooler, Gewürztraminer is crisp and bright with strong flavors of grapefruit; in these cool-climate regions, the wine rarely sees oak.
The typical flavors you see in Roussanne include: citrus, stone fruits, lime. Roussanne is generally planted throughout southern France, but has become popular among regions similar in climate, such as California and Washington. Roussanne is typically a full-bodied wine, with flavors of lime and citrus dancing among taste buds and flushing with vigorous acidity.
The typical flavors you see in Muscat include: florals, lychee fruits. Muscat wines are generally very sweet, known for their fruitiness and sweetness. When Muscat is blended with other grape varieties during fermentation, it gives those sweet and fruity flavors a bit more complexity.
If you’re looking for an extremely helpful, comprehensive guide to White wines in general, we recommend checking out Wine Folly’s Basic Guide to White Wine.
As with any grape, there are a number of methods used to produce white wine. Often, there will be significant differences between the production of a white grape and the production of a red grape. With overall structure and taste in mind while producing wine, it’s no secret that white wines are to be made to taste differently than red wines.
The typical structure of red wines are rich, bold, and strong, achieved by increasing oxygen exposure, which generally results in aging in oak barrels, reducing the fruity, floral tones that are naturally present in the grape.
On the other hand, white wines are typically more on the floral, fruity, and citrusy spectrum, meaning they aim to reach the opposite profile of typical red wines. Therefore, the fermentation process is altered to allow white wines to flourish in these areas. They are often aged in stainless steel vats that allow the winemakers to control the oxygen exposure, which then gives them the control over the intensity of those floral, fruity, citrusy notes.
Vanguard Wines Recommendations
Check out the following Sparkling wine recommendations from our Vanguard Wines portfolio:
Supernatural Sauvignon Blanc 2020
100% Sauvignon Blanc
Reserved tropical fruits, partly herbal and predominantly mineral, leaning to oxidative in a positive way. Initial creaminess and peppery spice that tapers down to a crunch, celery-salt finish. From Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.
Domaine la Guintrandy 2021 Côtes du Rhône Blanc BIO
40% Viognier, 20% Marsanne, 20% Grenache Blanc, 20% Roussanne
Golden hue with green highlights. Aromatic notes of peaches, white flowers and ripe apricot. On the palate, the wine is full and rich, well-balanced with bursting exotic fruits on the finish. From Rhône, France.
Estrade Côtes de Gascogne 2019
40% Colombard, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Ugni Blanc
Fragrant, fresh and crisp, yet dry with white and citrus fruit notes throughout. With its light herbal edge, and tangy, bright character, this is the perfect white wine for an apéritif. From Côtes de Gascogne, France.
Giunta Chenin Blanc 2021 - 91 Wine Enthusiast, 89 Vinous
100% Chenin Blanc
Grainy seeds of red apple, lightly floral nose, with hints of cinnamon glazed pears. The palate has a soft approach with a rich, even spicy mid-palate. While the fruit is opulent and soft in portions it also has firm acidity with a lengthy crisp finish. From Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.
Valdemoreda Blanco 2020
Lush, bold notes of oaky vanilla and tropical pineapple. Supple hints of pear and peach tones to balance the acidity. A full-bodied, smooth, tropical treat with balanced dryness and a smooth finish. From Oyón, Spain.
Pflűger BioDynamite 2021
70% Riesling and 30% Gewürztraminer grown in the same vineyard
Exotic fruit notes and spices on the nose, accompanied by juicy citrus flavors on the palate. Fresh acidity, fruitful and bright. From Pfalz, Germany.
Brooks Pinot Blanc 2021
100% Pinot Blanc
An absolutely stunning and fresh white wine with bright acidity and layers of tropical, citrus, and stone fruits such as grapefruit, nectarine, Anjou pear, and pineapple, with a saline sand dollar finish. From Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Fattoria Nanni "Arsicci" Verdicchio
This is an ‘easier’ Verdicchio with soft flavors of spring flowers - wisteria, slight citrus, and a trace of pleasing bitterness. In the mouth, pleasing calm textures, with balanced acidity. From Marche, Italy.
Carpinus Hárslevelű 2019
Fresh, ripe pure notes of honey, floral fragrant, lime peel, a touch of elderflower, white peach, and tropical aromas. A crisp, easy-drinking wine pairs perfectly with seafood and other light fares, as well as the warmth of summer time. From Tokaj, Hungary.
While this information is fact-based, that doesn't necessarily mean it’s strictly followed by every producer. Winemaking is an art-form in and of itself, making the producers the artists. What’s been covered is simply the foundation upon which winemakers can build their wines to their liking, taking into account the consumer and their desired techniques, regional traditions, or their own unique ideas. At the end of the day, wine is made to be enjoyed, and to bring a form of art to life. Certain varieties may not be for one person, but it may be for another. That is the beauty of wine, it carries its own beautiful versatility.