Education Wine

White Grapes 101

We talked at length last month about how to find your go-to white wines. So now that you’ve decided on which white grape you love most, this month, we wanted to help you learn a bit more about your chosen grape and begin to appreciate its character. You could say your first grape meeting went so well, we’re on to the second date, if you will.

Before we get to it, here is a little info to know about those 7 white grapes you tasted. In the wine cannon, there are what are called “noble” grapes. Meaning, there are names for white and red grapes that are harvested internationally and everyone everywhere drinks these grapes a lot. So, you could say another way of saying “noble” is extremely popular.

Interestingly, over time, the number of noble grapes has grown from just three (chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling), to, some argue, as many as nine. Since we want to be sure to continue on with the knowledge you picked up last month, we’ll only focus on the 7 white grapes we recommended last month and you’ve (hopefully) tried.

We’ll start with the lightest of the bunch and move on to the heaviest. So wine lovers, say “hello” to your new favorite friend. And tell us more about your favorite white wines in the comment section below!

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Pinot Grigio

As we learned, wines have a place they love to grow best. In the case of pinot grigio, we focused on Northern Italy where the mouthfeel of this grape is light-bodied and dry, fresh and fruity. The primary flavors you are picking up are citrus, pear, apple, and maybe some honey or pear.

If you want to continue to taste this grape outside of Northern Italy, the first thing to know is this grape is called different names in different countries. In Italy, it’s called pinot grigio. In Germany, grauburgunder. In France, and pretty much everywhere else, pinot gris. It’s going to take on different characteristics depending on the region and soil it’s grown in. But we’ll do a deeper dive on that next month!

Riesling

The full expression of riesling grown in Germany is world-renowned, so it’s no surprise you love this sweet taste. The taste ranges from orchard fruits, like pear and apricot, to citrus and florals to that can’t-quite-nail-down oh-so-German flavor, diesel.

When you’re ready to move on, the next region on your list is Alsace, France/ Germany. It tends to taste drier and leaner than its German counterpart – but a great way to find out where you live on the dry-sweet spectrum.

Sauvignon Blanc

The Loire Valley in France is the birthplace to and home this noble grape. Sauvignon blanc and Loire are a truly ideal combo of grape and region, specifically around the Sancerre appellation. Loire’s cool climate and soils of chalk and limestone guarantee a fresh and light outcome with grass, stone and lemon tastes.

Other than Sancerre, the regions of Bordeaux and Pouilly-Fumé will also knock your socks off. Outside of France, New Zealand is the next stop on your sauvignon blanc world tasting tour. The grape has nearly become synonymous in recent years with the region, and perhaps you’ll enjoy the Kiwi’s sweeter style more.

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Chenin Blanc

The Loire Valley also lays claim to this chenin blanc’s best showing. The wine is sweet and zingy and has all the feels of a tropical island. If you have decided you love this grape, go out and try wines that read Vouvray, Bonnezeaux and Coteaux du Layon – these are the regions are Loire in which they love to grow. (We know, it’s getting complicated!)

If you’ve maxed out on France, the next country you’re going to want to give a go is South Africa. They love Chenin blanc so much, it’s their most planted white grape. The taste is going to be dryer than the Loire, but this might very well may suit your palate.

Gewürztraminer

First of all, it is pronounced: Gev- oor- strah- mee- nair. You’re welcome. Second, if you love this grape (said to have been) sired in the Alto Adige area in Northern Italy, you are probably a huge fan of lychee, because the fruit just wafts out of the glass. Sweet, luscious and aromatic.

The foothills of the Alps is really where this grape loves to grow, so your next stop after Northern Italy should be Alsace, France/ Germany; the grape has grown here for hundreds of years and the wine’s tastes will be fuller and less aromatic than its Italian counterpart.

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Viognier

If you love this grape from the Rhône Valley, we totally get it. It’s a truly aromatic wine with some real heft for a white, something to really wrap your taste buds around. It’s fruity and rich with loads of peach, citrus and honeysuckle, and all things summer.

Explore the region of Condrieu to your heart’s delight, and when you can’t drink anymore, your next stop on this grape journey is any sunny region with cool nights and/ or water nearby. So, Paso Robles, California, here we come!

Chardonnay

Not to get all deep on you, but Burgundy (or, en Francais, Bourgogne) is chardonnay’s spiritual home. Kind of like LeBron and Cleveland. Some would say the grape fulfills its greatest potential here, and the relationship between vine and soil is second to none. So you’d be hard-pressed not to love this wine: rich, full-bodied, oaky, and buttery.

Now as this is the world’s most planted grape, as a Chard-lover, you’re in luck, because there’s an infinite number of places and styles that this grape loves. If you love the oak thing – try Napa Valley, California next. The region really gives Burgundy a fun for their money.

You’ll be swimming in amazing Chardonnays for a while, but when you’re ready to leave France and California, we’ll be here and ready to point you toward some countries that make unoaked Chards that will really make your head spin.

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