All types of white wine are made by growing and processing white grapes.
The wine that is the end result will vary greatly depending upon the type of grape grown and several other variables.
Those variables include where in the world the grapes are grown, how the climate, moisture levels and soil conditions affect the grapes during their growing season, and how each individual wine maker treats the grapes once they are harvested (picked).
This is the beauty of wine. The end result is a confluence of all these factors, for better or for worse.
White wine grapes are grown in several regions of the world. On the continent of Europe, white wine grapes can be found primarily in Austria, France, Germany and Italy.
In the continental United States, white wine grapes are primarily grown in California, New York, Oregon and Washington, although a surprising number of states are growing wine grapes today. White wine grapes are also grown in Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and more.
Most types of white wines are lighter (have less body) than red wines.
The most common types of white wine grapes are:
Considered the queen of white wine grapes, Chardonnay is grown widely in many of the regions mentioned above. It is a very versatile grape whose character reflects its growing region and production process. Of all the white wine types, Chardonnay produces the most complex wines in the world. Most chardonnays are full, golden and velvety with hints of fruit, nuts, butter, oak, spice or vanilla and have medium to high acidity.
Chenin Blanc (SHEN’N BLAHNK)
Chenin Blanc has been cultivated for thousands of years in the Loire Valley of France. It is grown widely in California where it is the grape used in many jug wines or inexpensive table wines. Chenin Blanc has higher than average acidity. The character of Chenin Blanc can be difficult to define, but it generally is light and fruity.
Literally translated as “spicy”, Gewurztraminer is grown primarily in Germany and in the Alsace region of France where the cooler climate allows it to ripen fully. It has a light, crisp acidity and a bold flavor.
Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio (PEE-no GREE or GREE-zho)
Known as Pinot Grigio in Italy and the Alsace region of France, and Pinot Gris in the United States, this grape’s character will vary depending upon its growing region. European Pinot Grigio tends to be more acidic with less body than its American counterpart. All Pinot Grigio/Gris possess a citrus aroma.
Riesling, the most notable white wine grape from Germany, is also grown in France’s Alcase region and in New York’s Finger Lakes District. It is grown in California and Washington, although with less frequency. Riesling has medium to high acidity and light to medium body with a distinct flowery, fruity aroma.
Sauvignon Blanc (SO-vin-yon BLAHNK)
Sauvignon Blanc, also known as Fumé Blanc, is grown in the Bordeaux and Loire regions of France, and in California, New Zealand and South Africa. It is characterized by a light, crisp acidity. It will often contain several fruit components and is frequently blended with Semillion from the Bordeaux region of France.
Semillon is one of the more unique types of white wine. It rarely stand alone and is frequently blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Semillon can also be very rich, making a favorable dessert wine.
Viognier is grown primarily in the Rhone region of France and in California. It has low to moderate acidity with hints of peach and apricot, and without the flowery aromas of some other white wines.