11 White Grape Varieties Used In White Wine
Many hobbyist winemakers are wondering which are the white grape varieties used in white wine. A complex question, as there are hundreds of vines grown specifically for winemaking. Some grapes are indigenous to specific regions and rarely found elsewhere. Others are grown in almost all territories.
While it’s impossible to talk about all white grape varieties, we decided to focus on the most popular types of wine white grapes used around the world.
Short History Of Wine White Grape Varieties
Wine white grapes are characterized by complex and intense aromas achieved through a complex growing process. Belonging to the Vitis Vinifera species, these grapes have their origins in the Mediterranean region and share common roots with the red grapes.
The Greeks were the first to begin a “scientific” research on winemaking and grape growing, which led to the hybridization of the vines; today there are over 800 grape varieties cultivated majorly for winemaking.
While in the grape cultivation for consumption the white varieties are predominant, in winemaking this is not necessarily a rule. In fact, wineries make gallons of white wine from red grapes. Nevertheless, a white wine produced from white grapes has a characteristic freshness, a crisp flavor, and mesmerizing aromas.
Therefore, let’s see which are the most popular white grape varieties used in white wine.
White Grape Varieties Used In White Wine
Undoubtedly, Chardonnay is the most famous white grape variety throughout the world. Believed to have French origins, Chardonnay is known for its enormous capacity of adaptation to various climates and soils. These characteristics guarantee abundant and constant yields no matter where is grown.
Today, Chardonnay grapes are cultivated in Europe, California, Argentina, Chile, and even in Australia and New Zealand.
The differences in soils and climates give specific organoleptic characteristics to the grapes, determining the wine’s aroma, color, acidity, and flavor. The color of Chardonnay wine varies from straw yellow to intense gold, while the specific aromas have hints of vanilla, hazelnuts, wood, and caramel.
When aged in steel tanks, the wine might preserve its acidity and freshness, accompanied by aromas of apple, pear, peach, and melon with an elegant flavor of fresh fruit.
2. Sauvignon Blanc
Another white grape variety popular all over the world is Sauvignon Blanc. Born somewhere between the Loire and Bordeaux regions of France, the grapes widespread and are now grown in almost all wine regions in Europe, Americas, and Oceania.
Obviously, the final flavors, aromas, and color of the wine depend on the terroir and winemaking techniques; yet, it’s always easy to recognize a great Sauvignon no matter where is produced.
Regardless of where they are grown, Sauvignon Blanc grapes preserve their undeniable personality which translates into pungent aromas and counterbalanced crisp flavor, which is perfect to accompany an infinity of dishes.
Coming from Germany and preferring cold climates, Riesling is one of the most important white grape varieties in the world. It’s cultivated in almost all wine regions and, outside Europe, the most noteworthy countries to use this variety are Australia, Argentina, and New Zealand.
Considered by many one of the nobles white grapes in the world, Riesling produces white wines with a particular characteristic – they have an excellent resistance to aging.
Non-vintage Rieslings stand out for their perfect balance and soft taste, while vintage Rieslings express a unique complexity of aromas. Dry Riesling has a straw-yellow color with greenish reflections, a semi-aromatic aroma with hints of fruits and flowers, and a characteristic mineral note.
With an origin disputed by Germany and France, Gewürztraminer is one of the most famous grapes in the world. Characterized by an extraordinary opulence and elegant aromas, the grapes produce an intense wine with great balance.
The grapes thrive in colder climates but adapt easily to temperate temperatures. Widely cultivated in Europe, Gewürztraminer is also popular in Chile and Argentina.
The final aromas and flavors depend on the terrior but typically, the wines produced in France pair wonderfully with cheeses and fois gras, while the Argentinian and Chilean wines accompany with success fish and seafoods.
5. Chenin Blanc
Another French varietal, Chenin Blanc doesn’t enjoy the fame or popularity of the grapes above but is still loved in many parts of the world. It is mainly cultivated in Europe, Chile, Argentina, Australia, California, South Africa and New Zealand, and its flavors and aromas remind of the most popular Riesling.
The wine produced from these grapes has a natural acidity characterized by fruity aromas of green apple, melon, citrus fruits, and peach.
If aged in barrels, the wine gets more complex aromas of honey and spices, perfect to pair with a wide variety of savory dishes.
Majorly cultivated in Argentina but also famous in Spain, Torrontés is easy to consider an indigenous varietal. It has a unique structure and a strong, intense personality. Outside Argentina, it is mainly cultivated in La Rioja and Mendoza, although few other countries grow it.
From an organoleptic point of view, the wine isn’t very complex. And maybe, for this reason, it didn’t gain much popularity. Nevertheless, Torrontés has an expressive aroma with a hint of fresh fruits, a great balance, and a very pleasant fruity flavor.
Vinified as sweet or sparkling, this wine has a crisp flavor and a straw yellow color.
Famous all over the world, Sémillon is a French grape varietal cultivated in Europe, Latin America, South Africa and part of Oceania. While it isn’t very diffused in the USA, this grape varietal is characterized by unique aromas and it is used for the production of complex whites or fortified wines.
One of the most famous wines obtained from Sémillon is Luopiac, while in Latin America and Africa it is often blended with Muscadelle and Chenin Blanc varieties to enrich the complexity of the wines.
The fortifies wines obtained from Sémillon pair wonderfully with cookies and biscuits, chocolate cakes, or nuts. As a white wine, serve it with white meats, vegetarian dishes, or fish.
8. Pinot Blanc
Originally from France, Pinot Blanc is a genetic mutation of the most famous Pinot Noir. Often compared with Chardonnay in terms of flavor and aromas, the grapes are now grown in many regions throughout Europe, especially in Italy, France, Germany, and Slovakia.
France and Italy use Pinot Blanc to produce exclusively full-bodied dry wines with hints of wood, hazelnut, and vanilla.
In the other regions, Pinot Blanc is either dry or sweet and characterized by fresh fruity flavors, a crisp taste, and a pale straw color.
Born in Italy and cultivated exclusively in Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto regions, Glera is a noble white grape variety used for the vinification of the delicious Prosecco.
The grape is characterized by a dark yellow skin and complex aromas; in fact, it is so famous that the Romans even mention Glera in some of their writings.
The wine obtained from this grape is majorly Prosecco, a sparkling wine characterized by a crisp taste and a strong bubbly texture. It has a fresh fruity flavor, fruity aromas, and a pale yellow color.
Known mainly because it gives its name to the driest variety of Madeira wine, Sercial is a white grape variety cultivated in Madeira region in Portugal. It is characterized by an intense acidity which transmits its character to the wine.
Although less popular than other white grape varieties, Sercial is still one of the noblest grapes. Today, it is used almost exclusively for the production of Madeira, giving the beverage a crisp aftertaste even after years of aging.
The wine obtained makes a wonderful aperitif and pairs well with dry fruits, cookies, and biscuits.
11. Pedro Giménez
Pedro Giménez is one of the most popular white grape varieties in Argentina. Cultivated almost exclusively in Mendoza region in Argentina and in some parts of Chile, the grapes are used to obtain fresh light-bodied white wines with medium acidity.
The wines obtained from these grapes are often comparable with those made from Criolla Grande or Cereza, two other indigenous varieties. Despite being cultivated in only a small area, Pedro Giménez is famous all over the world for its quality.
Wines obtained from this white grape variety pair well with crackers and fish, white sauce pasta and grilled vegetables.