It is said that there are some 10,000 varieties of wine grapes in the world. Don’t be shocked as nobody knows them all, even the wine experts. However, among these, there is a core group of varietals that produce wines that most of us know. And this is the topic of my post today. Let’s start with white varieties, shall we?
White Grape Varieties
Chardonnay (pronounced shar-don-nay) is said to be from Burgundy region of France. Being the world’s most popular white wine, Chardonnay has a great appeal to winemakers because of varietal’s ability to embody its terroir. Chardonnay is often aged in oak, but not always. Usually, there is a balance between oak and this varietal’s unique flavours.
Chennin Blanc (pronounced shen-in-blonk) also known also as Pineau de la Loire among other names, is a white wine grape variety from the Loire valley of France. This versatile varietal can produce dry, semi-dry, sweet and sparkling wines. The sweet varieties go very well with hot and spicy food.
Gewürztraminer (pronounced ge-wortz-tram-een-err) is the unpronounceable German wine varietal. It translates directly to “Spice Traminer” or “Perfume Traminer” which actually describes the most notable two characters of Gewurztraminer. It has a highly aromatic perfume particularly lychee and is aperfect match to spicy Asian food.
Grüner Veltliner originates from Austria. It is a great food wine for its natural acidity and not so over the top fruit characters. We had some stunning examples of Grüner Veltliner in Vienna 2 years ago and it’s nice to see it here in Australia even though it’s not a mainstream varietal.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio
Pinot Gris (pronounced pee-no gree) and Pinot Grigio (pronounced pee-no gri-shio) are both made using the Pinot Gris grape however production techniques vary. Additionally, they both mean “Pinot Gray” but Pinot Grigio is the Italian term and Pinot Gris is the French term. Pinot Gris is fragrant and Pinot Grigio on the other hand tends to be drier, lighter, paler and zestier.
Riesling (pronounced rees-ling) is the most popular grape for winemakers in Germany. Originating from Rhine region in Germany, Riesling produces dry, sweet and sparkling wines. It exhibits pronounced acidity while flavours can be delicate and citrusy. Its crispness makes it a perfect match for spicy, Asian food.
Sauvignon Blanc (pronounced soh-vin-yon blonk) originates from Bordeaux region of France. It is a light to medium-bodied varietal with crisp, fruity notes. It exhibits dryness with great minerality, bright acidity, low tannins and herbal tones. Its tropical fruit flavours come out in New Zealand and Australian Sauvignon Blanc, and is often described as fresh and grassy.
Semillion (pronounced sem-mee-yon) can be quite austere and mouth puckering with crisp acidity and lightness. Expect bouquets of green apple, blossoms, lemon, lemon pear, crunchy green apple and perhaps lanolin.
Verdelho (pronounced ver-del-oh) is one of the great varietals of Portugal, particularly the island of Madeira. It has a dry mouth feel with zesty acidity with green melon, fennel, white peach, lime and grapefruit pit flavours.
Viognier (pronounced vi-og-n’ier) is a full-bodied varietal which originated from southern France. Viognier, when aged in oak barrels, has a rich creamy taste. It can be very oily and bold with dominant flavours of honeysuckle, tangerine, mango, rose and peach.