Germany, specifically the Rhine region, is the home of the Riesling grape. But nearby Alsace France produces it own richer style. And now, Riesling is grown throughout the world. This grape produces wines with flavors of lime, lemon, pineapple, apricot and nectarine. With its very high acidity, it makes for a very refreshing wine that can be served quite cold.
Having a reputation for being a sweet wine, Riesling can be produced off-dry (sweet) or dry. In Germany, Riesling is labeled to indicate which of five sweetness levels it is: Kabinett (dry to off-dry), Spatlese (sweet), Auslese (sweeter), Beerenauslese (very sweet) and Trockenbeerenauslese (super sweet).
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
Also known as Pinot Gris (Gris means Grey in French), this deep-pink grape produces bright fruit flavored wines that can be sweet or dry. Common descriptions include light, crisp and dry. Aromas include lemon, lime, green apple, nectarine and blossoms.
Sweeter Pinot Gris is produced in Alsace, France, with more body, a bit of earthiness with apple, pear and peach flavors.
Italian versions tend to be light bodied with pear, citrus and mineral flavors and medium acidity.
American Pinot Grigio is typically fruity and dry with flavors of lemon, apple and peach, and having less intense acidity and more of an ‘oily’ textured mouthfeel from malolactic fermentation.
Sauvignon is from the French word Sauvage or wild, while blanc means white. So, this is a wild white grape. It originated in the Loire Valley of France and is a parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon. This grape produces wine with flavors of lime, grapefruit, peach, green melon, and passion fruit. Additionally, Sauvignon Blanc can have herbal aromas of bell pepper, grass and even jalapeño. But, when barrel fermented it takes on a richer, creamier flavor. While generally made dry, some producers leave in a small amount of residual sugar to give this bright, fruity wine a bit of sweetness.
At the bold and rich end of the white wine spectrum is Chardonnay. But even within Chardonnays, they can range from light and fruity to rich and creamy. This comes from the fermentation process. The light and fruity Chardonnays are fermented in stainless steel tanks while the richer Chardonnays are fermented and aged in oak. And, when the oaked Chardonnays go through a second process (malolactic fermentation), the malic acid which is tart and tangy is converted to lactic acid (think milk) that can yield a rich, creamy and buttery Chardonnay.
Chenin Blanc originated in France where wines were often off-dry (sweet), but today there is tremendous variety throughout the world. The Chenin Blanc grape produces flavors of passion fruit, apple, pear, peach, pineapple, mango and melon, with levels of sweetness, ranging from dry, crisp and sparkling to sweet dessert wines. It has high acidity that can make for a refreshing wine that can be served very cold.
Muscat (Moscato in Italy, Moscatel in Spain and Portugal) is one of the oldest grapes still in existence. With flavors of lemon, orange, nectarine, apricot, and peach with aromas of rose petal, jasmine and spice. This grape is used to produce dry, medium, sweet, sparkling or even dessert wine.
In Italy, the Moscato grape is used in the production of a low alcohol slightly fizzy Moscato d' Asti. In France, Muscat is used in the production of dry, grapey wines.
This grape originated in Germany, but is actually named for the city of Tramin located in South Tyrol, the German-speaking province in northern Italy. Gewürz is the German word for 'spice' or 'perfumed' while Trainer is the older, original name for the grape. So it's a spicy or perfumed grape from Tramin. The Gewürztraminer grape produces an aromatic 'sweet' wine with flavors of grapefruit and pineapple and aromas of sweet rose and cinnamon. Other flavors include mango, lychee, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, peach and orange. While the aromas give this wine a sweet sense, it actually isn't usually that high in residual sugar content. It's simply the higher aromatics, the higher alcohol and low acidity that makes the wine seem sweeter than it really is. This is a big fruit, medium-bodied wine that is to be served cold.
The original home of Sémillon is Bordeaux, France where it was the number one planted grape. Today it is the third most planted grape in France, behind Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Sémillon is a full-bodied white wine with flavors that include lemon, green apple, pear and even papaya. It too has a silky or waxy mouth-feel and can be rich, buttery and creamy like Chardonnay, when aged in oak. It can also be zesty and palate cleansing like a Sauvignon Blanc if un-oaked. Aromas of Sémillon include fig, ginger, hay, honey, and saffron.
A white Bordeaux is often a blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Sémillon is the primary ingredient in Bordeaux's dessert wine, Sauternes.
This grape originated in the Northern Rhône Valley and is the only grape permitted Condrieu region wines from France. With aromas of thyme, lavender, chamomile and a hint of pine, this full-bodied wine has flavors of apricot, peach and pears. Viognier is low in acidity and high in alcohol making this a soft (oily mouthfeel), full-bodied wine. Like Gewürztraminer, its aromas suggest that this is a sweet wine, but actually it usually dry (very low to no residual sugar). Viognier is sometimes co-fermented with Syrah (a red wine grape) because it contributes to the color, bouquet and softens the wine.