INTRODUCTION TO THE WHITE WINE VARIETIES
The following page contains a listing of the major white wine varieties. Each month we will feature an additional variety and it will be displayed in the THIS MONTHS FEATURED WHITE WINE VARIETY paragraph. In subsequent months that variety will be added to the alphabetical listing following the monthlyly featured grape variety. I hope this information proves to be of value to your winemaking endeavors.
THIS MONTHS FEATURED WHITE WINE VARIETY
History: History reveals that during seventeenth century this wine originated from Gironde area of southwest of France where it was known as Petit Sauvignon or Jaune. But in the western and central France it is still known as Fume Blanc or Sauvignon Fume. As was the pratice at the time, Sauvignon Blanc was adopted by other countires and regions for wine production. Australian wineries began the cultivation of Sauvignon Blanc grapes back in 1832 because the warm climate condition of Australia proved to be excellent for Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Characteristics: Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape having full range of flavors from fruity to grassy to mineral. You can also have other flavors like apples, peppers, melon and smoke. When it is picked early it becomes grassier but when picked late, it tends to be fruitier. The flavors also depend on where it grows. In France, they blend it with other grapes to create a more complex flavors. During the wine making process it’s up to the wine maker to determine the composition of the Sauvignon Blanc wine. A perfect example would be French wine made from Sauvignon Blanc are has an unoaked quality while Sauvignon Blancs from California are oaked and have a soften acidic flavor.
Food Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp acidic wine and as white wine it goes well with white meats, pork and chicken. Pairs with shellfish and seafood. Pairs with goat cheese to cut thru the pasty texture of this style of cheese.
ALPHABETICAL LISTING OF WHITE GRAPE VARIETIES
History: Chardonnay is a green skinned grape which is used in making white wine. It is called Chardonnay because it was originally produced around the Chardonnay village in Maconnais in France’s famous Burgundy region. Later on it was spread throughout France by French Monks. It is believed that the Cistercian monks are the very first to plant the Chardonnay grape around the 13th century. It is also believed that Chardonnay originated due to the cross pollination of pinot grapevines and gouais blanc grapevines.
Characteristics: Chardonnay is the most famous widely planted white wine grape in the world. Chardonnay grapes are very responsive to the climate. That means Chardonaay can have different tastes and flavors which can vary according to the climate where they grow. Additionally the production methods will affect the final wine produced. In warmer climates it has a delightful honey, nutty oily and buttery flavors while in cool climate Chardonnay produces wine with bountiful fruity flavors including melon, apple, peach, and pineapple.
Traditionally Chardonnay wine is fermented in oak barrels, which provides its unique character. But nowadays due to higher demand for Chardonnay, some wineries started producing inexpensive and quick chardonnay wines using steel vats in their place. But if you are looking for the best Chardonnay wine the oak aging process always produces the finest wine.
Food Pairing: Chardonnay wine is widely produced and consumed. It pairs with simple dishes and sauces. It is best with chicken, pork and shrimp along with cream sauce. Avoid tomato based dishes because the sharp acidity may spoil the buttery chardonnay flavor.
History: Pierre Galet, the French ampelographer mentioned the existence of Chenin Blanc in The Anjou wine region in the 9th century. From there it MIGRATED to Touraine by the 15th century. Chenin Blanc originated in Anjou as a mutant of Pineau d’Aunis known as (Chenin Noir). Lord Chenonceaux and his brother in law planted Chenin Blanc in 1445 near a site named Mont Chenin. Many ampelographer thus believe it to be the origin of the grape’s name. It then migrated from the Loire valley into the Rhone area.
Characteristics: Chenin Blanc is used to produce many varieties of wine that have different characteristics depending on where they are grown, how they are aged and how different wine makers use them to make wines. That is the main reason why similar wines made with Chenin Blanc grapes tastes different if they come from different places or are produced by different wineries. Chenin Blank grapes can produce varieties of wine that can range from dry sparkling wines to sweet dessert wines.
France produces some of the best Chenin Blanc wines. Those wines from France tend to be acidic with an oily texture.
Food Pairing: Chenin Blanc goes with a wide range of foods. Try spicy Asian cuisine with Chenin Blanc or even desserts based on apples or pears. Chenin Blanc pairs well with chicken with creamy sauce. Grilled or fried seafood is also a good choice. It pair well with grilled pork chops or most grilled meats.
History: To find the origins of Gewurztraminer we will have to go to dates back as far as Middle Ages. The name of Gewurztraminer grapes come from Germany. Though its name has an origin from Germany the actual history of Gewurztraminer began in the Tyrolean Alps of Italy.
In the late 19th century this grape became known as Gewurztraminer by the Alsatians from the Alsace region. The name Gewurztraminer name was officially sanctioned in 1973.
Characteristics: Gewurztraminer grapes have a tendency to mutate as much like Pinot Noir grapes. Due to mutations of Gewurztraminer grapes, over the centuries, it now produces dark, pinkish brown spotted grapes that results a hardy distinctive wine.
The most common fragrance and flavor of Gewurztraminer wine are litchi nuts, honey suckle, grape fruit, Vanilla and ginger.
This wine is produced throughout Europe especially in France and Italy. It is also produced in American vineyards such as Washington, Oregon and cool climates of California.
Food Pairing: Gewurztraminer being a white wine is best suited with chicken and fish dishes. The wine is considered spicy so it pairs well with other spicy foods such as dishes made with capsaicin which are also known as hot pepper. You can also try Asian spicy curry with this wine. In addition to spicy foods it pairs well with fruits and most cheeses.
History: Moscato D’asti is cultivated in the region of Asti, in north western Italy which produces the popular sparkling white wine. this wine is also produced in the near by areas of Cuneo and Alessandria . The Muscat grapes are used to produce this wine. It gets its name from the Asti region and so this wine is named Moscato D’asti.
Characteristics: The Moscato grapes are mainly used to produce this wonderful flavored wine. The wine is sweet in taste and contain less alcohol, and this results in a very high demand for the final product. Moscato D’asti is very light and the texture of this wine is said to be brittle. Its transparency adds a sophisticated look. The wine well balanced. One of the most important characteristics of this wine is that it contains less carbonation in comparison to most of the other sparkling wines. This wine is also called celebratory wine as because it is mostly used in celebrations like marriages, parties due to its lower alcoholic content. Sometimes the flavor of cherry and strawberry is added to the wine to enhance its taste.
Food pairing: Due to the proper balance of sugar and alcohol this wine may be used with many varieties of food. Moscato D’asti can be easily paired with spicy foods. Pizza is also a good pairing. Cheese, fruit or a mild desert like crème caramel are generally paired with Moscato D’asti. Many people consider this wine a dessert wine.
History: Pinot Blanc is a youngster in the white wine world. That is because it is was the result of a mutation of Pinot Gris which mutated from Pinot Noir in the eighteenth century. People sometimes believe that this wine is made from chardonnay grapes because of their similar appearance; geneticists have proven that it is actually a member of the pinot family. Pinot Blanc is mainly found in Austria, Hungary, Spain, Italy, California and of course Alsace France.
Characteristics: Pinot Blanc wine is not a flavored wine but it is one of the favorite wine and this wine is more popular when compared with many other wines. Pinot Blanc wine as a sparkling wine is rated is quite good with a high acidic content. This wine is one of the most aromatic wines with a crisp taste due to its high acidic content. This wine has fruity aromas. One of the main characteristic of this wine is its balance of high acid and Pinot Blanc can be full-bodied. Some varieties produce a light wine that is said to create a balance between softness and freshness.
Food pairing: Pinot Blanc This wine is mainly paired with light fish, many Japanese foods, as well as cold dishes .Its balanced taste will enhance spicy chicken or roasted suckling pig and onion tarts. Pair with Munster cheeses.
History: Pinot Gris or Pinot Grisio had its origin from the Burgundy region of France, where it is usually known as Pinot Beurot. Additionally, in the Alsace region of France the Pinot Gris grapes are also grown but are referred to as Tokay D’Alsace. You can also find them in Germany and Italy where they are mostly known as Rulander and Grigio respectively. The history also shows that in the year of 1966 new vines were bought to Oregon from Alsace. Although the Oregon brand of wine is good, some of the best Pinot Gris wine still comes from Alsace.
Characteristics: Pinot Gris grapes grow very quickly, so the wine can be prepared and ready to drink in six to eight months after they are planted. Pinot Gris grapes produce light and fruity wines when picked early. The wine becomes richer and sweeter when they are left longer in the vine. Pinot Gris grapes are also very adaptable to many different weather conditions and that’s why different styles of wine can be prepared with Pinot Gris. That is one of the reasons of that a wide range of flavors and varieties are present in the marketplace. Pinot Gris grapes that come from Italy are used to produce light bodied and light colored wines. They are also acidic with a crisp flavor in nature. Pinot Gris wines of Alsace is rich and somewhat floral. You will find that Pinot Gris wines from Germany are sweet and good acidic.
Food Pairing: Pinot Gris pairs nicely with light pastas, cheese cracker and seafood. Avoid foods having higher acid content as Pinot Gris wine itself is fairly acidic.
History: Rhine region of Germany is the origin of Riesling, this is considered as a white grape variety and it came along in about 15th century, it is used to make very good quality with great texture white wine, also Riesling is grown in many countries but it is the most grown variety in Germany .It is preferable to grow Riesling in cooler places as they are sensitive to light condition
Characteristics: This is used to make sparkling white wines which are bit sweet in taste. Riesling wines are considered as the most aromatic wines, it taste is like a crisp because it is highly acidic which ensures that it is one of the best among the green grapes variety wine. The transparency of this Riesling wine adds more texture to this wine. It can be preserved for long time due to its high acidity .There are varieties in this type of wines and are bit effective in creating an exotic arena when it is taken as a beverage, mostly in cooler places.
Food Pairing: Because of its balance of sugar and acidic content it can be easily paired with different kinds of food. Food that poses high salt content, White fish or pork is the best suited example with which Riesling wine is used .To reduce the smell of the cabbage it is used in its preparation, his also enriches its taste.
History: You can find Semillon grow all over the world. That makes finding the origins very hard to pin down. In early 1800 it was imported into Australia. Within 20 years it was being grown in 90% of the Australian vineyards. The Hunter Valley of Australia is now where some of the best Semillon can be found. France, Israel, Portugal, Tunisia, South Africa, Australia, California, Argentina and Chile are now well known places where Semillon grows very well. At one time Semillon was most harvested white grape in the world.
Characteristics: Semillon is one of the most key components in world’s famous sweet wines because of it’s sugar concentration and flavor. To add a little acidity sometimes Sauvignon Blanc is blended with it. Semillon is often used to make dry wines when it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon is used as the dominant partner in these blends while Semillon is added for softness and richness in the wine. The characteristics of Semillon wine range from burnt toast and honey as well as from citrus flavors of line and lemon to green apples
Food Pairing: Semillon is a weighty wine and its yellow gold in color. Being a low acid wine it is excellently paired with pasta dishes with cheese sauce and mild, soft cheeses, salads and seafoods like shellfish, clams and scallops, salmon and tilapia.
History: There is a some mystery behind the history of Viognier. According to many experts this white grape dates back to the Roman era. Some believe that this grape was part of a shipment to Beaujolais when it was captured at Condrieu by thieves who planted it in that area.
The Viognier white wine grape was very common in ancient times but by the middle of the 20th century it was listed as somewhat rare. Except for a few acres that were planted in the Rhone region of France it was rare to find it planted anywhere else. Rhone was known to be the only place where you could find Viognier but in recent times its popularity has increased. It is cultivated around the world in California, Italy, Australia, Japan, South Africa, South America and New Zealand.
Characteristics: There are different methods employed by different wineries that produce Viognier, For instance if Viognier is processed in a stainless steel tank it loses its the apricot and the peach flavors. If oak barrels are used while making Viognier wine then a spice and vanilla layer becomes more prominent. If Viognier is picked too early the wine can have a slightly bitter taste but if picked much later the wine becomes syrupy and oily in texture. Because of these challenges you will find very few wineries that specializes in Viognier
Food Pairings: You should try Viognier with Moroccan and Indian cuisines or braised chicken, and food with some spicy flavors. Pastas, grains, oily nuts or white meats can also be a good pair with Viognier.