White Wine Grapes
There follows some of the more important grapes used internationally for the production of white wines.
Chardonnay is extremely versatile and can be found all over the world in wildly different climates and areas. Chardonnay adapts to the local terroir, expressing itself differently depending on where it is grown. Its old world home is Burgundy where white Burgundies from Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise and other AC's are among the best white wines in the world. New world Chardonnay's can be of a similar style to white Burgundy (for example Chateau Montelena which won the "Judgement of Paris" in 1976 against top white Burgundies). These are steely wines with floral and green apple notes, however in warmer climates Chardonnay tends towards tropical fruits and peach. Chardonnay can benefit from oak which gives toast and nutty flavours.
Sauvignon Blanc along with Semillion is traditionally responsible for the white wines of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley (in particular Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé). In recent years New Zealand has also become world famous for its quality Sauvignon Blanc wines, particularly in Marlborough. Sauvignon Blanc is grown worldwide and is at its best in cold climates but is also grown in warmer climes such as California where it is often oaked and called Fumé Blanc.
Riesling is a very aromatic variety that can make dry or sweet wines and in the right conditions can be infected with noble rot to make very sweet wines which retain high acidity. Classic regions are the Mosel, Nahe, Rheinegau and Pfalz regions in Germany and the Wachau in Austria, where wines can have grape and fresh apple flavours and warmer regions such as the Clare and Eden Valleys in Australia and Alsace where the warmer climate gives more citrus (including Lime in Australia) and peach aromas. With the exception of Botrytised wines, Riesling does not benefit from oak but can still age for many years, sometimes developing honey, smoke and petrol aromas.
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio in Italy, Ruländer and Grauburgunder in Germany) has been growing in popularity in recent years, perhaps because of its inoffensive, even neutral flavours common to many of its Italian and international wines. In its best areas however (including Alsace, Tasmania, New Zealand and Oregon) it can have rich, aromatic tropical fruit .
Viognier is another grape increasing in popularity. In the Northern Rhône (for example Côte Rôtie) it is fermented with Shiraz to make up 5-20% of the famous wine but is increasingly being seen as a variety in its own right - for example in the Languedoc, Australia, California, South Africa and South America.
Muscat is a family of grapes whose common theme is a flavour of table grapes. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains is used for Asti, some Vins Doux Naturels, the Muscats of Samos and Rutherglen Muscats. When young, as well as grape flavours it exhibits peach, rose and citrus. With ageing it can show raisins, coffee, toffee as well as the characteristic grape flavour. Muscat of Alexandria is most common and is used for sweet or medium-sweet wines in France, Spain (Moscatels) and California, Australia and South Africa. Muscat Ottonel is used for aromatic dry white wines in Asace and central Europe.