Last week, we learned about four red grapes you have to know; this week I’ve compiled a list of the white grapes you should be able to talk about.
Here is your white grape cheat sheet!
Chardonnay is hands down the most popular white wine in America, and has been for a long time. Chardonnay is also maybe one of those grapes that is becoming less popular with wine snobs because it’s too popular and some places are churning out cheap and quick Chardonnays. That said, I’ve had some really delicious Chardonnays lately. There are two types of Chardonnays out there: oaky and fruity. Chardonnay is one of the few white wines still aged frequently in oak barrels, which gives it a woody, buttery, caramel, or vanilla flavor (depending on the type of barrel used and how long it’s been aged in barrels). The best oaked Chardonnays will still be fruity, balanced with the flavors from the barrels. Chardonnays that have been aged in stainless steel tanks are often fruitier and crisper, but they won’t age very well the way that oaked Chardonnays will. It’s really a matter of taste; some people like their Chardonnay oaky, and some don’t.
Sauvignon Blanc is having a moment right now; I’ve seen Sauv Blancs popping up everywhere. This is a high-acid white wine, which means it goes really well with food and has a lot of flavor. Some new wine drinkers may be put off by the grassiness of certain styles of Sauv Blanc (when I first starting drinking wine, I thought it smelled like cat pee, but I grew out of that). It can also be a very tart wine, which is something that new wine drinkers often have to adjust to. I know this makes Sauvignon Blanc sound like an unappealing wine, but it has some great things going for it; Sauv Blancs can have a beautiful citrus flavor and a fresh, light quality that make it a good summer wine. New Zealand does some of the best Sauv Blancs, although I’ve had some great ones both from France and the US.
Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio) is often light and fruity, known for being crisp and somewhat minerally. Truth be told, I don’t drink a lot of Pinot Gris, even though Oregon, which is right next door to me, is known for it. It’s not that I don’t like Pinot Gris, it’s just that I think other whites are more interesting. Maybe this is another grape I’ll have to try more often.
Riesling is a wonderful and fascinating grape because it can be so many things. It’s well known as a sweet wine, although it’s making a comeback in its dry and off-dry (meaning not sweet and a little sweet, respectively) forms. This is a good starter wine for new drinkers- it’s what I started with, and it goes well with food, due to its high acidity and full body. Try it with spicy foods; I like it with Thai curry because the natural acidity of the Riesling pairs well with the creamy texture of the curry. Some of the most famous Rieslings come from Germany and the Alsace region of France.