Popular Types of White Wine

Karen Frazier
glasses of white wine

Explore the different types of white wines until you find the one that tempts your tastebuds. By trying different varieties, you might be surprised with what you like and what is available.

Popular White Wine Varieties

Over 1,000 different wine-grape types, called Vitis vinifera, are available for use in wine making. In Italy alone, there are so many different types of grapes and clones that in some cases, it can be just resident to the little village where it's planted. But, beyond that, there are more mainstream white wine varietals that are well-loved by wine aficionados.

Chardonnay

When talking about popular types of white wine, the first that comes to mind is often Chardonnay. It is one of the most popular selling white wines in the United States. Of all the whites, Chardonnay is one of the more complex wines. It can vary in taste from full-bodied with hints of tropical fruits, oak, butter, and spice to medium, gold, and velvety with notes of fruit, nuts, or vanilla. Oak and winemaking make all the difference with Chardonnay, which is why you'll find such variation in flavors and style.

Chardonnay barrel

There are many producers who make Chardonnay ranging from the $1.99 Charles Shaw to the pricey Coche-Dury out of Burgundy.

  • An easy to drink Chardonnay is Robert Mondavi's Private Selection, which costs under $10 and contains hints of lemon blossom, pineapple, and peach aromas along with smoky oak, vanilla spice, and toasty brown sugar.
  • For a slightly more sophisticated take on Chardonnay, try the Sigrid Chardonnay from Bergström Winery in the Willamette Valley. At around $90 per bottle, this wine shows you just how good Chardonnay can be with buttery fruit and a pineapple finish that lingers.

Pinot Gris/Grigio

Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are actually the same grape; one term is the French name, the other is Italian. Pinot Gris is actually the second favorite white wine variety sold in the US. A cousin of Pinot Noir, this grape produces wine with a little more body than you'd find lighter whites such as Sauvignon Blanc. On the nose, it offers mineral and pear notes, which go very well with seafood and lighter fare.

This is a wine that is fun to experiment with, and it won't break your budget doing it. Try versions of this white wine from American producers, Italian Pinot Grigio, and then maybe some French Pinot Gris from the Alsace area. They are all different, and it is not only fun to try these from other places and producers, but also a great learning experience.

Some Pinots to try are the affordable and easy to drink. A couple to try are the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio or the sparkling frizzante Pinot Grigio.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc, sometimes called Fumé Blanc (particularly in California), is a very popular white wine that is a near-perfect summer wine. If you don't like the richness of Chardonnay, but you still want something fruity, Sauvignon Blanc may be the wine for you. This wine is a classic white varietal commonly planted in the Bordeaux and eastern Loire regions of France where it got its start before coming to the New World.

Sauvignon blanc vineyard

Sauvignon Blancs are affordable, and because of the crisp acidity, herbal or grassy notes, and citrus flavors, you can pair this with anything from coconut shrimp to nothing at all. Upon smelling this wine you can sense the lemon, grassy, grapefruit, and gooseberry aromas leaping out of the glass. This is a very aromatic wine! If you want a crisp and refreshing wine, try Sauvignon Blanc.

  • There are many producers in California who are making superb Sauvignon Blanc wines, particularly in Northern California. A great California option is Geyser Peak Winery's Sauvignon Blanc. It is acidic and has flavors of lemongrass, passion fruit, and grapefruit.
  • New Zealand is also making some wonderful examples of this wine. Don't pass a chance to try one such as Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Sauvignon Blanc. This pale straw color wine has flavors of gooseberry and grapefruit.

Viognier

Viognier is an aromatic wine that is becoming more popular in the United States. Historically, winemakers in the Rhône area of France, where this grape originated, added Viognier to their Syrah to bring out a vibrant fruit quality and make the wine more fragrant. Winemakers outside of France today are doing the same thing, which means that more and more of this grape is being planted around the world, and thus more Viognier is being made on its own as well.

Viognier smells of tropical fruits with a banana and peach character, and it is loaded with floral aromas. It is a wine that definitely pleases the olfactory senses. Since this wine has a pronounced floral and fruity richness, pair it with richer foods such as prosciutto-wrapped melon or baked brie cheese. Try Yalumba's Y Series Viognier, an Aussie wine with hints of fragrant honeysuckle and sweet lychee.

Riesling

Riesling is made in primarily cooler climates where the grapes have a long time to hang on the vine. The world's best Rieslings come from Germany and the Alsace region of France. Rieslings can range from bone dry to very sweet. The sweeter versions have an uncanny ability to age; sometimes better than many red wines due to the residual sugar content. Rieslings have aromas of intense mineral, earthy, petrol, and floral notes. They pair very well with Asian cuisine, and the off-dry versions will temper spicy food quite well. Try the following:

Torrontés

This aromatic white from Argentina is growing in popularity around the world. It has floral, peach, and citrus flavors and aromas and is dry on the palate, and it pairs well with summertime and picnic fare. Try the Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés, a $12 bargain with hints of green apples and lemon.

Glass of Torrontes

Albariño

This crisp white wine from Spain has light saline flavors along with citrus notes and aromatic spice. Try the La Cana Albariño, a great example of this grape's expression that costs under $15 per bottle.

Other Types

There are many other types of white wines to try as well.

  • Gewürztraminer is a floral, spicy and sometimes sweet wine from Germany, but produced in the US as well. It has a light, crisp acidity and a bold flavor.
  • Marsanne and Roussanne are from the Rhône area of France. They are heavier, flavorful whites with a nice floral bouquet.
  • Sémillon is primarily from the Bordeaux area of France and mainly used for blending into Sauvignon Blanc and making late harvest sweet white wines called Sauternes or Barsac. Citrus aromas are evident, but the wine is very rounded.
  • Muscat/Moscato is from France, but planted all over the world. Most grapes are made into medium-sweet and dessert style table or fortified wines.
  • Pinot Blanc is a wine similar to Chardonnay but with DNA related to Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. It has nice acidity and lots of lush fruit flavors.
  • Chenin Blanc is primarily grown in South Africa, France, the US, and Argentina. It has medium acidity and lovely fruit flavors.

Expand Your Tastes

If you're in your local wine store and you see a white that you don't recognize, ask the wine person for assistance. He or she may be able to guide you to the type you like or to try something entirely new. There are so many varieties of wine that you are sure to find one to suit your personal tastes.

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Popular Types of White Wine