This varietal is grown almost exclusively in Galicia, Spain, where it makes an excellent
accompaniment to the region’s freshly caught fish. With good acidity and bright fruit flavors, this
is a light- to medium-bodied wine that aims to be refreshing, clean, and dry.
Auxerrois is similar to pinot blanc, with
round apple and pear notes and a low-acid, medium-bodied profile. It pairs well with mild pork dishes and with light fish dishes, such as trout or
sole. High-quality auxerrois can offer more earthy mineral nuances and dried flower
aromatics, but most is destined for quick consumption as a refreshing, unoaked white wine.
Probably the most popular white wine worldwide, chardonnay offers a variety of fruit
flavors. Prized for its creamy texture, it pairs well with white fish (such as sole or
cod), chicken, and pork. French chardonnay tends to be drier and crisper,
with apple and pear flavors. Those from California and Australia tend to be richer and
fuller-bodied with tropical fruit flavors and luscious buttery notes. Chardonnay also takes
well to oak aging, which can give it a nutty vanilla spiciness.
Chenin blanc is available in a range of styles from crisp, light, and dry to very sweet
dessert wines. Dry styles go well with egg
dishes, soft cheeses, and shellfish, while the sweeter styles pair with simple
desserts: cookies, fruit tarts, or pies. With
excellent acidity, the dry styles are vibrant and lively with floral straw aromatics and
honeyed melon and mineral notes. The sweeter styles can age well and offer riper fruit flavors
of pear, peach, and honeysuckle.
Gewurztraminer’s exotic musky spice profile pairs well with Asian dishes. It is a wine of personality: strongly
perfumed and often strongly flavored, the bouquet all roses, lychee, and spice. Quite soft and
full-bodied, with little of riesling’s balancing acidity, it inspires strong opinions
for or against.
Muscat pairs well with fruit desserts, from
strawberries and cream to peach pie. One of the most vibrantly aromatic white varietals,
it has an explosive perfume of flowers, spice, table grapes, and ripe fruits, which makes it
an important dessert wine.
Pinot blanc is a nice sipping white that pairs well with egg dishes and mild vegetable soups. Closely related to pinot gris, it tends to be rounder and fuller with
green apple notes. Italian pinot blancs are typically dry and lively whereas in France they
are fuller-bodied, with a more lush feel in the mouth.
Pinot gris, also known as pinot grigio, is a light- to medium-bodied white that pairs well
with salmon, shellfish, and pork. Italian pinot grigio is usually clean, dry, and
refreshing with hints of white peach and pear. French pinot gris (mostly from Alsace) is
richer and fuller-flavored with intense aromatics of ripe peaches, honeysuckle, and quince.
American and Australian pinot gris fall somewhere in between. Although usually dry, they can
seem sweeter due to the ripeness of the fruit and the intensity of the perfume.
Riesling, one of the world’s most versatile white varietals, can range from bone-dry
to extremely sweet (as dessert wines).
Fruitier styles go great with spicy Asian
dishes and stir fries, while drier styles go well with trout,
salmon, and light pork dishes. Riesling
has excellent natural acidity, which in light, drier styles can offer lively citrus notes and
a mouth-puckering tanginess. In the sweeter wines, this natural acidity helps balance the
sweetness of such flavors as lemon curd, baked apples, and ripe pear.
A perfect complement to shellfish, goat cheese, and grilled vegetables, sauvignon blanc offers a crisp, clean
profile with a refreshing citrus fruitiness. Almost always quite dry, the popular New Zealand
style has a pungent mix of lime citrus and herbal notes. French sauvignon blanc has more white
fruit flavors mixed with a chalky minerality. Californian growers tend to treat it like chardonnay, making it softer and oaky.
Semillon is a nice complement to spicy Asian
food or well-flavored chicken or pork. Drier versions are typically round, lush, and
medium-bodied, with notes of fig, melon, and clove. Those aged in oak have a vanilla
creaminess, while dessert wines made from
semillon offer honeyed melon, dried figs, and aromatic peach and apricot.
A nice wine to sip or to pair with slightly spicy chicken or pork dishes, viognier is generally soft, luscious, and
full-bodied, with a pronounced perfume of apricot, honeysuckle, and ripe peaches. Usually dry,
it can seem sweet due to its low acidity and heady fruit flavors. Once confined mainly to
France’s northern Rhone Valley, viognier has now been planted worldwide.