A Guide to White Wine Varieties

You know that white wine you had with dinner the other night was so good. Aromas of apple and cinnamon; you think it might have been from South Africa. That can't be right. Do they grow wine grapes in South Africa? Yes, and many other places you don't general think of when your perusing your local wine shop. Here's a list of the basic white wine grapes, with details on the aromas and where they are typically grown. Looking for red wine, try here.

Grape Varieties


* Chardonnay has aromas of tropical fruits, melon, mineral, citrus and green apple. * The main white wine grape of the Burgundy region in France. * These wines are usually aged in oak barrels creating a buttery and thick wine, rich in flavor, but dry and delicate at the same time. * Widely grown in New Zealand and California, where it tends to take on a oaky quality from barrel-aging. Also known as Feinburgunder and Morillon in Germany and Austria.

Chenin Blanc

* Chenin Blanc has aromas of apple, ripe fruit, pear, melon, and honey (less common). * It can be used to make both dry and sweet wines. * Native to the Loire Valley in France, where it is often called Pineau de la Loire. * It is the most widely planted grape in South Africa, where it is legal name is Steen. In Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Argentina, the grape is known as Pinot Blanco. It is also planted in California, Australia and New Zealand.


* Clairette has aromas of peach and apricot. * Traditionally a sweeter wine that is high in alcohol, often used for making Muscat. * Found in Southern France, where it is used to make white and rosé wines of Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence and the Rhône Valley.


* Gewürztraminer is know for its floral aromas and spicy flavors. * Used in many wines, and can be made into a delicious dessert wine. * Most successfully grown in Alsace, France, United States (California, Oregon, and Washington state), Germany and New Zealand.

Grüner Veltliner

* Grüner Veltliner has spicy aromas of ground white pepper mixed with citrus and grapefruit. * The most widely planted grape variety in Austria. It is also found in some other Eastern European countries.


* Muscadelle has aromas of grapefruit, raisins and acacia. * One of the three authorized grapes used for making white Bordeaux. * Predominantly found in France, there are small quantities planted in California and Australia.

Pinot Gris (Grigio)

*Grigio is known for its aromas of dried fruit and wood. * This spicy wine is quite versatile and often is used to make blush wines. * Fruili in Italy produces the largest quantity, where it is known as Pinot Grigio. It's also grown in Oregon, Alsace, France, and California.


* Riesling has floral, apple and apricot aromas. * This is typical of Germany and the Alsace region of France and used in making a variety of wines from bone dry to very sweet, but tend to be in the semiharvest wines. Sometimes produced in the US, primarily in the cooler regions. Also popular in Canada and New Zealand. * Northern Italians call in Renano and in Austria it is known as Rheinriesling.

Sauvignon Blanc

* Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of melon, grapefruit, grass and bell pepper. * Very popular and known for being a herbaceous, grassy-flavored wine. * One of the three grapes approved for making white Bordeaux. * Most popularly used in wine from France and California, though there are some great wines from New Zealand and South Africa. It's also grown in Argentina, Chile, Washington state, Australia and Italy.


* Sémillon is known for its aromas of honey, lemon, fig and orange marmalade. * One of the three grapes approved for making white Bordeaux. * Makes up 80% of the most popular dessert wine in the world, Château d'Yquem. * It is major white variety of Bordeaux, Graves and Sauternes in France, where it is also known as Chevrier, Columbier, and Blanc Doux, but Chile grows the most Sémillon than anywhere else. * In South Africa, it is recognized as Green Grape and called Semmilon in Turkey. It is also used in Madeira for use in fortified wines.

Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano)

* Ugni Blanc/Trebbiano has a fragrant banana aroma. * The primary grape used in making Cognac and commonly used as the base for Brandy. * Most popular from France, Italy and Australia.


* Viognier is known for aromas of apricot, apricot, violet, orange blossoms, and apple. * A traditional grape of the Northern Rhône region in France, it is also found in other European countries,the U.S. (primarily California and Washington state), Australia, New Zealand and South America. * This spicy wine is exotic and dry with lots of flavor and it is grown both in the US as well as in France.

International Resources

For this resource in your home country, please see: ! DE: Weißwein
ES: Vino blanco