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Intro to White Wines

Taking on a topic like White Wines is almost as confounding as answering the question, “How long is a string?” There are some similarities in the two open ended questions.

First, white wines are made in approximately 63 countries around the world, with varied regions per country, including in every state of the United States. California alone hosts 110 wine regions. In truth, every country in the world makes wine, although not all commercially. On the surface, this seems like a finite set, hardly unmanageable: simply broad. But when you start discussing the varieties of white wine grapes (varietals) grown in each country and each region of each country, then you begin to scratch the surface of the complexity of the task.

Taking on a topic like White Wines is almost as confounding as answering the question, “How long is a string?”The truly perplexing dimension enters when you discover that every varietal of grape, be it red or white, has dozens, sometimes scores of synonyms. Some are shared by alternate varietals, depending on the country. Add that to the variation of flavors dependent upon site, viticultural practices, wine making techniques, and personal artistic flare in winemaking; now you see how complex the topic is.

To put some parameters around it, I have decided to organize my approach to be most accessible and most practical to you. I asked myself, “If I were researching a white wine for my table, what would interest me?”  This is what I came up with (but please offer your suggestions):

  • Country and Region
  • Composition: What varietal of grape(s) are used
  • Flavor profile of the wine and the typical characteristics by place, but also exhibited by its country of origin
  • Foods that pair well

With the framework laid, it seems most manageable to address the topic by country. I thought to begin with the top 10 producers, but reconsidered because it excluded some very significant contributions by smaller countries (e.g. Austria) and included countries that make primarily old world wines (Chile).  Given the variations in flavor by region, it could be argued that Chilean wines are distinctly that. I do not disagree; so I may well include each and every wine growing country, region, and type over time.

I will begin with the most prevalent wines from these countries:

France

  • Aligoté
  • Chardonnay
  • Chenin
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Marsanne
  • Mauzac
  • Melon
  • Muscat Blanc
  • Petit Manseng
  • Pinot Gris
  • Riesling
  • Rolle, or Vermentino
  • Semillon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Ugni Blanc
  • Viognier

Italy

  • Arneis 
  • Fiano 
  • Garganega 
  • Malvasia Bianca 
  • Moscato
  • Nuragus 
  • Pigato 
  • Pinot Grigio 
  • Ribolla Gialla 
  • Tocai Friulano 
  • Trebbiano

United States

  • Chardonnay
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Muscat
  • Pinot Gris
  • Riesling
  • Semillon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Viognier

Germany

Austria

  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Riesling
  • Weissburgunder

Portugal

Spain

Australia (even though Australia only claims one indigenous varietal)

  • Chardonnay
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Colombard
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Marsanne
  • Muscat
  • Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Verdelho
  • Viognier

This will be an adventurous journey for us. While I make wine, I actually knew far more about the world of wines before I took the plunge into my own land, neighborhood, region, state and country. But I did know a fair amount and am excited to unearth this, augment it with more, and share it with you.

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