White wines aren’t really white, but light in color from green, gold or yellow grapes. Some are golden like honey, others have the color of hay while still others are a light yellow.
Chardonnay — This is the most ubiquitous of all the noble grapes, those which have intrinsic muscle, and can take on a variety of flavor profiles. It can grow just about anywhere and is the No. 1 varietal out of California. It is rarely blended and it ages well in both oak, for a buttery, woody flavor, or stainless steel that punctuates fresh fruit flavors like pear, apple, melon or citrus. It is the green grape that is predominant in Burgundy too and is a major component of Champagne and sparkling wines.
Riesling — This is a very distinctive noble grape from Germany and Alsace in France that many consider the greatest of all white grapes. It’s flavor is very dependent on the terroir — or the land on which it has been grown — and like Chardonnay, is rarely blended. It’s aged in stainless steel and can take on aromas that range from floral and citrus to mineral and steel. Some can even smell like gasoline. The grape is small and not terribly juicy.
Sauvignon Blanc — This aromatic grape grows around the world and is always tangy and tart, no matter how sweet or dry the wine. It is usually blended and generally with Semillion for some of the finest of all Bordeaux’s whites.
Chenin Blanc — This is the dominant white grape of the Loire Valley in France whose versatility finds it in both very sweet and very dry wines. They tend to be full bodied and long lasting on the tongue like honey or a nectar.
Gewurztraminer — These grapes have thick, tough skins that create high levels of alcohol and spiciness. The wines tend to be fruity, floral and aggressive with a very distinct smell.