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Drinks Cheat Sheet: The 7 Common White Wines Varietals

Cheat Sheet: The 7 Common White Wines Varietals

Cheat Sheet: The 7 Common White Wines Varietals
By Tien Chew
October 03, 2018

The old adage "red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat" only speaks of a fraction of the truth. It can be difficult to understand what's what when it comes to wine.

This is part 2 of our wine dedicated cheat sheets, making basic wine knowledge accessible and easy to understand. Part 1 examined red wine, while part 3 will debut at a later date to take a look at sparkling wine.

1/7 Sauvignon Blanc

Photo: Courtesy of Stevepb/Pixabay
Photo: Courtesy of Stevepb/Pixabay

One of the most widely known white wine varietals, sauvignon blanc originates from Bordeaux, France. It's an incredibly diverse wine, thanks to its dry, herby and citrus dominant flavour profile that can evoke tastes that range from pear, peach and green apple on the palate to celery, jalapeño, and basil on the nose. Depending on the blend, sauvignon blanc typically has a medium to medium high acidity and a minerally finish.

Suggested pairing: white meats such as chicken, pork, lobster or scallop, dishes or salads with herbs, soft and sour cheeses

2/7 Moscato

Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Seaman/Unsplash
Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Seaman/Unsplash

Another common varietal bound to appear on many wine lists, moscato, or muscat blanc, is another versatile wine that skews towards the sweet side. Thanks to fresh vibrant citrus fruit flavours like pear, lemon, orange and grapefruit, it can be enjoyed on its own or at the end of the meal paired with desserts, with a relatively low alcohol content that might range from 5 to 12 per cent.

Suggested pairing: spicy food, Indian curries, Thai food, medium and hard cheeses, lobster, crab, barbecued pork

3/7 Chardonnay

Photo: Courtesy of Freddie Collins/Unsplash
Photo: Courtesy of Freddie Collins/Unsplash

An incredibly popular varietal, chardonnay is many drinkers go-to choice due to its complex yet easy to drink nature, starting light and dry but having the capacity to container a fuller body as compared to other dry white wines. Depending on where you get your chardonnay from, and depending if it's oak-aged, you'll get buttery sweet flavours such as vanilla, caramelised sugar, and toast to complex fruity notes like peach, fig, lemon zest and much more.

Suggested pairing: salmon and chicken with herbs, soft cheeses, oysters, selected caviar, truffles

4/7 Riesling

Photo: Courtesy of JP Valery/Unsplash
Photo: Courtesy of JP Valery/Unsplash

A sweet and light white wine with German origin, due to its nature it is more commonly consumed as a dessert wine. However, don't limit yourself to just having it at the end of the meal or pairing it with cakes, tarts and all manner of sweet treats, riesling has enough minerality and acidity to work well with fish dishes and poultry too. While most rieslings are definitely sweet, you can also find drier types today. Taste wise, you'll find flavours such as apricot, pineapple, lime, peach and apple on the palate, with sweet aromas resembling honey on the nose.

Suggested pairing: peach cobbler, shrimp, crab, soft cow's milk cheeses, sushi such as smoked unagi, tuna and salmon

5/7 Pinot Grigio

Photo: Courtesy of Schuetz-mediendesign/Pixabay
Photo: Courtesy of Schuetz-mediendesign/Pixabay

If there's one white wine to rule them all, pinot grigio (also known as pinot gris in Italian) might just be it. Might. This varietal is known for being refreshing, pleasingly citrusy and bearing an acidic bite. The French, Italian and American pinot grigios may vary from one another subtlely but telltale signs include a crisp and dry note thanks to its high acidity and its medium sweetness content. Serve it ice cold to enjoy it at its best.

Suggested pairing: fresh seafood, scallops, mussels, cod, creamy pastas, sushi, soft and medium cheeses, salads

6/7 Sémillon

Photo: Courtesy of Matthieu Joannon/Unsplash
Photo: Courtesy of Matthieu Joannon/Unsplash

A full bodied white wine with medium acidity, sémillon can exhibit strong berry-like flavours but can also contain lemon, fig, apple and pear characteristics. Sémillon grown in hotter climate locales such as California and Australia can have more tropical notes while sémillon found in colder climates tend to showcase more acidity.

Suggested pairing: strong flavoured cheeses, fatty sushi, roasted vegetables, clams, mussels

7/7 Gewürztraminer

Photo: Courtesy of Schuetz-mediendesign/Pixabay
Photo: Courtesy of Schuetz-mediendesign/Pixabay

Another German white wine, gewürztraminer is a soft floral wine with an oily finish. It can contain an amazing flavour range, going from grapefruit to lychee, while maintaining a low acidity and very pleasing aromas on the nose, such as the very desirable sweet fragrance of rose. It's a sipping wine that pairs amazingly well with spicy foods, making it great to go alongside Indian and Asian cuisines.

Suggested pairing: Indian food, Middle-Eastern food, delicate cheeses, grilled sausages, desserts

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