Since there are countless types of white wine available around the world, it can be hard to determine the best option to fit your tastes. Luckily, we’ve compiled a helpful guide of some common dry and sweet white wine types to ensure there are no “pour” decisions in your future. Read on for our list of popular white wines with fun facts, suggested food pairings, and tasting notes for each entry. We’ve structured the order loosely from lower intensity to bolder flavors for your ease. So, let’s dive right in and learn more about ten prominent white wine varietals!
1. Pinot Grigio/Gris
Pinot grigio, sometimes called pinot gris, is considered a crisp, light, zesty wine known for a straw-colored tint of light yellow. It is a dry variety that sparkles with pleasant acidity and fruit flavors like pear, apple, nectarine, lime, and lemon. This wine is best served cold and pairs beautifully with fresh, light ingredients like raw fish, vegetables, and shellfish but it is versatile and can complement a spicy salad and creamy pasta too.
This grape is grown all over the world, though it’s especially noteworthy in Italy, the U.S. (California and Oregon), France, Australia, Austria, and New Zealand. Pinot Grigio is remarkable for its consistency, if you order it anywhere it should taste very similar to other glasses you’ve enjoyed.
2. Sauvignon Blanc
Our next white wine to highlight is the green and herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc. This popular grape is famously grown in France, Italy, the United States and New Zealand among others. Mineral and citrus notes round out this lovely dry varietal that is smooth enough to be enjoyed on its own; passion fruit, lime, peach, green apple, and jalapeño are some of the distinct flavors you may experience with a glass of “sauv blanc” as it is sometimes shortened. Charcuterie is an excellent food pairing for this wine, as is fresh seafood and herby dishes featuring rosemary, parsley, mint, etc.
Vermentino is another light bodied, green, herby wine similar in style to Sauvignon Blanc. Since it’s less well-known, Vermentino is sometimes available at great price points. This wine offers tasting notes like fresh almond, citrus zest, and pear combined with a crisp mineral finish. Another dry wine, Vermentino lends itself well to a variety of food pairings of medium-flavored dishes. Some examples could be chicken tacos, pork sausage, halibut or other stronger fish, or anything flavored with pesto. More than half of all Vermentino grown in the world comes from Italy’s island of Sardinia, while France, the U.S., Argentina, and Lebanon also produce this grape.
4. Moscato/Muscat Blanc
Our next selection, Moscato, is a sweet wine sometimes called Muscat Blanc in France that comes from one of the world’s oldest wine grapes. This wine is an ideal complement to dessert, a light salad, and will stand up to hearty Asian spices. Grown in France, Italy, Austria, Israel, and Greece, there are actually five distinct styles of Moscato: bubbly, pink, black, still, and dessert. Each is a bit different but encompasses the same grapefruit, honeysuckle, floral, tropical fruit bouquet the varietal is known for. Moscato is easily recognizable and a popular addition to our list.
Riesling is a classic German sweet wine that now has expanded to include some less sweet versions. It is crisp and light, with high acidity and notes of fresh apple, apricot, lime, pineapple, and lemon. Grown in France, the U.S., the aforementioned Germany, and Australia, riesling was classically used for dessert food pairings; it also complements heat and smoke well so would be a good addition to a meal of Indian cuisine or a spiced duck dish. This wine presents as pale straw to deep yellow in color and should be served cold, about 43 degrees.
Hard to pronounce, but not hard to drink, our next popular white wine is Gewürztraminer (Gah-vurtz-tra-meener). This is a light, sweet wine that offers hints of fruit, allspice, and rose. Gewürztraminer is one of the 18 noble wine grapes, but it is the least common as only about 20,000 acres are grown around the world; popular spots to grow this grape include New York in the U.S., northern France, Italy, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, and Germany. It’s a bit like Moscato but provides more acidity and more aromatics than its sweeter cousin. Recommended food pairings are grilled meats, Middle Eastern offerings, and spicy Asian dishes.
A rare but popular addition to our list is the Torrontés wine from Argentina; it’s also grown in Chile and Peru and is very aromatic. What makes this wine extra interesting is that on the nose (aka the smell), it is very sweet but on the palate (aka the taste), it is dry and well-balanced. Floral notes like geranium and rose complement fruit flavors such as peach and lemon peel to make this a very intriguing and tasty wine. Suggested food pairings include Indian and Asian spiced dishes, white meats like chicken and fish, or tofu. Torrontés is best served chilled.
Fresh, bright, and fruity, Viognier is a bold and dry wine with mid-range acidity. It’s medium gold in color, and grown from France to Australia, to the United States and in between. Good food accompaniments would be roasted poultry, mild goat cheese, and cucumber salad to complement this full-bodied white wine. Floral notes like rose and honeysuckle, fruit hints like tangerine and peach and vanilla tones that emerge with oak aging combine to make Viognier a complex white wine choice. It is another rare but popular grape with about 30,000 acres planted globally.
Chardonn-hey! You’ve no doubt heard of our next white wine, the most popular white in the 1900’s, classic Chardonnay. Presenting with medium acidity, Chardonnay can be split into two camps: un-oaked and oaked; this simply means that it has or hasn’t been aged in oak barrels. Un-oaked is more similar to bright Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc while oaked is more popular for the buttery notes for which Chardonnay is famous.
Suggested meals or foods to pair with this varietal are soft cheeses, herbed white fish, and roasted chicken. Chardonnay is grown in many states of the U.S. like Washington, California, and Oregon as well as France, South Africa, Argentina, and Italy among others. Chardonnay presents with notes of tropical fruits, lemon, green apple, almond, and jasmine, plus oaked flavors like vanilla, praline, and coconut.
Our last grape is known for being full-bodied like Chardonnay but with crisper flavor profiled like Sauvignon Blanc. Flavors could be fruity like papaya, lemon, pear, or green apple, berry, and/or fig but also call to mind lanolin. Sémillon would be best paired with clams, mussels, and rich-flavored cheese like gruyere and aged cheddar. This bold and dry grape is grown in France, the United States, South Africa, Argentina, and Australia.
Sip Sip Hooray! We’ve reached the end of our list of ten of the most common types of white wine. From sweet Moscato, to buttery Chardonnay, to crisp Sauvignon Blanc, we hope you now feel empowered to find wine to your tastes. Still not sold on white wine? Consider perusing our list of popular red wines or prominent sparkling wine brands. Cheers!