8 Most Popular White Wine Grapes in the World

Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc are probably your favorite whites if you are a wine lover. While these are some well-known international white grapes, over 20 widely planted white grape varieties worldwide exist.

We’ve analyzed the 8 most popular white grapes that you are likely to see on wine labels, with a focus on where they are grown, their taste, the style of wine they make, and the best food pairings.

Let’s get started.

1. Sauvignon Blanc Grape

Sauvignon Blanc Grape
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Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape variety, popularly known for its “grassy” wines-herbal refreshing flavors, and racy acidity.

Where Is It Grown

Sauvignon Blanc originated from western France in the Loire Valley and the Bourdeaux region of France, just like America’s favorite Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is believed to be named from the French word “sauvage, “which means wild, as the vine was known to grow as a wild grapevine in the Bourdeaux region.

Here it was not fermented and bottled on its own. Instead, it made Sancerre, Barsac, and Sauterne (the famous dessert wines) and blends with Muscadelle and Semillon.

Nevertheless, Sauvignon Blanc found its new home in New Zealand, popularly grown in cool climates. The bright, fresh, and zingy wines of New Zealand hit the international market in the 1980s, and the world took notice. As a result, Sauvignon Blanc is doing incredibly well in New World regions, including Australia, South Africa, Chile, and California.

What Does It Taste Like

Sauvignon Blanc prides itself in its straightforwardness; the flavors are not hidden. The aromas include

  • Fresh cut grass
  • Gooseberries
  • Tropical fruits such as Passion fruits
  • Floral notes such as elderflower
  • Nettles
  • Asparagus to green apples
  • Blackcurrant leaf

A cool terroir with bright sunshine and a dry harvest period is ideal for the elegant, fresh, and crispy taste that best characterizes Sauvignon Blanc.

In warmer climates, more tropical fruit notes characterize this white grape. However, it may lose the aroma from over-ripeness resulting in slight tree fruit and grapefruit aromas.

Sauvignon Blanc is hardly ever aged in oak; rather, winemakers choose to bring out the fruity and bright characteristics.

What Style of Wine Does Sauvignon Blanc Make

It is best known for its dry, vibrant, and intense single-varietal wines with gooseberry, exotic fruits, and green nettle flavors.

Also, it can be blended with other wines. For example, it can be mixed with Muscadelle and Semillon to create white Bordeaux.

Food Pairings

  • Asian style stone-bass
  • Leek terrine with Goat’s cheese
  • Sushi
  • Bluff oysters with dill and lime vinaigrette
  • Meat pairings-go light-chicken, oysters, salmon, turkey, or pork

2. Chardonnay Grape

Chardonnay Grape
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Chardonnay is the most famous and widely planted green-skinned white grape in the world. It is known to make some of the world’s finest wines with diverse flavors.

Where Is It Grown

The traditional home of Chardonnay is the Burgundy wine region of France but is now grown in most New World wine regions from California, New Zealand, to Australia.

It has a “black canvas” feature- flavors are not distinctive. Chardonnay expresses terroir-it is a mirror of its location and climate.

What Does It Taste Like

Chardonnay’s flavors vary widely; it has the broadest aromatic profile than any grape variety. The taste depends on terroir, methods of aging, and ripeness at harvest.

Typically, Chardonnay makes dry, medium-bodied white wines with notes of pear, apple, guava, lemon peel, melon, buttery and creamy.

In warmer climates, it carries the aromas of tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple. In comparison, cooler climates bring out the refreshing acidity and notes of orchard fruit like apricots and peaches.

What Style of Wine Does Chardonnay Make

When it comes to flavor and complexity, Chardonnay is the king.

Oak aging adds structure and tannin with toffee, toast, spice, and vanilla aromas to the white wines. At the same time, malolactic fermentation reduces bitterness and softens tannins in the grape skins giving the white wine a buttery flavor.

Chardonnay’s winemakers strive to bring out the refreshing acidity of this grape without tampering it with too much fermentation.

Food Pairings

Chardonnay goes well with white dishes, including fish, a wide range of pasta, and white meat dishes such as chicken.

3. Riesling grape

Riesling grape
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Alongside Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, the Riesling grape is among the world’s best white wine grape varieties.

Where Is It Grown

Riesling grape originates from Germany’s Rhine region, especially Rheingau and Mosel, wine-growing sub-regions. Germany accounts for about 20% of all the global Riesling wine production.

Other leading regions include New Zealand, Washington State, California, Alsace in France, Australia, and Finger Lakes area in the New York State.

What Does It Taste Like

Generally, Riesling has high acidity, almost to levels of orange juice or lemonade, resulting in a crisp taste when combined with sugar with a juicy finish.

Older Riesling wines smell like burnt rubber, kerosene, or gasoline, while younger ones have more fruit notes such as apples, honeycomb, peach, grapefruit, or gooseberry.

However, the Riesling white grape aromas vary with the climate, vineyard soil, and production method.

This white grape tends to have high acidity with fruity and apple notes in cooler climates like Alsace and Rhine. While in warmer climates, the Riesling grape has lower acidity and citrus notes (lime).

What Style Of Wine Does Riesling Grape Make

Riesling wines are more likely taken when they are very young. This is because the fruity notes and floral aromas are at their peak. However, when aged, they tend to have a more intense flavor with kerosene or petrol notes.

They are four categories of wines made from Riesling grapes.

  • Dry Riesling- Riesling grapes grown in America, French, and Austria tend to make drier wines since the aging period is 5 to 15 years
  • Sweet Riesling-typically, Rieslings have some degree of sweetness. German Riesling wines are sweeter since they age between 10 and 30 years. In addition, Riesling is susceptible to noble rot, which dries the grapes intensifying the sweetness, making it excellent for sweet wine production.
  • Semi-sweet Riesling- these are balanced Rieslings between 10 to 20 years.
  • Sparkling Riesling (sket)

Food Pairings

Riesling wines have the perfect balance of acidity and sugar, making them ideal for most foods.

They go well with:

  • White meat
  • Spicy meals
  • Fish
  • Poultry dishes with light sauces
  • Asian cuisine

4. Airén Grape

Airén Grape
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Airén grape is a drought-resistant white grape variety that ranks as the third most widely grown wine grape in the world after Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Where Is It Grown

Airén grape isn’t grown elsewhere but in Central Spain in La Mancha and Valdepenas wine regions. It has a high tolerance to hot, dry conditions, diseases, and poor soils

What Does It Taste Like

Airen primary flavors include:

  • Pineapple
  • Grapefruit
  • Rose
  • Banana
  • Apple

What Style Of Wine Does Airen Make

Airén has traditionally been used for brandy to make high alcohol, oxidative white wines. However, it is now used to make refreshing dry medium –light-bodied white wines with improved vinification and handling.

Besides, it is used as a blending ingredient in making more balanced dry white wines. It is blended with other grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, or Viura due to its lower acidity and bolder style.

Food Pairings

  • Garlic prawns
  • Sardines
  • Oyster sauces

5. Pinot Gris Grape

Pinot Gris Grape
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Pinot Gris is a white grape variety that is part of the Pinot family, a mutation of the Pinot Noir. It is also popularly referred to as  Pinot Grigio. The berries tend to be rose-colored –gray-tinged pink to blue.

Where Is It Grown

It has its traditional home from the vineyards of Burgundy in France. Today, this grape has become a wide variety in wine regions globally, including France’s Alsace, Italy, and new world regions such as Germany, New Zealand, and Oregon.

Due to its low acidity, early budding, and ripening, Pinot Gris is best grown in cool climates resulting in wines with a high degree of freshness.

This variety is very prominent in Oregon.

What Does It Taste Like

Pinot Gris flavors vary widely depending on the region and style. Generally, the typical Pinot Gris aromas include apples, sweet spices, lemon, white nectarine, pear, tropical fruit, and saline-like minerality

  • French Pinot Gris- a greasy feel with faint honey, cinnamon, ginger notes, and a tingly aftertaste
  • Italian Pinot Grigio-very dry, high acidity, a crisp character with notes of bitter almond and citrus
  • American Pinot Grigio- less acidity with more fruit flavors

Please Note: Pinot Gris does not have that unique flavor but has a brilliant acidity level.

What Style Of Wine Does Pinot Gris Make

Pinot Gris is known for dry, medium-bodied, and full-bodied complex white wines. In comparison to other whites, it is drier than Chardonnay and less aromatic than Sauvignon Blanc.

Pinot Gris wines are less acidic if the grapes are riper.

However, despite producing dry wines, some Alsace Pinot Gris is sweet. For example, Alsatian Pinot Gris grapes prone to noble rot produce sweet wines, and vendange tardive (grapes harvested late ) produce sweet dessert wines.

Food Pairings

Pinot Gris is an adaptable wine and matches well with most proteins and earthy vegetables

  • Oven-roasted chicken
  • Grilled or seared chicken
  • Cream sauces
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Pork

6. Albarino

Albarino Grape
Coastal Wine Trail

Albarino, also known as Alvarinho, is a thick green-skinned grape that grows on the Iberian Peninsula. Its hint of salinity, rich stone fruit flavors, and zippy acidity has made it a favorite to many.

Where Is It Grown

Albarino originates from Eastern Portugal but is now majorly grown in the region of Galicia in Spain. The area where it grows is referred to as Rias Baixas, an area surrounded by the Atlantic ocean, which is part of the Maritime climates that contribute to high acidity in this grape.

Due to increased interest in the high-quality Albarino and Spanish grape varieties, this white grape is now grown in California cooler areas, Oregon, Washington, New Zealand, and Australia.

What Does It Taste Like

Albarino wines exhibit aromas of stone fruits such as nectarines and peaches and citrus fruits such as lemon and grapefruits.

What Style of Wine Does Albarino Make

Albarino wines are characterized by dry, light-bodied, and tingling freshness. They have a fruity aroma with hints of salinity, making them an excellent match for seafood.

It comes in single-varietal Alvarinho and makes a blend for Vinho Verde-Portugal’s favorite peachy white wine.

Besides, it is high in acidity, which means it can produce light white wines or fuller-bodied style, with lees or oak aging to add creaminess and texture.

Food Pairings

Due to its slight salinity characteristic, it is an incredible food wine and even better for seafood.

  • White meats and fish
  • Leafy green herbs
  • Soft and semi-hard cheese
  • Spanish tapas

7. Sémillon Grape

semillon grapes 1
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Semillon grape can’t miss among the most popular white wines in the world. But, just like Riesling, Semillon is an uncelebrated hero with a deep gold to copper color.

It is primarily a blending grape but also makes both dry and sweet varietal wines. Semillon wine has aromas close to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, and it’s full-bodied like Chardonnay.

Where Is It Grown

Semillon has its native origin from the Bordeaux region, which still produces the highest amount of this grape

It is also becoming more popular in other countries, including Australia, California, South Africa, Washington, and China.

What Does It Taste like

When vinified dry, Semillon reveals notes of beeswax, lemon, white florals, stone fruit, and apple. On the other hand, when vinified sweeter, it exhibits lanolin and honey notes.

Semillon’s most noteworthy aspect is the silken texture because of its high concentration of glycerol and sugar.

What Style of Wine Does Semillon Make

Semillon can be vinified in various styles, including dry white wines, sweet wines, oaked and unoaked wines, dessert wines, and white wine blends.

Fresher Semillon wines are fermented in stainless steel, while the intensely structured ones may be barrel-aged.

It is normally blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle in white Bordeaux blend. Besides, it is the major ingredient in Bordeaux’s dessert wines such as Sauternes, Loupiac, Cerons, Barsac, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux and Cardillac.

Food Pairings

  • Sushi and raw oysters
  • Sharp and tangy cheeses
  • Most seafood dishes
  • Highly seasoned dishes
  • High-toned herbs such as fennel and sage

8. Gruner Veltliner Grape

Gruner Veltliner Grape
Coastal Wine Trail

Gruner Veltliner is a white grape that accounts for about a third of all vineyards in Austria. It is branded the national grape of Austria.

Where Is It Grown

Gruner Veltliner is the most planted grape variety in Austria, with the best wine from Wachau, Kremstal, and Kamptal wine regions, located in the sloped terraces of the Danube River. Nevertheless, it is grown in every Austrian wine region.

Besides, it is also widely planted in the Czech Republic and Slovenia and few regions in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Northern Italy.

What Does It Taste Like

Generally, Gruner Veltliner has hints of citrus aromas-grapefruit and lemon peel with notes of fresh vegetal, white pepper, and stone fruit.

High-quality Gruner leaves a delicate tingly aftertaste.

What Style Of Wine Does Gruner Veltliner Make

Gruner Veltliner produces two styles of wines-lighter  and zesty wines and rich and nutty with a tingly finish wines

The first style of wine is pale green and typically bottled with a slight spritz to enhance its fresh fruity notes. The second style is characterized by wines from warmer regions-Kremstal, Kamptal and Wachau regions. These wines are well structured and are aged to reach maturity.

While most Gruner wines are fermented and aged in stainless steel or large old oak casks, the modern wines are made in smaller new oak barrels, which softens them, giving them the deep-golden hue.

Food Pairings

They generally are full-bodied with a higher acidity texture, making them a significant alternative to Chardonnay.

It goes well with richly flavored foods, including sautéed kidneys, Asian spices, and vegetables such as zucchini quiche, artichoke, and grilled asparagus.

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