The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: Top 10 White Wine Grapes
With over 1,300(!) vine varieties out there making commercial wine, it’s a tough task to narrow down to only 10. Nevertheless, here are my ‘top 10’ white wine producing grapes. The order is my own preference, based on commercial importance, potential quality of the grape and whether it produces a ‘classic style’.
Perhaps a controversial start to the list, Albariño is a rising star in my book. The grape can produce well-balanced aromatic, peachy wines with fresh acidity, suitable as an aperitif or with fish and vegetarian dishes. It’s not yet grown much outside its native Galicia in Spain (and parts of Portugal), yet its stature is certainly on the up and much interest is being shown in growing the grape in a number of new world countries.
A very distinctive grape producing ‘love-em or hate-em’ wines. Gewurztraminer has its spiritual home in Alsace, France, though can be found throughout Central Europe and in many new world countries. The grape is typically pink-skinned and produces an abundance of sugars in the right growing conditions. This leads to deeply-coloured, rich, full-bodied wines – many of which are off-dry, or even sweet. Gewurztraminer wines are flamboyantly fragrant with unmistakable notes of lychee, pot pourri and sometimes cloves.
Another full-bodied, distinctively aromatic wine. Viognier brings forth characteristic notes of peach, apricot and ginger. The very best examples come from the tiny appellation of Condrieu, in the Rhône Valley in France. However, it is found in the blended white wines of southern France, and increasingly in the new world. A single producer in the Barossa, South Australia — Yalumba — could be credited with re-popularising this grape and bringing it to a new audience in the modern era.