Airén  (Air-n)

This grape is native to Spain where it represents about 30% of all grapes grown. Most significantly it is the largest planted grape varietal in the world, with over 750,000 acres planted. The vast majority is located in Castilla-La-Mancha, the central plateau region.

Albariño (AL-ba-RHEEN-yo)

Albariño is the primary grape used to make dry white wine in the Rias Baixes section of the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain. Considered by many to be Spain’s premier quality white wine, Albariño is also known in Portugal as Alvarinho and often used as a component of the “green wines” of Vinho Verde.

Typically, wines made from Albariño are very aromatic, often described as having scents of almonds or almond paste, apples, peaches, citrus, and flowers or grass. Albariño wines are particularly suited to seafood due to their bracing acidity.

Aligoté (Al-eh-GOAT-eh)French flag

A white grape used to make dry white wines in the Burgundy region of France. The grape is the second most popular white grape variety grown in Burgundy after Chardonnay. It produces wines high in acidity that can be drunk young. Its aroma includes elements of apples and lemons It can also be used in the blend of Burgundy’s sparkling wine, called Crémant de Bourgogne.

Arneis (Ahr-nayz)-means little rascal in Piedmontese

A white Italian wine grape variety originating from Piedmont, Italy. It is most commonly found in the hills of the Roero where it produces a DOC wine. It is a crisp and floral varietal, and has been grown for centuries in the region. Since it was traditionally blended with Nebbiolo to soften the tannin and harshness of that grape it became known as white Barolo. The white wines made from the Arneis grape tend to be dry and full body with notes of pears and apricots. Arneis has the potential to produced highly perfumed wines with additional aromas of almonds, peaches, and hops.

Assyrtiko (A-SEER-ti-ko)

A white Greek wine grape indigenous to the island of Santorini. Considered Greece’s best white wine grape, it is very acidic and also has extreme mineral flavors. Flavors represent the islands themselves, think volcanic soil with lemon trees. Vin Santo, a delicious sweet wine made from sun-dried Assyrtiko grapes, originated in Greece even though many associate this famous dessert wine with Tuscany, Italy.

Catarratto (Cat-a-rot-toe)

A white Italian wine grape planted primarily in Sicily where it is the most widely planted grape. Catarratto can make full bodied wines with lemon notes. It is one of the chief grapes that makes up Marsala, a port-style fortified wine in dry or sweet styles.

Chardonnay (Shahr-do-NAY)

Rich is the word that best both describes Chardonnay and explains its popularity. Its aroma is distinct, yet delicate, difficult to characterize, easier to recognize. Its delicacy is such that even a small percentage of another varietal blended into a Chardonnay will often completely dominate its aroma and flavor.

Chardonnay grapes are fairly neutral in flavor and aroma but styles of wine can vary greatly depending on the winemaker. Old world chardonnay has high acid and often uses very little oak aging, allowing natural citrus and granny smith apple flavors to show. New world chardonnay has much lower acid and contains tropical fruit flavors or baked apple flavors (apple pie, apple cobbler). With more barrel fermenting and aging, oak flavor commonly takes over Chardonnay. Oaked chardonnay can also take on flavors of butterscotch, caramel and toast.

Chenin Blanc (Shen-NOHN-blahnk)

A white wine grape variety from the Loire valley of France. Its high acidity means it can be used to make everything from sparkling wines to well-balanced dessert wines. Chenin Blanc is a major deal in the Loire Valley of France but it is actually more widely planted in South Africa where it is known as Steen.

The aromas and flavor notes of Chenin blanc often include the descriptors of mineral and honey. Chenin wines produced from noble rot will often have notes of peaches and honey that develop into barley sugar, marzipan and quince as they age. Dry or semi-sweet Chenin blanc from the Loire will often have notes of apple, greengage and chalky minerals that develop into more honey, acacia and quince aromas. New World styles of Chenin, such as those of South Africa, are more often made to be consumed young and exhibit rich tropical fruit notes such as banana, guava, pear and pineapple.

Cortese (Core-tay-zee)

A white Italian wine grape variety predominantly grown in the southeastern regions of Piedmont. It is the main grape variety in Italy’s most popular still white wine, Gavi. Significant plantings of Cortese can also be found in the Lombardy region of Oltrepò Pavese and in the DOC white blends of the Veneto. Cortese wines tend to be medium bodied with notes of limes and greengage.

Falanghina (Fal-an-GHEE-na)

A wine grape used for white wines cultivated on the coast of Campania and frequently consumed in Southern Italy along with seafood. It is fresh and dry with green fruit, mineral and floral qualities.

Fiano (Fee-ano)

A fairly strong flavored white wine grape native to the south of Italy, in the Campania region. It is used in the production of Fiano di Avellino, one of southern Italy’s most famous white wines. It is medium bodied and has aromas and flavors of ripe pears, honey and toasted hazelnuts.

Garganega (Gar-GAN-a-ga)

A variety of white Italian wine  grape widely grown in the Veneto region of North East Italy, particularly in the provinces of Verona and Vicenza. It is the main component of the Venetian white wine, Soave. The grape can produce a delicate wine with lemon, almond and spicy notes.

Gewürztraminer (Ge-VERTZ-tra-MEE-ner) sometimes called Gewurz (Ge-VERTZ)

An aromatic wine grape variety that performs best in cooler climates. Gewürztraminer is a variety with a pink to red skin color. The variety has naturally high levels of sugar so it is often finished off-dry (with some sweetness). Gewürz has distinctive spiciness with aromas of rose petals and lychee nut.

Grechetto (greh-KHET-toe)

An Italian wine grape of Greek origins. The grape is planted throughout central Italy, particularly in the Umbria region. It is primarily a blending grape, often with other native varietials or Chardonnay. In Umbria, Grechetto can add herbal and nutty flavors to the wine. It is an important component in the production of Orvieto and in the Tuscan dessert wine Vin Santo.

Grenache blanc (greh-NAHSH blahnk)

A variety of white wine grape that is related to the red grape Grenache. It is mostly found in Rhône wine blends and in northeast Spain. Its wines are characterized by high alcohol and low acidity, with citrus and or herbaceous notes.

Grüner Veltliner (GROO-ner FELT-lee-ner)

A variety of white wine grape variety grown primarily in Austria and in the Czech Republic. It has a reputation of being a particularly food-friendly wine. They have a variety of aromas and flavors, the simple wines can have light citrus or grapefruit aromas, the more complex have bigger tropical fruit or spice components especially white pepper.

Inzolia (In-sole-ya)

A white grape variety primarily found in Sicily but it is also found in Tuscany where it is known as Ansonica.

Notes of wild flowers, citrus or tropical fruits and fresh herbs are common.

Malvasia (Mal-VASE-e-ah)

Probably of Greek origin, Malvasia is a group of wine grape varieties found throughout the Mediterranean and on the island of Madeira. Generally associated with white wines of considerable color and sweetness and also with the production of dessert wines. Malvasia is also one of the four styles of Madeira (a port style fortified wine). It is also part of the Italian sweet wine Vin Santo, in which the grapes are dried before pressing. There are also many dry styles found throughout Italy, especially in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region .

Marsanne (Mar-SAHN)French flag

A white wine grape, most commonly found in the Northern Rhône region. It is a principal component of the white wines from the Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph AOCs. It is the most widely planted white wine grape in the Hermitage AOC, where it is often blended with Roussanne. Along with Roussanne, up to 15% of Marsanne can be added to the red wine of Hermitage.

Marsanne produces deeply colored wines that are rich and nutty, with hints of spice and pear. Often Australian Marsanne has aromas of melon, honeysuckle and sometimes glue.

Melon de Bourgogne (meh-loh n duh boor-GAWN-yuh)

A variety of white grape grown in the Loire Valley region of France and best known through its use in the wine Muscadet (moose-cah-DAY). Muscadet is NOT Muscat (see below) and not Muscatel (cheap fortified sweet wine). Muscadet is usually bone dry, typically steely, with high acidity and an almost briny tang, making it a perfect seafood wine.

Müller-Thurgau (MOO-ler tour-gow)

A variety of white grape that is a cross of Riesling and Silvaner developed for its hardiness. It is used to make white wine in Germany, Austria, Northern Italy, England, in Australia, Czech Republic, New Zealand, United States and Japan. There are around 104,000 acres cultivated world-wide, which makes Müller-Thurgau the most widely planted of the so-called “new breeds” of grape varieties created since the late 19th century. It is usually semi-dry with a similar flavor profile of Riesling but less aromatic and flavorful.

Muscadelle (MOO-ska-dell)

A white wine grape variety with a simple aroma of grape juice and raisins like grapes of the Muscat family of grapes, but it is unrelated.

Muscat (MUHS-kat)

Muscat is believed to be the ancestor from which all wine grapes descended and it is grown all over the world. Its flavor components, whether vinified dry or sweet, sparkling or fortified can best be described as “grapey”. Muscat almost always has a pronounced musky and/or sweet floral aroma.

Petite Arvine (Puh-TEET Ahr-veen)

A white wine grape planted primarily in the Valais region of Switzerland but also in the Val d’Aoste region of Italy. Petite Arvine has a reputation as a high-class grape variety. Its wines are rich in extract and it is used for dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines.

Picolit (PEE-co-LEET)

A white Italian wine grape grown predominately in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy. The grape is most commonly associated with late harvest, sweet dessert wines often made in the passito style. Picolit wines tend be characterized by soft floral aromas with peach and apricot flavors.

Pinot blanc (Pee-know-blahnk)

A white wine grape that is a genetic mutation of pinot gris (grigio), which is in turn, a clone of pinot noir. It is common in Alsace, where the variety sometimes is called Klevner. Plantings are extensive in Italy, where the grape is known as pinot bianco. Due to its low aroma and high acid, high production clones of pinot blanc are also used for blending with muscat in Spumante.

There are vineyards in both Germany and Austria, where pinot blanc may be called Weissburgunder and is even made into a trockenbeerenauslese version. There is also much pinot blanc planted in Eastern Europe.

Pinot Blanc has light fruity aromas, often of apple, citrus fruit, and floral characteristics. Bottles that are varietally pure, although more difficult to find, provide stronger floral characteristics, stone fruits and a headier minerality.

Pinot gris (PEE-no GREE)/Pinot Grigio (PEE-no GREE-jee-oh)

A white wine grape variety thought to be a mutant clone of the Pinot noir grape, it normally has a grayish-blue fruit, accounting for its name (“gris” meaning “grey” in French).

Grown throughout the world and called by many different names, the style of wines and flavors vary greatly. It is generally considered an easy drinking “quaffable” wine. Alsatian Pinot gris are medium to full bodied wines with a rich, somewhat floral bouquet. German Pinot gris are more full-bodied with a balance of acidity and slight sweetness. In Oregon the wines are medium bodied with a yellow to copper-pink color and aromas of pear, apple, and/or melon. In Italy, where it is the most well known Italian white wine (to American consumers) it can be very light or more full bodied but it is generally acidic and has aromas of flowers and fruity flavors.

Riesling (REES-ling)

A white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. Great Rieslings from Mosel exhibit peach, honeysuckle, lime, slate and petrol characteristics.

Roussanne (ROO-sahn)

A white wine grape grown originally in the Rhône wine region in France, where it is often blended with Marsanne. It is the only other white variety, besides Marsanne, allowed in the northern Rhône appellations of Crozes-Hermitage AOC, Hermitage AOC and Saint-Joseph AOC. In the southern Rhône appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC it is one of six white grapes allowed allowed in white and red production.

Sauvignon blanc (SOH-veen-yown blahnk)

A green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France. It is now planted in many of the world’s wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. Conversely, the grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and California.

Depending on the climate, the flavor can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. Wine experts have used the phrase “crisp, elegant, and fresh” as a favorable description of Sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand.

Sémillon (SAY-mee-YAW)

A golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, most notably in France and Australia. It is often a minor component, when blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle in the dry white wines of Bordeaux but is the major grape in Bordeaux’s famous sweet wines. Sémillon is widely grown in Australia, particularly in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney, where for a long time it was known as “Hunter River Riesling”. Four styles of Sémillon-based wines made there: a commercial style, often blended with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc; a sweet style, after that of Sauternes; a complex, minerally, early picked style which has great longevity; and an equally high quality,dry style, which can be released soon after vintage, as a vat or bottle aged example.

It has flavors of pear and citrus fruit with a tell-tale waxy lanolin texture and aroma. Honey, butterscotch, caramel, vanilla and spices can be found in botrytised oak-aged dessert wines.

Torrontés (TOUR-ahn-TAYS)

A characteristic white wine grape of Argentina which produces fresh, aromatic white wines. Aromas, flavors include citrus, floral and spice elements but also soil and saline qualities.

Trebbiano (treb-BEE-ahn-o)

The second most widely planted grape in the world. The Trebbiano family account for around a third of all white wine in Italy most importantly in the Orvieto whites of Umbria.

Verdicchio (Ver-DEEK-k’yo)

A variety of white grape grown in the Marche region of Italy and gives its name to the varietal white wine made from it. The name is a derivative of the word “verde” which means green due to its slight green/yellow hue.

Its high quality white wines are noted for their high acidity and a characteristic nutty flavor. Depending on vinification technique,s and on the vintage, the verdicchio ranges from fresh, everyday wines, to wines rich in bouquet and structure, sometimes even capable of aging for ten years or more.

Vermentino (ver-MENT-teen-o)

A late-ripening white grape variety, primarily found in Italian wine. It is widely planted in Sardinia, in Liguria, to some extent in Corsica, in Piedmont, and in increasing amounts in Languedoc-Roussillon.

Vernaccia (ver-NOT-CHIA)

A white wine grape that is found in many Italian wines but is most commonly associated with the Tuscan wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano. It produces crisp wine with good acidity and citrus fruit. It is sometimes blended with Trebbiano but is also seen as a varietal wine.

Viognier (Vee-own-YAY)

A white wine grape that is the only permitted grape for the French wine Condrieu in the Rhone valley. Viognier wines are well-known for their floral aromas, due to terpenes, which are also found in Muscat and Riesling wines. There are also many other powerful flower and fruit aromas which can be perceived in these wines depending on where they were grown.

Viura (Vee-oar-a)

A white variety of wine grape also called Macabeo (Spanish) or Macabeu (Catalan and French). Considered one of the most important white grapes grown in the Rioja region of northeastern Spain it is also grown in found in the Cava producing areas south of Barcelona, and the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. The grape is used to make mildly acidic and young white wines mostly suitable for early consumption or blended with other varieties, both red and white. It is often the main grape of white Rioja and is known to be incorporated in small amounts with Tempranillo and red Garnacha, both in unoaked and oaked versions.


* the most up-to-date and complete varietal listing I could find to compile this list was Wikipedia. If you would like more information and/or the original references please find them there.

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