Which white wines impress most? Continuously have the highest quality over a span of time? Are most widely drunk? Following my article on interesting details on white wine I am trying to find out if there indeed is a best white wine in the world.
I will go on further describing six white wine grapes, something about their origin and history, best regions and more. These are the grapes of my attention: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Gewürztraminer.
Just read on I and I will show you why these are among the best white wines in the world.
The Riesling grape, after the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, is the number three among the grapes from which white wine is made. The Riesling, beside the Chardonnay, is known as one of the best white grape varieties, but do not always get the recognition they deserve. In Germany, the Riesling has been fully embraced and it is affectionately called “The grapes Queen”.
There are several stories about the origin of the Riesling, but everyone agrees that the cradle is located in the Rhine Valley. Its name was derived from the German ‘rieseln’, which means trickle. The neighbouring French Alsace Riesling started making inroads at the end of the 15th century, but it was only centuries later that the planting boomed. It is suspected that the Riesling is a descendant of the Heunisch and Traminer grape variety.
The Riesling grape thrives in cool climates and it feels at home on light soils with lime, clay and stony soils and good drainage. Except in the relatively cool home country Germany, the Riesling also is planted in Austria, Northern Italy, Luxembourg, the United States and Australia and its cultivation worldwide is still rising. The Riesling is also used in the Netherlands to produce a dry, fresh wine.
The Riesling is round, small, turns from bright green to golden brown with red flecks at full maturity and has a pretty thick skin. Its natural, delicate and pure acidity is its characteristic. There are many different Riesling wines: dry, elegant, young wines to the world famous sweet wines that can be kept long. Wine made from Riesling is light in terms of alcohol, contains a lot of fruit and has the special characteristics of its terroir (eg minerals). The young wines contain elements of flowers, green apple, lemon, lime, grapefruit and minerals. In the more mature wines elements of peach, apricot, nectarine and mango come through, but there is always refreshing acidity. And unlike Chardonnay, Riesling does not take well to wood ageing.
Chardonnay is a regal grape for its role in producing the greatest dry white wines in the world — white Burgundies — and for being one of the main grapes of Champagne. The Chardonnay is also the most planted variety in the world, from Australia to Chile, from Italy to South Africa.
Better than any other grape, Chardonnay easily adapts to the soil and climate. She is very strong and resistant to the cold. The Chardonnay is under way early and therefore should not be picked too late; otherwise the wine will contain too much alcohol.
Chardonnay wine has a very versatile personality. It can be wonderfully fresh and subtle, with fruity acidity: citrus in colder regions, about apples and melon, pineapple and tropical fruits to the new world. The most famous (and most delicious) Chardonnay in first category is the Chablis. Chardonnay can also have a buttery fatness and a woody character, such as Meursault, who along with Corton-Charlemagne and Puligny-Montrachet is counted amongst the greatest Chardonnays. And Chardonnay is the basis of the best champagnes.
Chardonnay is the only white liquid which has a distinct affinity with oak. Often, the wine aged in oak barrels, giving it notes of vanilla, wood and toast. Nowadays both oaked and unoaked Chardonnays are well liked throughout the world.
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
Both grapes are actually the same. And many may not know it but the Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris is a blue grape. Therefore you will also find rosé or red wines from this grape.
Pinot Grigio Italy
The Pinot Grigio is planted in Veneto in Italy. The Pinot Grigio generally has a light taste of citrus, spices and a hint of sweetness. The Pinot Grigio is one of the most popular wines in the US. This probably has to do with the fact that the girls from Sex and the City are regularly seen with a Pinot Grigio.
Alsace Pinot Gris
Pinot Gris is planted particularly in the Alsace region of France. Contrary to the Pinot Grigio, the Pinot Gris has a fuller flavour of many fruits and firmer nose.
The Sauvignon Blanc grape is an aromatic grape variety that produces wines that are dry, refreshing, tangy and very drinkable, very quickly. Sauvignon Blanc we see in many wine regions around the world, but its origin is from France. The Loire Valley is France’s leading region for Sauvignon Blanc, with the Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre as the absolute best. The Sauvignon Blanc grape has ensured the success of New Zealand wines, wines that stand out for a special freshness and certain grassiness typical of New Zealand.
Harvested early, the Sauvignon Blanc gives expressive aromas of citrus fruit, grass, asparagus, flowers and nettle.
The Sauvignon Blanc is sensitive to extreme heat and develops best in cool vineyards. It can be picked in a plurality of stages of maturity, so that the grassy flavours are combined with elements of ripe tropical fruits.
In the Sauvignon Blanc you can recognize the following flavours: green apples, gooseberries, grapefruit, asparagus and cut grass. Sauvigon Blanc is famous for its contribution to the noble sweet wines from the Bordeaux region, the Sauternes.
Wines of the Viognier grape in recent years have become very popular because they offer a good alternative to the crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc wines and the soft, supple Chardonnay wines.
The origin of the Viognier is unclear, although the leading opinion is that the Romans brought it to the Rhone a long time ago. It is also unclear where its name comes from: it most likely seems to be the name of the Roman city of Vienne, but others think that the name is derived from Gehennae (the road to hell) because of the difficult growing characteristics. Since the eighties, the Viognier is on her way back to the top: alone in the French Condrieu (Rhone), which is considered the cradle of the grape, Viognier now covers more than 100 hectares. In addition, more and more are planted in Languedoc, California and new countries such as Chile, South Africa and Australia.
The grape loves a poor, calcareous soil and granite; the harvesting should be as soon as the sugar can make a potential alcohol content of 13%. The Viognier grape is relatively difficult to grow and has a low yield; on the steep vineyards of Condrieu – where it is the only grape allowed – its yield is further lowered because of the terraced building.
Viognier is a wine at the absolute top of the white wines. They often have a lot of body and alcohol and low acidity. In good shape, the grape gives a beautiful golden yellow colour and a wide range of fragrance and flavour with elements of flowers, peach, mango, apricot, walnut and honey. Typically Viognier wine can be drunk young, although certain appellations can be kept longer.
The Gewurztraminer grape is a grape variety that is among the “noble” varieties from Alsace. The grape gets its name from the village Tramin that lies in the north-east of Italy. Gewürz means herb and that is what is reflected in the wines from this grape. Both through the smell and the taste its spiciness comes forward. The skin of the grape contains a lot of pigment that makes the white wines from this grape one of the darkest that exists. The taste and odour bring, besides the spiciness, also tropical fruit and flowers to the fore. Because of its spiciness it is less suitable as an aperitif, but better suited for after the meal served with cheese or not too sweet desserts.
Gewürztraminer dislikes chalky soil and is very susceptible to diseases. To ripen well, a dry and hot summer is of importance. Outside Europe, this grape is planted in New Zealand and in the cooler regions of California.
I think you can conclude correctly from the above that each and every one of the grapes mentioned belongs to the top quality white wine grapes of the world. However, some distinctions can be made.
Based on quantity of wine produced, Sauvignon Blanc ranks one, closely followed by Chardonnay and in third place the Riesling.
It is commonly accepted that Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio are the most important and popular white grape varieties today.
Chardonnay has been the most popular variety in the USA for a long time. However, it may be, in the end it is your personal taste that dictates what you like best.
After three decades of drinking wines, my personal favourite is without a doubt the Chardonnay, with its wide variety and premium high quality wines. I have described a lot of top rated Chardonnays in my product reviews on this site and you can have access to and find these wines and their reviews by clicking the three images to the right (for mobile users just under this text) under the heading World best Chardonnays for delivery to the USA, UK or Australia markets.
Feel free to leave some comments and I will be back to you within 24 hours.