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White Varietals


Aligote - (ah-lee-go-tay)  A thin-skinned grape of unexceptional quality grown in Burgundy and Bulgaria.  It makes tart wines of moderate alcoholic content.  In exceptionally hot years, they can have good weight and richness.  The varietals best wines came from Burgundian villages, especially Bouzeron, where the quality may be improved by the addition of a little Chardonnay.


Auxerrois - (aus-ser-whah)  Auxerrois is grown in Alsace and in England.  Often confused with Pinot Blanc but it is much fatter than Pinot Blanc.  So it suits cooler situations.  Its musky richness has immediate appeal, but it is inclined to low acidity.


Bouvier - (boo-vee-ay)  A modest quality grape variety significantly cultivated in Austria and one which, under its Ranina synonym, produces the “Tiger’s Milk’ wine of Slovenia.


Burgundy – (ber – gun – dee)  Chardonnay grapes that are grown in this region are known to be the greatest of all chardonnay grapes grown throughout the world.


Chardonnay – (shar – doh – nay)  Chardonnay grapes produce a rich, complex, dry white wine.  The finest white wine of the Burgundy region in France it is sometimes described in associations with apples, ripe figs or melons.  It can also be described as creamy or buttery.  Sometimes this wine is combined with oak aging, which develops in quality as the years pass.  Best time for sampling should be two to five years.  Chardonnay is one of the three major grapes used in production of champagne.


Chenin Blanc – (shehn – nan – blahn)  A white wine ranging in taste from clean, crisp and fruity, to rich, sweet and honeyed.  It has a good acidity level, thin skin, and a high natural sugar content, making it very suitable for either sparkling or sweet wines, although some dry wines, notably Savennieres, are made from it.  Makes for a great aperitif. 


Clairette - (K-lar-et) A sugar-rich intrinsically flabby grape best known for its many wines of southern France.


Gewurtztraminer – (ge – vurts – tram – ee – ner) a grape that is highly aromatic, yields a lightly spicy white wine that ranges from off – dry to sweet.  The traditional Gewurtztraminer was originally in the Pfalz region of Germany.  However, it has been successfully transplanted into Alsace, South Africa, some regions of Eastern America, and California.  The California offspring has softer characteristics than it’s ancestors in Germany.


Johannesburg Riesling – (joe – hon – iz berg – reez – ling) The finest grape of Germany.  In San Jose it can range from slightly dry to very sweet (usually medium sweet and fruity).  Rieslings typically have a wonderful balance of sweetness and acidity.


Muscat - (moo - s  - cot) A family name for numerous related varieties, sub-varieties, and localized clones of the same veriatal.  All of these veriatals have distinctive, musky aromas and a pronounced grapey flavor.  The wines that are produced range from dry to sweet, still to sparkling, and fortified.  


Pinot Blanc – (pee – no- blahn) A varietal that is best perhaps in Alsace, where it is best produced properly by building a wine high in fruit.  Pinot Blanc’s are usually high in alcohol content with a good grip and well balanced.


Pinot Gris – (pee – no – gree – s) A variety undoubtedly at its best in Alsace, where it can be produce succulent, rich, and complex wines of great quality, and a spiciness seldom encountered elsewhere.  It is also responsible for many sweet fortified wines throughout the world.


Riesling – (re-sling ) A classic German grape variety.  Although other German grapes and crosses can make good commercial wines.  The Riesling can be produced in such a manner in which tremendous fruit-acidity ratio that is in a class of their own.  It is light in body and low in alcohol, yet intensely flavoured and very long-lived.  With bouquet that may be referred to as “petrolly.”  The grape’s susceptibility to botrytis also makes it one of the most scintillating producers of intensely sweet wines.


Semillon – (sea – mill - e – on) In sauternes and Barsac, this is the grape particularly susceptible to botrytis, or “notable rot.”  Melon or fig is the best to describe this varietal.


Sauvignon Blanc / Fume Blanc – (so – vee – n’yohn – blahn) (foo – may – blahn) A white wine grape that is noted for its grassy, herbaceous aroma and lively, even aggressive acidity.  However, it is at its best when produced in the central vineyards of the Loire, where the wine is cultivated into an extremely dry and aromatic wine.  Originally marketed as a semi – sweet wine, Robert Mondovi developed the first Fume Blanc.


Sylvaner -  (sil-va-ner)    Originally from Austria, the variety is widely planted throughout  Central Europe.  It is prolific, earily maruring and yields the dry wines of Franken and Alsace.  It is also widely believed to be the Zierfandler of Austria.  It has a tart, earthy, yet neutral flavour, which takes on a tomato-like richness in the bottle.


Ugni Blanc - (ug-knee-blahn)   A variety that usually makes light, even thin wines that have to be distilled, the Ugni Blanc is ideal for making Armagnac and Cognac.


Viognier – (vee – in – yea)    Viognier is an individual shy bearing vine.  Producing the famous superb dry wines of Condrieu and Chateau Grillet from the Rhone Valley.


Xarello – (zuh-rel-o)    Very important to the sparkling Cava industry.  A spanish grape makes firm, alcoholic wines, softened by Parellada and Macabeo grapes.



The Art of Wine

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