Guide to Wine

White Wine Grape Varietals, White Wine Grape Varieties

In our wine stores, we organize major-varietal-labeled wines together. Accordingly, Chardonnay wines with the varietal name—Chardonnay—on the front label we set together, regardless of what part of the world the wine is produced in. Each of the following white grapes are organized in this fashion: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and White Zinfandel. If a wine is made from Chardonnay, but is not labeled Chardonnay, we set the wine by region. Other minor varietal labeled wines we set by region. Thus, Albariño wines would be with the Spanish wines.

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A favorite in Argentina and Uruguay, the Torrontés grape is thought to be related to the crisp, aromatic white wines of northwest Spain. Wines made from this grape have concentrated, grapey fruit flavors with good balancing acidity and hints of flowers and spices. Thought to have originated in Spain, Torrontés is the signature white grape of Argentina and Uruguay. The “Anything but Chardonnay” ( ABC) crowd will enjoy the striking aromatics that are similar to Viognier and Muscat, with hints of peach, flowers, and orange citrus fruit. On the palate, it has a beautiful racy structure and crispness, along with enticing fresh fruit flavors that keep you coming back for another sip. Almost always bottled un-oaked, this fruity, floral and yet still quite dry wine is best enjoyed in its youth either as an aperitif, or as a wonderful partner with poultry, seafood and mild to medium-strong cheeses. Great match for spicy Pan-Asian food as well.

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Trebbiano (also known as Ugni Blanc) produces more wine than any other variety in the world. The Trebbiano grape is most often blended with varieties exhibiting more dominant traits. Originating in central Italy, Trebbiano spread throughout the country and across the border to become France’s most important white variety where it is known as Ugni Blanc. In Italy, it is so extensively grown that in some areas it is difficult to find a bottle of white wine that does not contain some Trebbiano.

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A white-wine grape grown in Italy’s Tuscany region, primarily southwest of Florence around the medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano dates back as far as the 13th century and its origins are thought to be Greek. The wines produced from this variety vary tremendously. Traditionally made, they are golden in color, rich, and full-bodied, with an oxidized style and a slightly bitter edge to the flavor. More modern winemaking techniques produce paler-colored wines with crisper, lighter characteristics.

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