White Wine Styles

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Four classic grape varieties of white wine

Four grape varieties, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay are presented. Choose wines that are 100% made up of one of these varieties, it makes it easier to get to know the individual characteristics of the grape variety.

Typical wines

Try wines from the countries indicated below if you want to know the typical character of the grape variety in question.

🔺Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand

🔺Riesling from Germany

🔺Gewurztraminer from Alsace in France

🔺Chardonnay from South Africa or any other country in the New World

Preferbly the wines should be of the same dryness, it makes it more interesting. This applies especially to Riesling where the wines often have a little sweetness.

What can you learn from this wine lesson?

To start with the characteristics of the different grape varieties are described including the flavour and aroma that you can expect from wine of the various grape varieties.

Then it continues with the wine regions and how the climate and soil influence the wine. A word for this is "terroir". Terroir is defined as the environmental conditions, especially soil and climate, in which grapes are grown and that give a wine its unique flavour and aroma.

Finally the classification systems of the wine countries in question are described.

Scent of linalool in many white wines

Linalool is a natural flavouring agent which can be found in many grape varieties as well as  herbs like basil, lemon balm and rose geranium. Of the four grape varieties included in this tasting it can be found in three namely, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Gewurztraminer is the grape that contains most natural linalool. It gives the wine an aroma, which is extremely perfumed and floral.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is grown throughout the world and it is more popular than ever. Its renaissance came first in New Zealand and now Sauvignon Blanc is grown in virtually all wine producing countries.

Suggested Wine

Many of the suggested wines on this web site may be bought in your country. Refer to Wine Searcher to find retailers. The number below links to Systembolaget´s information in Swedish.

🔺Sauvignon Blanc: Hunter´s Sauvignon Blanc, 6202. Producer: Hunter´s Wines. Price about 10 euros. The wine can only be bought from Hunter´s Wines online within New Zealand. For international enquiries refer to local agents or search for retailers on Wine Searcher.

Hunter´s Sauvignon Blanc comes from Marlborough, New Zealand. The wine is light bodied, dry and with high perceived acidity. It has very fresh, aromatic aroma and flavour with notes of passion fruit, nettles, gooseberries and lemon. Alcohol content: 13.0%. Sugar content: Less than 3 g/L. Grape variety: Sauvignon Blanc 100%.

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand - in particular from Marlborough - gives a wine with pronounced, typical character of the grape variety.

New Zealand´s specialty - Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc has long been been the specialty of New Zealand, in a style that sometimes reaches the absurd. Wine made from Sauvignon Blanc is fragrant and has an appetizing flavour of grass, nettles, gooseberries and asparagus. If the Sauvignon character is emphazised too much it can smell unwashed armpit and that does of course not taste good.

Classic Sauvignon Blanc comes from Marlborough in New Zealand. New Zealand is the wine-growing country located farthest south of the southern hemisphere. The Sauvignon Blanc wine produced in New Zealand has become the norm and is the archetype of a green and flavourful wine. And it is a rather recent norm as Sauvignon Blanc was planted in Marlborough as late as 1973. Today, it is a classic region for this grape. Almost immediately it became clear that this was how Sauvignon Blanc should taste.

Hunter´s Sauvignon Blanc is the archetype, a more appetizing wine than this is hard to find. The aroma is wonderful, aromatic and the flavour is fresh in a graceful, classic Sauvignon style. The wine has hints of spring elderberry juice, the first gooseberries and autumn dew fresh apples, picked directly from the branch. One sip and saliva starts to run.

Cool climate - slow grape ripening

The climate in New Zealand varies from the northern part of the North Island, where it is very hot, to the South Island southern part, where it is more chilly and the climate here determines what can be grown where.

Marlborough is New Zealand´s most famous wine region located in the northeastern part of the South Island. Marlborough´s cool climate allows the grapes to ripe slowly and the grapes therefore get much aroma and flavour, extract and acid. Poor water supply necessitates irrigation of the best locations. Until the 1990s frost was unusual in this district but during the last decade the frost has on several occasions reduced the crop.

Sauvignon Blanc thrives on gravel-rich riverbeds

The vineyards in Marlborough are located on the gravel-rich riverbeds with good drainage. Most planted grape variety is Sauvignon Blanc and during the 1980s the wines from this grape became internationally recognized.

Does Sauvignon Blanc taste different in other parts of the world?

One would think that Sauvignon Blanc from Australia might taste the same as in New Zealand but in Australia Sauvignon Blanc only rarely reaches the same pure freshness.

In Chile it gives pretty powerful wines which primarily come from the Casablanca region.

South African variants may have a bit of sting and in Spain the grape variety is used to give the rueda (Spanish DO, white wine primarily based on the Verdejo grape) extra strength.

Californian variants may taste different, more of tropical fruit salad, due to the fact that they often are stored in new oak barrels.

The Loire Valley is the European home of Sauvignon Blanc. From this part of France the famous Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé wines originate. They are crispy and fresh with light fruit flavours and a note of mineral or even smokiness.

Sauvignon Blanc is also grown in Bordeaux. However, due to the decreasing interest in these wines in the 1980s more than half of the plants were pulled up. But with the new boom for Sauvignon Blanc the grapes are cultivated again. In general the label states Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc and the quality has vastly improved in recent years. Focus has been set on balance and that it goes well with food. They differ significantly from the flavour bombs of New Zealand. These wines are always softer than the variants from the Loire and New Zealand.

Neutral variants are found in northern Italy and light in Austria. Eastern European variants are variable and in general they lack sharpness.

Quality classifications of New Zealand wines

In January 1996 the classification system Certified Origin was introduced. This ensures that the wine contains at least 85% of the specified grape variety. The vintage must also be specified as well as the approved district from which the wine originates.


Riesling is a grape which is not immediately loved by everybody but it has an elegance that nobody can deny. A pervasive acid is the most obvious and recognizable feature. The high acid content is balanced by sweetness. The styles range from tickling dry to rich sweet with flavours that go from apple and citrus sting to peach and from honey to pebbles and slate. When Riesling wines age they develop a taste akin to petroleum (much nicer than it sounds). Riesling is a grape which may give aromas similar to a better Sauvignon Blanc, but the flavour is different.

Riesling wine can be stored

Typical white wines are Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Side by side they taste distinctly different but an aromatic kinship exists. Both are characterized by a distinctive fruit acid and a natural aroma which draws to currant leaves, elderberries and gooseberries. This is true when the wines are young. Already after a year they develop differently and a Sauvignon Blanc quickly is converted to a taste similar to green canned peas.

Riesling wine however, has a quality that can grow for a long time, sometimes decades.

Riesling wines of classic style come from Germany, Alsace and Australia

Riesling wines in the classic style mainly come from Germany, Alsace in France and Australia but Riesling is grown in many other places. The wine in this tasting comes from Germany.

Suggested wine

Many of the suggested wines on this web site may be bought in your country. Refer to Wine Searcher to find retailers. The number below links to Systembolaget´s information in Swedish.

🔺Riesling: Georg Breuer Riesling Sauvage, 5899. Producer: Georg Breuer. Price about 11 euros. The wine can be bought from retailers worldwide, please have a look at Georg Breuer home page.

Georg Breuer Riesling Sauvage comes from Rheingau, Germany. The wine is medium-bodied, dry and with high perceived fruit acidity. It has fruity, very fresh flavour and aroma with notes of green apples, citrus, honey and mineral. Alcohol content: 11.5%. Sugar content: 5 g/L. Grape variety: Riesling 100%.

Riesling from Germany

Wine regions in Germany are located mainly in the southwest, gathered around the Rhine and its tributaries. Nowhere else in the world the Riesling grape achieves such a class as in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and the Rheingau regions.

In the Moselle region Riesling gives light, floral wines with notes of slate. Riesling from the Rheingau is generally richer, fruitier and more spicy. Both have surprisingly low alcohol content and need to mature two to three years. A certain sweetness is often present to balance the grape´s high acidity and that is important because the wines are light with low alcohol content and the acid must be balanced by something.

Wine regions in Germany - climate and soil

The German vineyards are located around the 50th latitude, the same latitude that runs just south of Alaska and the the eastern districts of the Saale-Unstrut and Saxony lie even further north, just above the 51st latitude. The warming impact of the Gulf Stream is one of the reasons that makes it possible to cultivate wine so far north, the other is the vineyards´ advantageous location on the southern slopes of the hills. This location protects against early frosts and if the viticulture also is situated close to rivers the sun exposure and the humidity increase as well.

The cool climate also makes the grapes ripen slowly and get time to form higher concentrations and flavourings and above all high acidity, which is so characteristic of the German wines.

Along the Moselle River and its tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer, some of Germany´s finest wine regions are found. The wines from the steep terrace cultivations are lively, light and elegant and have a charm that is unprecedented among the world´s white wines.

High up on the slopes the soil is entirely dominated by slate which gives Riesling wines of the highest quality. In the valleys where the soil is heavier, mainly consisting of clay, the grapes produce simpler wines.

Other countries - Other styles

In eastern France, Alsace is located on the west bank of the upper Rhine adjacent to Germany. In Alsace Riesling is one of the most grown grapes. Although Alsace has a strong Germanic influence, the wine is produced in a French way. The climate and soil are comparable but where the Germans aim for sweetness the Alsace people aim for strength. Alsace produces some of the world´s most noted dry Rieslings. Riesling produces here wines which are dry, stringent, elegant and fruity with a sharp lemonlike acid. As young the wines taste of apples with mineral character. With age they become deeper, more complex with petroleum and honey tones.

Australian Riesling is also different. It has a refreshing lemon flavour which develop a note of toast with age and higher alcohol strength.

Other countries, including New Zealand, South Africa and the USA have some good Riesling but it is in Germany, Alsace and Australia that the wines exhibit the typical style of the grape.  

Soil and cool climate are important for the Riesling grape. Riesling reflects like no other grape variety the geological soil it has grown out of. The difference between an Australian and German Riesling is as literal as geographical. A third style can be found in Austria.

Quality classes of German wines

The German classification system is complicated. The wines are graded according to maturity and natural sweetness. Wines with the highest grade are without exception sweet. Wines with lower ratings may be dry or semi-dry.

• Tafelwein or Landwein: basic wines.

• Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA): wine from any of the thirteen wine districts.

• Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP): there are six styles, in ascending order after maturity, sweetness and price: kabinett, spätlese, auslese, beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese and eiswein.

The location of the area where the wine comes from is also related to the quality. Wines from single vineyards so called Einzellagen, are usually the best. The label carries the name of the village with the suffix -er (e.g. Bernkasteler from the village Bernkastel) followed by the name of the vineyard.

Grosslagen are larger areas without the same specific character. It is very difficult to distinguish the Grosslagen just from the labels since they have invented names which sound just like vineyards. Niersteiner Gutes Domtal is a Grosslage while Niersteiner Pettenthal is a premier vineyard.

A Bereich is even greater. If the label states Bereich Bernkastel, the wine is unlikely to be particularly exciting. The village of Bernkastel produce a first-class wine but Bereich Bernkastel extends much further and includes some clearly inferior vineyards.


The world´s most intensely aromatic wines come from Gewurztraminer. No other wine can smell and taste like Gewurztraminer. It is packed with lots of roses and lychee and spices. Gewurztraminer wines are not light and they are excellent with spicy food, especially the Chinese, Thai, Indian and Japonese cuisine where it otherwise is hard to find matching wines..

Alsace is the place for Gewurztraminer

Gewurztraminer from Alsace give the best wines, no other wine is so aromatic as Gewurztraminer from Alsace. The wine in this tasting therefore comes from Alsace.

Suggested wine

Many of the suggested wines on this web site may be bought in your country. Refer to Wine Searcher to find retailers. The number below links to Systembolaget´s information in Swedish.

🔺Gewurztraminer: Gewurztraminer Réserve Hennÿ 2176, from Alsace, France, price about 12 euros. Producer: Preiss Hennÿ.

Medium-bodied, dry, floral and aromatic wine with taste and aroma of lychee, pineapple, honey and elders.

Alcohol content 13.0 %. Sugar content: 6 g/L. Grape variety Gewurztraminer 100%.  

Tasting Notes: Full-bodied and well-structured, it is probably the best-known Alsace wine. Its intense bouquet displays rich aromas of fruit, flowers and spices (gewurz = spicy). Powerful and seductive. The Gewurztraminer displays a lovely nose of peaches, rose petals, honey and fresh lime, surprisingly juiciness on the palate, and finishes dry, and subtly spicy.

Gewurztraminer from Alsace

Alsace is the location for Gewurztraminer. Even the most ordinary wines provide a swirl of aromatic spices. Great vintages can provide superior intense white wines in styles from dry to sweet.

Alsace climate

Alsace is located in the northeast corner of France. By its location on the eastern slopes of the Vosges, Alsace is sheltered from rain, fog and cold winds coming from the Atlantic Ocean. The Black Forest  with its peaks covered by conifers protects it from the chilly northeastern winds. This means that the Alsace practically lies in rain shadow and has unusually high number of sunshine hours per year for being one of France´s northernmost wine regions.

Alsace soil

The soil in Alsace is extremely varied but for simplicity the district can be divided into three areas.

On the slopes of the Vosges the soil consists of a mixture of fertile sandy granite, stone mixed clay on coarse gravel, fertile soils with elements of lime from mussels on sedimentary volcanic rocks and leaner sandy soils on sandstone.

The hills below have rocky soil and different types of calcareous soils on limestone.

On the plain the heavier sand and gravel mixed clay, silt and loess soils dominate.

Since the Vosges is  a fault area one can find a variety of soil types in the same vineyard.

Gewurztraminer from other regions

Other countries seem to have completely lost control of this grape. Gewurztraminer from New Zealand and Italy are sensitive and well behaved while German Traminer is more floral. But it is only in Alsace that all the requirements of this grape are fulfilled.

Quality classifications of French wines

AC / AOC: Appellation Contrôlée d'Origine

VDQS: Vin de Qualité Supérieure Délimité

Vin de pays = local wines

Vin de table = table wine

The AOC is the highest level and the regulations are therefore the strictest with regard to grape variety, growing methods, production methods and place of origin. But the designation Appellation Contrôlée is not a guarantee of quality, it is only a guarantee that the wine has been prepared according to the region's regulations and possess the region´s characteristics.


Wines made from Chardonnay are among the world´s most popular white wines. That is because they are so generous and easy to drink with buttery and lemon-like flavours. Chardonnay lends itself well to oak aging and the styles are divided into those which are not aged in oak, lean and green, via those with mild oak character, which often have hints of nuts and oatmeal, to those with strong oak character where flavours like butter, tropical fruit and toffee come in.

Chardonnay is grown throughout the world of wine

Thanks to its adaptability to both soil types and climate, wine making methods and oak aging, Chardonnay is grown throughout the world. It is hard to name a country where Chardonnay is not cultivated.

Even if the grape Chardonnay can be found all over the wine world it expresses itself in many forms from very fresh and pure flavours of Chablis to fruity, alcohol-sweet, buttery and oaky wines from the New World.

A wine from the New World is chosen for this tasting. It comes from South Africa and it exhibits all the characteristics of the New World style, oak, butter and tropical fruit.

Suggested wine

Many of the suggested wines on this web site may be bought in your country. Refer to Wine Searcher to find retailers. The number below links to Systembolaget´s information in Swedish.

🔺Chardonnay: Fleur du Cap Chardonnay 2015 from Western Cape South Africa. Price about 9 euros. Producer: Bergkelder. This wine can be bought online from Bergkelder.

Full-bodied, dry, full-flavoured and rich with medium oak character. Very fruity flavour and aroma with notes of pineapple, lemon and butter.

Alcohol content: 13.5%. Sugar content: 3 g/L. Grape variety: Chardonnay 100%.

Fleur du Cap has a sweet-fruity and very honeyed aroma and the flavour is dry, fruity, buttery and pleasant with an underlying tone of freshly roasted coffee bean.

Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay

Originally the Chardonnay comes from the French wine region Burgundy, where it gives bone-dry, elegant, juicy wines with rich nutty tone.

In northern Burgundy, in Chablis, however, Chardonnay wine is different and has a sharp acid with mineral tone which may be balanced by a rich oaky tone if the producer chooses to do so.

Chardonnay from the New World

The New World style originates from Australia and California and is straightforward and grand with hints of pineapple and oak.

Variants of New Zealand are either fruity or has a nutty tone and those from Chile are more to the fruity side.

South African Chardonnay wines have varying quality but when they are at their best, they are very good.

In Europe this style can be found in southern France, Italy and Spain.

Chardonnay from Stellenbosch in South Africa

The Chardonnay grape has no special requirements on climate and soil. Fleur du Cap Chardonnay comes from the South African region Stellenbosch which is the largest wine region in South Africa.

Stellenbosch consists of a wide valley that ranges from False Bay in the south to the rolling hills leading to Paarl. It is sheltered in northeast by Simonsberg and in the southeast by Helderberg. The combination of mountain ranges which give slopes, shade and rain and the cool breezes from False Bay, which cool down the vineyards, creates microclimates with different conditions for viticulture.

Quality classifications of South African wines

There is no wine legislation in South Africa similar to that found in Europe.

The Wine of Origin (WO) seal at the top of the bottle guarantees the grape variety, vintage and from which wine region the wine originates.

Estate wine is the designation of a wine grown and produced on a registered property and is usually a sign of good quality.


Fish Soup

4 servings

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

4 potatoes, about 450 g

2 carrots, about 200 g

2 stalks celery


2 tablespoons flour

6 decilitres milk

4 decilitres whipping cream

2 tablespoons seafood stock, concentrated

600 g mixed fish fillets

150 g peeled large shrimps

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

Peel and chop the onions. Peel the potatoes and carrots and cut into pieces. Shred the celery.

Fry the onion in butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour, dilute with a little of the milk.

Add potatoes, carrots, remaining milk, cream and seafood stock. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Cut the fish into chunks. Add the fish and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Add celery, shrimps, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Leavain bread

A sourdough bread goes well with the soup. Recipe can be found under  Food Recipes.

Cheese platter

Brie or Camembert like cheeses such as Chaource from Champagne

Goat cheese e.g. Chavroux, goes well with Sauvignon Blanc

Smear-ripened cheese e.g. Reblochon from Savoy, goes well with Gewurztraminer.

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