There are literally hundreds of grape varieties in the world. Most types of white wine producing grape are varieties of the species Vitis vinifera, but the species Vitis labrusca (the fox grape), native to the Eastern United States, also has a couple of subspecies, the Noah and Niagara fox grapes, that can be used in the production of white wine.
There is not enough space in this article to list all the types of white wine producing grapes, so this article will concentrate on the six most common varieties, which between them account for the vast majority of white wine types.
Types of White Wine Grape from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux
The Loire Valley in France has been home to wine production since Roman times. Two of the “big six” types of white wine grape are grown there, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc is the signature white grape of the Loire Valley, and has also been successfully cultivated in New Zealand. It is also important in Bordeaux, where it is blended with Semillon grapes (another “big six” variety) to produce the dessert wine Sauternes.
Chenin Blanc is another type of white wine grape grown in the Loire Valley. It has also been exported to South Africa, where it is known as Steen. It is most commonly used in the production of dessert wines, though there are some dry white wines as well.
Types of White Wine Grape from Elsewhere in France
Of the three remaining “big six” white grape varieties, two are also French. Chardonnay is the world’s most popular white grape variety, spreading out from its native Burgundy to be planted across the globe, due to its hardiness and adaptability to a number of different climates. In recent years, Chardonnay’s popularity has led to something of a backlash among wine lovers, due to the number of inferior wines being produced under the name.
Voigner is a more obscure grape variety, but the backlash against Chardonnay has led to its being hailed as a worthy replacement. It originates in the northern Rhone Valley, but is used in a number of successful New World wines.
Types of White Wine Grape from Germany
Alone among the “big six”, Riesling is not French, but a German white wine grape. Like Chardonnay, its name has been tarnished by association with cheap, sugary varieties of wine, but there are superior wines bearing its name too, particularly New World wines.
Gewurztraminer is not among the big six, but is another important type of white wine producing grape grown in the historically German-speaking Alsace region of France. It is an aromatic variety of grape which makes it a good complement for Asian cuisine.