Grape Tips Thursday – November 12, 2015: What Are The Basic White Wine Aromas And Flavors?

This Week In Wine 101: What Does White Wine Smell Like?

For those of us who are new to the world of white wine, you can expect to be surprised by flavors, allured by aromas, delighted by certain tastes, intrigued by the different complexities, disarmed by preconceived notions, satisfied and more – for wine is filled with all these sentiments. However, that’s not to say you won’t encounter several regrets during your journey to discovering new wines. What’s a journey without a few bumps in the road to tell later?

But let’s focus more on the varietals with signature features in both their aromas and flavors. As you explore and discover both national and international wines, the differences you’ll encounter between each wine region and their interpretation of a particular varietal may veer you in another direction – or turn you on to a new favorite. Hopefully after reading this article, you’ll be inspired to try these varietals in their many forms and see what aromas and flavors you detect. To start, we’ve listed some of the more prominent aromas and flavors you’ll likely notice with the most recognizable and popular white wines. Who knows what other qualities you may spot.


White Wine Grape Varietals


As the most popular and renowned white wine grape in the world, Chardonnay is grown in nearly every wine region from South Africa to California and is a huge commodity in the wine industry. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Melon, apple, peach, lemon, grapefruit, orange. When oaked, you may even notice subtle hints of spice, vanilla, or smoke intermingled in the wine.

Flavors: Lemon, orange, grapefruit, melon, pear, peach, pineapple, and apple.

Wine regions that produce some of the very best Chardonnays are: California, France, Oregon, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Washington and South Africa. They all make terrific Chardonnays that have slightly different flavors and characteristics all their own.


Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc grapes require a diligent and stern winemaker who’s able to obtain the perfect balance between its green-like nature and fruity side. Many either love it or loathe it. Whether a matter of preference or taste, there are some appealing qualities and features to this varietal. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Grass, citrusy scents of lemon or grapefruit, melon, or mineral characteristics.

Flavors: Lemon, peach, lime, passion fruit, grapefruit, melon, herbs, grass, or mineral qualities.

Wine Regions: California, Chile, France, New Zealand, South Africa and Washington are all known for their Sauvignon Blanc.


Pinot Gris/Grigio 

Whether you say Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio it makes no difference because they are the same grape. This varietal is a nice, easy to drink wine, either alone or with a meal. Here are some aromas, flavors and textures you may experience when sampling this wine.

Aromas: Fruit, citrus, pear, and lemon.

Flavors: Pear, apple, citrus (lemon, orange, etc.), or mineral qualities.

Wine Regions: Italy, California, France and Oregon all produce very nice Pinot Gris/Grigio.



The word “Gewurztraminer” translates to “spicy grape.” The grape doesn’t have any spicy characteristics but the methods for producing this lovely grape into a wine with a dynamite duo of exotic fruits and spices are what make it worth a try. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Often have a beautiful floral bouquet mixed with powerful exotic fruits, citrus, and spice.

Flavors: Mixture of exotic fruits, peach, lychee, citrus with undertones of spice.

Wine Regions: California, France and Washington are known for producing some very impressive Gewurztraminer wines.



The ability to shift from an aperitif to a wine paired with a meal, or enjoyed with a dessert, is what makes Riesling wines such a popular choice. Rieslings complement an array of cuisines from Asian fusion to Middle Eastern; it can be a terrific mate alone or paired. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Elegant floral bouquet, citrus, apricot, or mineral qualities.

Flavors: Apricot, pineapple, citrus, honey or mineral notes.

Wine Regions: Try Rieslings from these countries or states, as they are renowned for the varietal: Germany, France, Austria, California, New York and Washington.



This grape is delicious and rich with a fruity sensation, a complex nature and undertones of nuttiness and spice. Here are some of the aromas, flavors and textures you may experience.

Aromas: Appealing floral bouquets, with apple, peach and apricot aromas.

Flavors: Lush with tree fruit sweetness with a nutty side.

Wine Regions: France, Australia, California, Oregon and Washington produce very nice Viognier. However, more recently, Virginia has captured the attention, nationally and internationally, of many wine enthusiasts who rave about the Viognier coming from this beautiful state.

As you can see there are many different aromas and flavors that have been imprinted into each varietal and for some they have become signature traits of a particular wine region. As you discover and explore each varietal you may be surprised by what your palate detects, senses or smells. Trust those instincts and share what aromas and flavors you’ve noticed, while enjoying one of the above varietals. Cheers!

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