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The ‘Whats’ of Whites

Further to Robert Parker’s fantastic article introducing ‘The Three Ws of Wine‘, here Mr. Parker goes into a little greater detail exploring the ‘Whats’ of various white wines. Learn more at


What: Chardonnay
Color: Light gold to greenish light gold
Body: Light to full
Character: Dry, creamy, oaky, rich
Flavors: Diverse, including lemons, pears, peaches, tropical fruits, oranges, pineapples, honeysuckle
Where it’s Best: Burgundy, California, Australia, Champagne (sparkling Blanc de Blancs)
With: Shellfish (especially lobster, crab, and scallops), shark’s fin soup, miso marinated cod

Chenin Blanc

What: Chenin Blanc
Color: Light to greenish straw; sometimes gold
Body: Light
Character: Frequently possesses residual sugar
Flavours: Oranges, apple blossoms, spring flower garden
Where it’s best: Loire Valley (Savennières, Vouvray)
With: Indian and Malaysian cuisine, poultry in white sauces, cheeses, and fruit-based desserts (if it is sweet Chenin Blanc)


What: Gewurztraminer
Color: Light gold to deep gold
Body: Medium-bodied
Character: Exuberant to flamboyant, intense aromatics, relatively heavy and oily flavors. Dry to sweet; usually a love-it or hate-it wine.
Flavours: Potent aromatics, very fragrant, roses, lychee nuts, peaches, apricots
Where it’s best: Alsace, Northern Italy
With: Asian cuisines both spicy and not spicy, such as Cantonese, Sichuan, Korean BBQ, kimchi, dim sum

Grüner Veltliner

What: Grüner Veltliner
Color: Light greenish/gold
Body: Medium to full
Character: Citrusy, with surprising strength and medium to full body
Flavours: Quince, white currants, white flowers, honeysuckle, and nectarines
Where it’s best: Austria
With: Any fish or shellfish dish, lighter dishes of grilled veal and chicken, and an assortment of Asian cuisines, especially Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, and the spicier Chinese cuisines such as Sichuan and Hunan

Pinot Gris

What: Pinot Gris (Grigio)
Color: Light straw to deep gold
Body: Light
Character: Ranges from fruity and medium weight to rich, extravagant and long-lived. Usually offers considerable flexibility with food.
Flavours: Apples, orange skins, honey
Where it’s best: Alsace, Northern Italy
With: Curried dishes, lighter fish and poultry dishes, smoked salmon


What: Riesling
Color: Light, pale straw to greenish straw
Body: Light
Character: Fresh, delicate; usually possesses residual sugar and high acidity
Flavours: Citrus, grapefruit, green apples
Where it’s best: Germany, Australia (Clare Valley), Austria, Alsace
With: Root vegetables, raw vegetables, delicate fish, shellfish, oysters, shrimp, most Asian cuisines, especially fish and shellfish work well, and Riesling can stand up to the fiery cuisine of Thailand

Sauvignon Blanc

What: Sauvignon Blanc
Color: Light straw even very pale and almost watery in appearance
Body: Light to medium
Character: Flexible with an assortment of foods; always zesty and vibrant
Flavours: Pungent green beans, freshly mowed grass, grapefruit, melons, figs
Where it’s best: Loire Valley (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé), California, New Zealand
With: Sushi, oysters, vegetarian dishes, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisine, fatty cheeses

White Rhône Varietals

What: White Rhône Varietals (Marsanne, Roussanne, & Viognier)
Color: Medium gold to very gold
Body: Medium to full-bodied
Character: Oily/viscous
Flavours: Nutty, floral (rose petals), marmalade, ripe jam
Where it’s best: Rhône Valley, California (Central Coast), Southern Australia
With: Intensely flavored fish and poultry dishes, confit of duck, smoked seafood, Mediterranean vegetable dishes, shark’s fin soup, Asian hot pot, dim sum

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