White wine can be found in a broad range of flavors from citrus all the way through to dried fruit. You can see, in the images that follow, how the flavors move from tart fruits down the line to sweet robust fruits. All of this depends on when the grapes are harvested and what climate they come from. Keep that in mind as we delve into the flavor ranges for these three white noble grapes.
1) Sauvignon Blanc
This white wine can range from green fruit (like green apple) to tropical fruit flavors (like passion fruit). It also has signature herbaceous notes (like grass and asparagus). Sauvignon Blanc grapes thrive in cool to moderate climates.
The flavors of Chardonnay are linked to the climate in which the grapes are grown. This grape can thrive in cool, moderate, and warm climates which means you can find a wide range of flavors in Chardonnay.
Cool climate Chardonnay typically has green fruit flavors (like apple and pear) and citrus fruit flavors (like lemon and lime).
Moderate climate Chardonnay typically has stone fruit flavors (like peach) and sometimes tropical fruit (like melon).
Warm climate Chardonnay has stone fruit flavors (like peach) and tropical fruit flavors (like pineapple and banana).
As you can see the cool climate Chardonnay starts on the citrus/green end of the spectrum and warm climate moves all the way to the tropical end of the spectrum. Next time you pick up a Chardonnay look at the region the grapes come from and that will give you an idea of the flavors to expect in the wine.
Flavors in Riesling are determined by the ripeness of the grape at harvest. These wines can run the full range of fruit flavors from citrus to dried fruit. The German labeling identifies when the grapes were harvested which tells you which flavors to expect.
Kabinett means early harvest. You can expect green fruit (apple) and citrus fruit (lime) flavors.
Spatlese means late harvest. You can expect ripe citrus fruit (like lemon and lime) and stone fruit flavors (like peach).
Auslese means select harvest. Extra-ripe grapes are selected for use in these wines. You can expect stone fruit flavors (like apricot), tropical fruit flavors (like mango) and dried fruit flavors. You can also expect most of these wines to have some sweetness. Although it can be made dry (indicated with “Trocken” on the label).
How to Use This Information
Focus on one wine at a time. Pick out each style and taste it for yourself. See if you can identify these typical flavors when you taste the wine. All of this will help you know what flavors to expect when you select a bottle.
For example, the next time you choose a Chardonnay, you may decide on one from Oregon because it will be on the citrus end of the spectrum or you could go for one from Napa Valley which would be on the tropical end of the spectrum.
Good luck and happy learning! Cheers!