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White Wine Grapes vs. Red Wine Grapes

As I have mentioned in previous columns, this summer has been the best – hot temperatures, plenty of sun, lots of parties, and of course, lots of wine! As harvest season is right around the corner, I thought I would take the next couple of weeks to give you a quick discussion on white wine grapes versus red wine grapes. So grab a glass of your favorite white wine and continue to read…

There are too many varietals of grapes to name and every year researchers in New York and California continue to experiment with new grapes. Some of the most popular white wine grapes are Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Niagara and Vidal Blanc. Each year the grapes (and eventually the wine) can range in sweetness, color and acidity based on the weather during the growing season. Here are some of the general characteristics of some white wine grapes so you have a better understanding the next time you are at a wine tasting.

Chardonnay – usually known for a buttery or vanilla taste, Chardonnays range from a soft flavor to a very crisp flavor. When Chardonnay grapes are fermented in oak, the result is a big, full bouquet (or aroma) of vanilla, butter and a smooth finish. Chardonnays that are fermented in stainless steel have a tendency to be crisper with pear or apple bouquet.

Gewürztraminer – just trying to say the name of this wine (sounds like guh-VOORTS-truh-MEE-ner) makes it a fun summertime wine. Gewurtz (a shorter name of this grape) is usually on the drier side which creates a peppery or spicier finish. Gewurtz is an excellent wine to have with a jalapeño cheese or a spicy dish like Thai or curry.

Riesling – depending on the style of Riesling (German, Italian, French or a Late Harvest) this wine can be very dry or very sweet. A drier Riesling tends to be filled with green apple aromas but as the wine tends to sweeten, you may get more of a citrus to a melon-like flavor in your wines. Riesling grapes are hearty enough where they can stay on the vine until late fall (called a Late Harvest Riesling) which greatly increases the sweetness of a wine making it a great dessert wine.

Vidal Blanc – similar to a Pinot Blanc, Vidal tend to be crisp, fruity and sweet. Most wineries use Vidal grapes as an excellent source for  blending with other wines that tend to be too dry. The grape is very versatile as well, which makes for a great ice wine.

Niagara – if you like the taste of fresh grapes in your wine, Niagara is the perfect wine for you. Niagara grapes are very sweet and can trick you into thinking you are drinking white grape juice instead of wine. For non-wine drinkers this varietal is a great introduction to the wine family. Or on hot summer days, this is a great wine to mix with a little bit of Sprite – making it a great wine spritzer.

When you are out visiting other wineries, be sure to try a variety of wines – you will be surprised at the different styles of wine you taste based on the same grape.


Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery in Garrettsville. For more information on other wine topics, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com


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Amanda Conkol and her husband Chris are the owners of Candlelight Winery in Garrettsville, Ohio. Amanda’s passion for wine is evident in her weekly column “Notes From The Vineyard”, but that’s not all Amanda is passionate about. She maintains a full schedule raising twin daughters, working a day job consulting as an IT Project Manager and is the Girl Troop Leader for her daughters’ troop. When time allows Amanda loves to travel (especially to Disney World) and go for runs throughout Nelson Township.

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