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Wine Wise:
What is This Wine?

American Wine Traditions

Wine Types

Dry White Wines

Red Dry Wines

Sweet Wines

Sparkling Wines

Choosing Wines

Storing Your Wine

Bottling Your Bulk Wine

Stocking Your Cellar

The Celler Treatment Of Wines

More Articles About Wine

Wine Wise - Dry White Wines

The most popular Dry white wines originated in France and Germany. The French types are Sauterne and Chablis. The German types are Riesling (often called Hock or Rhine) and Moselle. All are characterized by their lightness, their delicacy of flavor and bouquet, and by their light straw color or amber clarity.

True types of these white wines are produced in the United States in the coast counties of California surrounding the San Francisco Bay. There the cool winds and the summer fogs which caress the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara and San Benito cause the grapes to ripen at a comparatively high acid and low sugar content.

In the eastern states, still white wines of the Dry white types are made from several varieties of grapes developed in the Finger Lakes District of New York State, notably on Lakes Keuka, Canandaigua and Seneca. Ohio and New jersey are also noted for some lovely white wines. Being made from American types of grapes, these wines carry a distinctive fragrance which distinguishes them from the light white wines produced in California or imported from Europe. In the Virginias and Carolinas a light white wine, having a powerful aroma suggestive of the locust flower, is made from the luscious native wild Scuppernong grape.

Classic Dry White Wine

The most popular light Dry white wine types are these:


Sauterne is a French type of wine considered by many wine drinkers to be the finest dry white wine produced anywhere in the world. The original Sauterne district, which lies to the south of the Bordeaux region, is limited to the Communes of Sauterne, Preignac, Bommes, Barasc and Fargues. The queen of Sauterne wines is Chateau Yquem. Since the vineyard from which this famous liquorous wine is made covers only two hundred acres, the output each year is very all. With the whole world bidding for it, very little of this superb wine ever reaches America.

The sweetness of Haut Sauterne is due to the region's peculiar method of vinification. The grapes are left on the vines after ripeness until the sun has begun to wrinkle them into raisins. Then the harvesters clip from the bunches only the most sugary fruits for the first pressing; and there may be five or six gleanings before the harvest is over, the earliest ones producing the wines of the highest quality.

Some Sauternes are quite sweet, others are but slightly sweet, while still another type is made completely dry. Sweet Sauterne is one of the most popular table wines and is especially liked by women. It has a full, rich syrupy flavor and in color is light amber.

Excellent Sauternes are produced in California, notably in the Livermore Valley, from a blend of white wines made from Semillon and Colombar grapes with some proportion of Sauvignon Blanc and a lesser amount of Muscadelle de Bordelaise grapes. In alcoholic content these wines vary from twelve to fourteen per cent. Sauterne is always served cold.


Chablis is a dry white wine of a delicate straw color. If you look at the map of France and study the Chablis district in the Burgundy region not far from Dijon, you will find that it is small. Very little of this wine is made each year; hence it is very expensive and only a limited quantity reaches this country.

California Chablis is made primarily with Golden Chasselas and Burger grapes grown in the coast counties, principally Napa and Sonoma counties. They are fermented off the skin. Green Hungarian grapes were used in the old days in conjunction with Chasselas. Chablis is served cold.


Most of the Dry white wines of Germany are called Hock wines. They are produced in three districts known as the Rheingau, Rheinhessen and Rheinpfalz. The Riesling is the prevailing grape. In California some call the white wines made from this, and other German varieties, Hock, but the prevailing labels bear the name Riesling because three Riesling varieties are the basis of the wines.

The delicate dry white German wines are invariably referred to as Rhine wine. They are made by fermenting the juices of the Johannisberger, Franken or Grey type of grapes without the presence of skins or meat of the grape. Perfect Riesling wine is of a slightly greenish amber cast of color with a smooth acid tartness and typical aroma of the best German white wines.

California Rieslings are beautiful wines but stronger and more vital than the delicate wines of the Rhine. The Riesling vines grown in California produce a grape of higher sugar content than that of the Rhineland. Consequently it is necessary to blend California Riesling types with a neutral grape which modifies the sugar content and produces a more delicate acid quality.

Riesling should be served cold.


The most delicate of the German dry white wine is the Moselle, produced in the country along the river of that name, which extends from Coblenz to Treves. Berncastler Doctor is perhaps the most famous brand. Moselle wines are pale, flower-scented wines. Because of their fresh acid and low alcoholic content, they are easily digested and are particularly suited to people along in years.

The Riesling, sometimes blended with the Traminer, is the principal grape used in California Moselle wine, made mainly in the coast regions. The Moselle is a light wine that the thirsty man can drink of freely without fear of consequences. It, too, is served cold.


Among the American light white wines there are several distinct types, the outstanding ones being those of New York, Ohio and the Carolinas.

In the Finger Lakes District of New York as many as nine different varieties of white grapes are blended to make the light-colored wines which resemble in some ways Rhine and Moselle wines, although the New York wines are stronger, more full-bodied and of a more fruity taste. The grapes are grown in the rocky, shale soils, corresponding in certain respects to the chalky soils of the Champagne area in France. Much of the white wine of the Finger Lakes region is made into Sparkling wine. From the Iona grape, grown in the district, is made a heavier wine of deeper amber color, corresponding to Haut Sauterne, except for its fruity fragrance.

In Ohio, around Sandusky and on the islands of Lake Erie, vineyardists have specialized on the Catawba grape, originally developed along the Ohio River. The resulting wines are light and clear and of good quality. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in a poem on "Catawba Wine," thus sang its praises:

Very good in its way Is the Verzenay, Or the Sillery soft and creamy; But Catawba wine Has a taste more divine, More delicate, delirious, and dreamy.

There grows no vine
By the haunted Rhine,
By Danube or Guadalquivir,
Nor on island or cape,
That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River.

In the Carolinas, the great grape is the luscious Scuppernong, whose pungent fragrance fills the woods. The Scuppernong makes an equally fragrant, amber-colored, slightly sweet wine which resembles no European type, and has been widely marketed under the brand name of Virginia Dare.

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