The Periodic Table of Wine

The Periodic Table of Wine

by Sarah Rowlands


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The Periodic Table of Wine is a fun, concise, and appealingly geeky new concept to wine appreciation. The foundation of the book is a periodic table designed to give a visual overview of how different styles of the world’s wines relate to one another. Beginning with white wines in columns on the left, the table then highlights rosé in the middle, and then reds in the columns on the right. The rows, running from top to bottom, are organized by quality of flavor—fruit and spice, green and mineral, sweet, etc. If you like one “element” or wine type in the table, you can discover other examples situated around it you might also enjoy. The book also offers substantial descriptions of the 127 “elements,” or wines, each of which includes a full background and, frequently, food pairings. The book will be published with a companion volume, The Periodic Table of Cocktails.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419724084
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 04/18/2017
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 739,740
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Sarah Rowlands trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine, the renowned cooking school in London. She hosts wine tastings, works at wine fairs, and acts as an associate judge for the International Wine & Spirits Competition and as an examiner for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

Read an Excerpt

The Periodic Table of Wine

By Sarah Rowlands, David Cashion

Abrams Books

Copyright © 2015 Ebury Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4197-2408-4



Column 1

This column represents bold white wines that can have the greatest weight, texture, and flavor when you drink them. They might feel more viscous or rounder in the mouth — almost as if they were thicker. They may have more alcohol, so check the level on the label. Sometimes being fuller-bodied is due to the grape variety, or it may be because the grapes used to make the wine have been left to ripen for as long as they can; often it is attributable to the winemaker using methods that add weight to the wine, such as using oak, which adds a creamy texture or dimension.

If you like red wines, you may enjoy this style of white wine more than the lighter styles.


A famous, versatile, leading or international white grape variety that makes dry wines in many wine regions across the globe. The fatter, riper style of Chardonnay is often made in hotter regions, where the grapes mature fully. This element of the table represents the full-bodied version of Chardonnay, and these wines may have high alcohol levels. Here winemaking techniques are used that can add a buttery, vanilla, creamy edge and deep color to the final wine. Once overoaking masked the super-ripe New World fruit bombs of melon, mango, and tropical fruits. Now these Chardonnays are more restrained, better balanced and textured, with refreshing hints of spice such as ginger and cinnamon as well as toasty notes; the oak and fruit are working together in a more integrated manner. Aspirational white wines of Burgundy are subtly oaked, infusing them with gentle vanilla and cream notes. This fuller-bodied oaked style of Chardonnay is often suitable to keep, and as it ages it becomes more honeyed and nutty. (Another white grape, Pinot Blanc, can be similarly styled.) Full-bodied Chardonnays can pair well with dishes with cream sauce, and the finer examples are on restaurant wine lists around the globe. For those who prefer white to red wine, oaked Chardonnays can partner with roast dinners due to the range of accompaniments.


An esteemed French wine region, or appellation, situated in the northern part of Graves, part of the Bordeaux winemaking region in southwest France. Wines from here are dry and rich, and can be mouth-watering whites (and also reds, but see Bordeaux). Whites are usually a blend of the white grapes Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon plus sometimes a splash of Muscadelle, which adds an extra dimension as a suggestion of musky, floral perfume, and a splash of spice. When young, these pale, fresh, and lively blended whites are more subtle than a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and can have citrus, green apple, and fresh nectarine flavors. Premium blends are richer, with a fuller texture, but they are more expensive. They are made using some oak and age well, gradually turning more golden in color and developing a lusher, smoother texture accompanied by more complex, lingering exotic fruit flavors like mango and clementine, along with notes of honeyed beeswax, nuts, sweet spices, and soft leather. Be warned: they can be expensive. Alternatives for aged Pessac-Léognans include aged Chardonnays like Burgundy, and you could try riper and more alcoholic blends from the southern Rhône. Pair them with light game, hams, Asian dishes, roast pork, and creamy main courses.


A leading white grape variety with thin gold skins closely associated with Bordeaux in France, but also with Australia (where it loses the "é"), especially the Hunter Valley region. It can be used to make both interesting dry and succulent sweet wines with a variety of flavors and textures. It is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Famously, it is the majority grape in the luscious, silky-textured, apricot, honey, and marmalade sweet wines of Sauternes in Bordeaux (see page 128). Both dry and sweet wines can age. The more affordable wines, as well as those from cooler climates or where the grapes were harvested when less ripe, have fresh flavors of lemon, apple, pear, and a touch of waxiness, plus white flowers. This style pairs well with bass and other seafood, herbs, and pasta. Sauvignon Blancs can be an alternative here. Aged Semillons and those from warmer regions have richer flavors and aromas, such as mangos, peaches, figs, and ginger. They are more likely to be made using oak, and cost more. This maturation adds another layer of flavors like butter, vanilla, and a touch of smokiness; there may also be nuts and higher alcohol too. Richer versions are a good match for roast chicken, butternut squash, and mushroom risotto. Also try Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Viognier. Semillon can be added to Chardonnay to make the wine zippier, fresher, and more affordable, so look for this blend as a midweek sipper.


A weighty white grape variety found in French wines from the Rhône and farther south, and in a few other sun-kissed regions too. Often found blended with Roussanne, which adds heady perfume to the fruit, it is usually dry, with acidity levels that are not too high. It has a full-bodied, smooth texture in the mouth, with plentiful levels of exotic peach and melon fruit, honeysuckle, and alcohol. It can be almondy, quincelike, and honeyed, especially with age. Famous French wines are called names like St-Joseph, CrozesHermitage, and Hermitage, the most expensive. For more affordable Marsanne, try a white Côtes du Rhône or look for one from Languedoc-Roussillon, which might contain other grapes as well. Great with grilled food, butter sauces, and mildly spiced Asian meals. You might also like Chardonnay, Viognier, oaked white Riojas, and Pessac-Leognan.


Mâcon is a wine region in the south of Burgundy, France. It makes mostly white wines from Chardonnay grapes, with some red Gamay and Pinot Noir wines. Mâconnais white wines are straw-colored. (They can have more specific vineyard names, like Pouilly-Fuissé, which typically signifies a better-quality wine than simple Mâcon; Mâcon-Villages is halfway between.) They are dry and fresh with a full (especially in warmer vintages) to medium, rounded, smooth, honeyed texture plus white-flower flavors, citrus fruits, and perhaps a touch of crème fraîche. Premium versions are richer, with poise, and offer complexity plus depth of flavors balanced by elegance and minerality from the limestone soil. (Compare with Chablis wines from north of Burgundy, which are more acidic and linear in style.) Food-friendly pairings include finger food, dishes in creamy sauces, and risottos. They are often better with a touch of age as they soften and are more approachable, developing earthy mushroom notes. Refreshing red Mâcons are light and juicy with red-cherry and soft, red-fruit flavors; perfumed, with light tannins. Try with ham, terrines and pâtés, and savory pastries. The lively, elegant rosés are much harder to come across, though, and being similar to the reds of Mâcon, they pair well with cold cuts, couscous dishes, and quiche.


Here the white Sauvignon Blanc grape is used in New Zealand to produce an important and popular zesty, pungent, but crowd-pleasing style of lively wine. Lots of sunshine, combined with cool climate plus time on the vines, provides vibrant notes of green pepper, gooseberry, plus the archetypal "cat's pee" or asparagus notes together with ripe flavors that sometimes merge into passion fruit and juicy lime zest. These Sauvignons usually have more weight in the mouth than their subtler cousins from Sancerre (France) and elsewhere. Often from New Zealand's Marlborough region, this well-loved wine style has only been around since the 1980s. It's youthful and usually made to drink in the year of production. Its punchiness means it can match stronger fish flavors like mackerel and creamy fish pie. Occasionally, Sauvignon Blancs are made with oak, which mellows and rounds out the wine, adding a creamy flavor and texture. This style is more likely to age. You might also like to try less aromatic Semillons, Pinot Blancs, plus Viogniers and compare it with a more restrained Sancerre.

Column 2

These wines can be rich white wines similar to those in column 1; however, often the weight and texture are lower; plus, they may have aromatic characteristics created in the vineyard by leaving the grapes to hang or (less so) by using oak. Richer versions tend to cost more than lighter forms.


An aromatic white grape variety that grows best in cooler regions like Alsace in France (where it loses its "ü"), also in Germany for a slightly lighter style, while Chile makes affordable, uncomplicated versions. Prominent notes of lychee, rose petal, citrus to pineapple fruit occur in the ripest styles. Some can have ginger and other spicy hints, as well as a touch of smokiness; they tend to have a higher alcohol content and a weightier texture too. Serve these exotic wines cool to bring out the best of the medium acidity level, balanced with lychee, plus floral notes and a touch of residual sugar. German wines can be more subtle and delicate. This makes them a good introduction to this more blousy grape, as are better-value Chilean wines. Look out for vendange tardive, or "late harvest," grapes, which make dessert wines — great with fruit-based desserts. Pair with Thai and Moroccan food, especially spicy cuisine, takeout, and onion tart. If you want a white wine to match Thanksgiving dinner, an Alsace Gewürztraminer has enough weight to partner the turkey and trimmings; it's good with cilantro and coconut too: think of Thai curries. Other fruity, floral wines to try include Muscat/Moscato, Torrontes, and, for more acidity and fewer flowers, Riesling.


This is the same white grape as Pinot Grigio. Pinot Gris is the more full-bodied version, found in Alsace, Germany (as Grauburgunder and Rulander), New Zealand, and Italy. Wines are richer, with a more viscous texture compared to straightforward Pinot Grigio. The grape is versatile, so wine styles range from unoaked and light, with fresh pear flesh and a touch of green herbs, to rich and honeyed, with flavors of riper (and even baked) pears. They can also contain stone-fruit flavors such as white peaches, a touch of sweet spice like ginger, hints of flowers, and cream from oak. Pinot Gris is also versatile with food; it can accompany a wide range of dishes, including lightly spicy Asian food, pork casserole, and hard cheeses (for sweet wines). Some wines, though harder to find, are made to age, like in Washington, where fermenting in oak barrels and adding a splash of Viognier gives creamy and aromatic wines. Pinot Gris is also made in sweet styles called vendange tardive (late harvest) wines, and the rare, more concentrated sweet Sélection des Grains Noble (SGN). Both match blue cheeses and fruit desserts. This is a grape to investigate further as it is quite different from its light, neutral, affordable cousin Pinot Grigio. Also try Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Sémillon, and Riesling.


Argentina's signature perfumed white grape variety is mostly made for early, fresh drinking. These light-yellow, refreshing, exotic wines may surprise as they can smell sweet but taste dry. They can be rich with medium body and a pleasant weighty roundness in the mouth. You'll find floral aromas of jasmine and geranium coupled with fruit-salad flavors, green and herb hints like oregano plus citrus acidity (but not overly so) from lemon to more exotic lime. They can also be honeyed with pear and passion fruit. Usually not oaked, the wine shows pure fruit and flower flavors, but be warned: they can be 13 percent-plus ABV (alcohol by volume), to balance the complexity of flavors. Less expensive versions have less of the perfume, flavors, weight and complexity, but are nonetheless pleasant to sip. Serve chilled, paired with aromatic, lightly spiced Asian and Indian dishes and light fish flavors. This wine slips down easily as an aperitif or patio wine. Try also Gewürztraminer, peachier Viognier, grapier Muscat, and versatile Pinot Gris.


A white grape whose traditional home is on the steep vineyard terraces of the northern Rhône. It is also found in rich, higher-alcohol, more affordable blends in the southern Rhône and other warmer regions in the world. It makes medium- to fuller-bodied, racy, floral, slightly exotic wines with hints of chamomile and herbs and a zesty grapefruit note. It is a versatile wine, so expect to find some versions with more bracing acidity and mineral hints, and others that are much richer and more voluptuous, with nutty notes. It is often blended with Marsanne for a more complete style. Strength tends to be 13 percent-plus ABV (alcohol by volume) to match its flavors. It is food-friendly so pairs with an assortment of dishes, including exotic cuisine, seafood such as lobster and shrimp, cheeses, nuts, and spices. Other blends with Chardonnay and Viognier can yield perfumed, richly textured wines. If you enjoy this, also try Pinot Gris, Viognier, and the less floral Pinot Blanc.


A white wine grape used mainly for elegant, pale-yellow, slightly creamy dry wines. It can be hard to come by, as only small amounts are made in Alsace in northeast France, Italy, Germany, plus Oregon. Usually soft and rounded with peach hints, plus a range of apple flavors (green to red). Typically made without oak, which allows mineral notes to come through. Oaked versions are bolder and tend to have hints of nuts (almonds) and more cream or yeasty notes. A good wine for appetizers, simple main-course dishes like omelets, and buffets. (Sometimes it is made into sparkling and sweet wines.) It is even harder to find the northwest Italian version, called Pinot Bianco. This is a lighter, zingier wine so accompanies lemony dishes like chicken, and is a good match for fennel. You could also try easier-to-find Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Pinot Blanc is not quite so acidic as some wines, hence the softness. This variety can be overlooked but is one to try if you prefer wines that are not too sharp.

Column 3

Here the white wines are moving toward medium- to lighter-bodied, forming a large group within white wines. Flavors are less bold.


The name for a family of grapes found in the world's warmer, sun-blessed regions. Known as Moscato and Zibibbo (a touch lighter) in Italy, and Moscatel in Spain, Muscat is an ancient grape variety; there are many strains of the grape and many styles of wines are made from them, but all have grapiness and exotic floral notes at heart. Muscat wines in all their styles tend to be orange blossom-scented. The grape makes elegant dry white wines, some with a steelier style and touches of herbs, others richer with more texture and roundness in the mouth, but always with the perfumed flowers and fresh fruit-salad tones. Serve chilled as aperitifs, or with spicy dishes, chicken, and cheese. Try Argentinian Torrontes, along with Gewurztraminer wines. See also Moscato and the low-alcohol (5-7.5 percent ABV) Asti in the sparkling wine section. Sweeter, more viscous dessert wines such as Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise and Muscat de Lunel — both from France — are tinged with gold. They pair well with fruit salads and warmed peaches. Though fortified, around 15 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), their flavors are still delicate and floral. They are youthful and should be drunk young and chilled. Richer, darker, and more honeyed, with marmalade splashes, Klein Constantia's Vin de Constance, from South Africa, suits fruit cakes and cooked fruits. Australian Rutherglen Muscats, also known as "stickies," are darker again, with more dried than fresh fruit and spices. Look out for other Muscat sweeties that are similarly styled but more affordable wines made in California and Chile.


A peachy white grape variety whose traditional home is in France's northern Rhône. It is typically bottled on its own, but is also used in blends in some places because of the character it can bring to other, more subtle grape varieties. It is lush, full-bodied, and intensely perfumed, with notes of honeysuckle and apricot. You can find wines made farther south in France that include Viognier as part of a blend; it is also found in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, California, and Chile. Not too acidic, it can be softer-styled. Viogniers from Australia can have a touch more texture and zestlemon and lime hints-and some have sweet spice and pears. Alcohol can be around 14 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) to balance the exotic flavors. They are best served chilled. Premium versions, meant to be drunk aged, are generous, rich, and complex, with exotic tropical and citrus fruits. They can include creamy notes from the dead yeast cells (known as the "lees") that remain in a wine after fermentation is complete. The more common youthful wines match Asian dishes or delicate curries; others pair well with smoked salmon and lemon chicken. A much more floral wine swap is Gewürztraminer or Torrontés. You might also like Marsanne and Roussanne wines.


Excerpted from The Periodic Table of Wine by Sarah Rowlands, David Cashion. Copyright © 2015 Ebury Press. Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Periodic Table of Wine, viii,
Introduction, 1,
How the table works, 2,
"Rare earth" elements, 6,
How to use this book, 8,
Tasting notes, 11,
White, 15,
Rosé, 57,
Red, 65,
Sparkling, 117,
Sweet, 125,
Fortified, 131,
Further reading, 139,
Index, 143,
Acknowledgments, 149,

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