The basic white wine grape varietals are Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Gris (also known as or the same as Pinot Grigio). Chardonnay is found in most white Burgundy wines, and elsewhere you will see grape varietals listed on the label. As I've written in other blogs, you will see with most new world (and some old world wines)that they have the grape varietals listed on the label. If not, in time you will become familiar with what regions grow what grape varietals.
Here's the basics on these grapes:
Chardonnay: Used in white wines as well as champagnes/sparkling wines, chardonnay shows quite a few wonderful flavours. Creaminess above all, with other sweet and clean flavours behind it. Creaminess is often talked about in regard to chardonnay in champagnes/sparkling wines too!
Riesling: Very common in Germany, it's also grown well in the U.S. and Australia, especially some cool-climate regions like the Southern Wine Region (which you can see here.). It can be very supple and zesty in warmer climates and fruity in others.
Sauvignon Blanc: A grape grown in many old and new world areas, Sauvignon Blanc is often like fresh cut grass, or just grassy-smelling (and tasting) and maybe even green chillies.
Chenin Blanc: This is a versatile grape, grown in a variety of weather conditions and also capable of being adapted to different flavour combinations. It is sometimes blended with Chardonnay but also on its own, it can display high acidity.
Pinot Gris/Grigio: These styles of wines come from the same mother grape, however they're usually different wines. You will generally get zest (skin or rind of fruit) and minerality like rockiness or pebbles. You will get rich or tropical fruit flavours, depending on style.
Try to get great examples of all of these wines if you're just starting out (like me). Better regions (terroirs) and better makers will help bring out subtle flavours and balance out obvious flavours. Australia's Penfolds wine house makes a rather iconic Australian style chardonnay known as Yattarna, which you can read more about at their website.
Good drinking to you!
Wine Folly 'Wine Buying Cheatsheet'
Image source: http://beingasommelier.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/bigstockphoto_ripe_chardonnay_428655.jpg