Summer Whites – Part 2
To further our search for great white wines, we must dig even deeper into many of the fine wine producing countries from around the globe, where many small towns produce wine from indigenous grapes found nowhere else in the world. In France, look to the Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions for their crispy sensational white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion grapes. Most can be had at value prices, yet many classified growth producers bottle highly collectible sought after exceptional wines that will empty your pocketbook faster than a cheap televangelist.
Also look to the Rhone Valley, the Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence and the Alsace region for any number of hard to find, one of a kind exquisite gems. Our list would not be complete if we did not include the King of all grapes in the Burgundy region, Chardonnay. There are plenty of examples of this grape that refresh the body and enhance the soul. Think clean pure fruit, with mineral and stone licking cleanliness, the way chardonnay was meant to be. Not to be confused with the numerous over oaked and over buttered versions produced stateside, (or as I like to say, putting a stick of Land-o-Lakes and a 2 by 4 in your mouth) styles that weigh too heavy on the palate.
You can’t think of Italy and all its wine growing regions without thinking great white wine. They grow in every region from the boot slip to the boot tip in styles that are sure to please. Look for Gavi di Gavi, light and sensuous, with flavors that steal your heart. Another popular specialized wine, only grown and bottled from the town of San Gimignano, known as Vernaccia. Collectors of Italian white wines are passionate about Trebbiano, Arneis, Verdicchio, Vermentino, Picolit, Malvasia, Orvietto, Frascati, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, including specialty wines produced in Sicily and Sardinia. Each wine is unique to their own region and highly prized for their sensational flavors they provide.
Treasures abound for white wine lovers in Spain, yet few of these examples ever see their way across the Atlantic for our palates to appreciate. Rioja whites, made from the Viura grape, are soft appealing wines with light fruity flavors and a crisp acidity that pair exceptionally well with food. The new darling from northern Spain, Godello is making a big splash once again after nearly thought extinct only 50 years ago. For a bright and lively taste sensation, think Cava, the Spanish version of champagne. It is one of the country’s most versatile white wines, a value priced sparkling that is sure to please on a hot Summer’s night.
Though Riesling remains the dominate grape varietal to come out of Germany, besides Gewurztraminer that we have already mentioned, be sure to seek out a few other white wines that you may have yet to experience. Muller-Thurgau and Sylvaner may be hard to find but truly worth the effort. Rulander, considered the German version of Pinot Gris and Weissburgunder, which is their version of Pinot Blanc, are a taste treat you don’t have to be German to appreciate. Their complexity and unique make up of flavors are note worthy and exhibit refined quality.
Greece, the birthplace of wine, sits low on the totem pole in the eyes of world class wine lovers, but I beg to differ. Though their wines are not magazine popular and critic friendly, there are many true treasures to be scooped up at bargain prices. The crisp dry wines from the isle of Santorini, made from the Assyrtiko grape, make my taste buds tingle with giddiness. When I think of pairing it with certain fish on the grill, a better match cannot be had. The Muscat based wines, along with the citrus based dry Sauvignon Blanc’s, that come from many of the surrounding islands are quite appealing. Inexpensive and flavorful, they add an extra punch to the variety of foods enhanced by their presence. Most of all, I get lots of grief for requesting and leading the bandwagon for Retsina, made from the Savatiano grape, whenever I hunker down for a wonderful Greek meal. Whether it’s the pine resin flavor that offends the masses or its super dry crispiness, I will continue to sing its praises for the freshness and one of a kind flavor it brings to the table.
South of the equator, it is not hard to find something easy to please. An Aussie Chardonnay or Riesling are always a reliable quaff and value hunters dream. From New Zealand, a super citrus Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc or an elegant dry Riesling are always high on my list. When sipped on a warm evening next to the barbecue, it’s a treat knowing that another glass is waiting when the grilling is complete.
Let us not forget about our neighbor to the Great White North, Canada. Fabulous fines are being produced in provinces from East to West. Leading the way is the Niagra region in Ontario, where you will find world class Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier, crisp Rose’s and numerous sparkling wines. Though few of these gems make it across the border, it is well worth your effort to track down any one’s you are able to see on a store shelf.
Michiganders look no further than between their own borders when it comes to satisfy their white wine fix. Locally grown Riesling, which range from dry to late harvest sweet, remain the number one white wine request in stores and restaurants. Winemakers are also experimenting with grape varietals such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer. If Champagne style is on your radar, be sure to discover any number of the world class sparklings produced by Larry Mawby.
With the hundreds and even thousands of varieties of white grape based wines made around the world, there isn’t enough time or availability of these classics to experience each and every one of them. Wine lovers are passionate about their favorites, who like myself, sniff and search like a bloodhound trying to find the latest and greatest. With the days of Summer winding down, before we know it, Winter snow will descend upon us. Now is the time to stand up and treat yourself to something new and exciting. No need to scour the wine world with a magnifying glass like a bobby from Scotland Yard. With Winetime suggestions, travel the white wine world until you unearth that tasty treasure that will soothe, satisfy, impress and refresh, as we pray that Summer never ends.
Here is a short list of wines, along with a brief description, we have discussed over the last few chapters to use as a guide in helping you find that white wine pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We appreciate all the wonderful comments we have received recently about these wines. Be sure to let us know what new treats you were able to discover and enjoy. Cheers!
GAVI: Dry, crisp, and citrus flavors, this elegant Italian beauty from the Piedmont region is a great food partner.
GODELLO: Thought nearly extinct by the 1970’s, winemakers have revitalized and replanted this Spanish gem, liked by many as Chardonnay. The finest remind me of a top end White Bordeaux, very smooth and elegant with apple, pear and crisp clean fruit.
VINHO VERDE: Translated green wine, it is not green at all, just a clean refreshing white from Portugal.
RETSINA: From Greece, the birthplace of wine, this pungent, pine resin flavored, dry wine, is very food friendly.
VERNACCIA: Noted wine of San Gimignano, dry, refreshing, with apple, melon, and nutty flavors.
SANCERRE: The French version of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, crisp, acidic, and zesty.
PINOT BLANC: From the Alsace region of France, dry to medium-dry, light, mellow, fruity, baked apple flavors.
VIOGNIER: Exotic, sensual, spicy, floral, this is a tasty classic. Best examples from California and France.
MARSANNE: Medium body, rich and earthy. Samples of this Rhone style wine can be found produced in France, California, and Australia.
PROSECCO: Think Italian Champagne. This bubbly is light and refreshing. Add peach nectar to make a Bellini.
GEWURZTRAMINER: It may be hard to pronounce but fabulous to drink. Dry to semi-sweet, light and spicy.
MULLER THURGAU: Germany’s most unique prolific grape varietal. Soft, fragrant, off-dry, a Riesling alternative.
MERITAGE WHITE: A marriage of a few or numerous white varietals, many dry to semi-sweet versions abound, just pick your passion. A California specialty.