Summer is always the peak of interest for white wine enthusiasts – they switch to white, and on occasion will consider a rose.
Beyond the familiar Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, lie a world of delectable, lesser known, but equally fine, if not more flavourful and affordable white wine. They are meant for leisurely summer sipping.
You can start with a Marsanne from Chateau Tahbilk, Australia. It displays lemon peel, honey suckle and peach aromas, supported by a sturdy body. Marsanne originates in southern Rhone, but yields fine wines in central Australia where Chateau Tahbilk is located.
Semillon is another French grape variety from Bordeaux, which in its region of origin has always been blended with Sauvignon Blanc and/or Muscadelle, but Australians and South Africans make varietal Semillon with amazing flavours. Semillon grows well in Australia’s warm regions and wine makers there has been able to figure out how to extract the exotic flavours of this fine grape.
Barossa Valley’s Semillon from Peter Lehmann has a full body, citrus tang, and complexity to match Cantonese chicken dishes and roast loin of pork stuffed with apples, apricots or prunes.
Chenin Blanc, a native of the Loire Valley has been planted all over the world and produces some delighful wines. In South Africa, where it is called Steen, where it can yield fine, everyday drinking wines of distinction, but also sweet wines that can be cellared for years, developing a honeyed nose and incredibly subtle, floral aromas few grape varieties can. Slightly off dry, South African Chenin Blanc may be just the right wine for you and your friends during a fish BBQ. Hot summer days literally call for a suitably cold glass of Chenin Blanc. South Africa’s KWV, one of the largest wineries of the world exports a fine Chenin Blanc to Ontario.
A few Okanagan Valley wineries in British Columbia also produce respectable Chenin Blancs you might want to try.
The most aromatic of all white grapes happens to be Gewurztraminer, which is said to have originated in the town of Tramin in what was then South Tyrol, today called Alto Adige in northern Italy. It was planted in Austria, Germany and ultimately in Alsace (France), where a particularly fine clone was identified and propagated. Alsatian Gewurztraminer is considered to be the benchmark of this genre; wine makers everywhere try to emulate but never really succeed.
Pierre Spar, Hugel, Zind-Humbrecht, L. Beyer and Trimbach all produce fine Gewurztraminers. This grape exudes aromas of lyches and nectarines, supported by a medium – to full body and intense flavour. Generally Gewurztraminer goes well with choucroute (sauerkraut) and a variety of sausages. Seared foie gras and Gewurztraminer is a match made in heaven, but make sure the wine is from Alsace and a reputable winery.
Pinot Grigio a.k.a Pinot Gris or Grauer Burgunder is an under rated grape of subtle pear and quince aromas and a delicate body. France’s Alsace produces fine Pinot Gris .
Veneto and Friuli in northern Italy are well known for their light, fragrant Pinot Gris that complement light fish dishes perfectly. If you are having a pasta with chicken and cream sauce, do not hesitate to match it with an Italian Pinot Gris.
Austrian and German Weiss Burgunder tend to be light and a little more acid, therefore require cream cheeses and/or dishes containing cream sauces.
Riesling, of course, is the best and most versatile white wine grape, and unfortunately less popular than Chardonnay these days. It was, around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, the most precious grape, and Riesling wines were sold for more than world-famous sweet Sauternes wines.
True Riesling originates from the Rhine Valley in Germany. Several German wine growing regions grow Riesling successfully but along the Mosel River it yields its best flavours.
Mosel Rieslings are light, fragrant, delightfully flavoured and eminently enjoyable. Ontario produces fine Rieslings on the Niagara Bench.
British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley has been making fine Rieslings for a few decades now. Chile, Australia and New Zealand ship Rieslings to Canada, but the more appealing ones come from the latter.
Riesling is an extremely versatile grape in that it can be vinted bone dry (like those from Alsace or Ontario), or off dry from Mosel or Rhine, and deliriously sweet when made using late harvest or frozen grapes.
Of course, there are many more white wines such as Auxerrois, Trebbiano, Savagnin, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Muller-Thurgau, Kerner, and Scheurebe, just to name a few, but they have to be highlighted at another time.
All the wines mentioned above are available at L. C. B. O. stores as general list wines. If one of the 600 stores happens not to carry some of the wines mentioned above you are advised to contact the store manager who will gladly order the requested wine at no extra charge.
Ontario’s Vineland Estates, Thirty Bench, Inniskillin, Chateau des Charmes, Reif, Konzelmann, Lakeview Vineyards, Flat Rock, and many other boutique wineries are known to produce wine white wines, but excel particularly in Rieslings and Chardonnay varietals.