The weather teases us. Sunshine and splendor one day, and back to chilly grayness and wicked winds the next. It’s a sure sign that spring is here, and with that touch of spring fever, my thirst for warm-weather wines is growing.
We all have our stand-by favorites: sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, riesling or chardonnay. But spring is a great time to try new white wines from different regions, countries and varietals. Many of the ‘new’ wines in the U.S. market have been around for many years in other countries and are just now being exported and introduced to the American palate.
Warmer weather invites us to enjoy lighter wines that have slightly less alcohol, and are not as heady or as overpowering as some red counterparts. The world of white wines is vast, so where to start? Take what you would normally drink; for instance, sauvignon blanc from California, and try that varietal from other parts of the world. In Loire Valley, France, sauvignon blanc is racy and bright with high acidity. In Bordeaux, it is clean and crisp, or can be more rounded with a splash of semillon grape. Try a bottle from New Zealand if you’re looking for something bright and racy with grapefruit; or try a Chilean sauvignon blanc for a bright wine with clean herbal notes.
Let’s explore other white varietals:
Gruner Veltliner (Austria): Bright and crisp with good acidity; a great alternative to sauvignon blanc. Good any time of the year.
Pinot Bianco/Blanc (Alsace, France; Italy; and California): It’s pinot grigio on steroids—bigger and rounder with more fruit.
Chenin Blanc (Loire Valley, France): Mineral meets viscose and fruit for balance.
Muscadet (Loire Valley, France): Think light with mineral notes and no oak. The same fruit matches well with shellfish and is classic with oysters. Much-improved muscadets now are available in the St. Louis market.
Marsanne, (Rhône, France): Baby chardonnay? Beware, this one can be big and over-the-top just like chardonnay.
Roussanne (Rhône, France): A little cleaner than its sister, Marsanne, but it can be hard to split them up, as they make a great pair/blend.
Grenache Blanc (Rhône, France): Made by itself or blended, a bottle can be crisper and austere, or full and rich, depending on the winemaker’s style.
Picpoul (Languedoc, France): Just recently (in the last five years) have we seen this grape/wine imported to St. Louis. A great summer-sipper, it has both acidity and fruit, and usually no oak for a clean, easy-drinking wine.
Arneis (Piedmont, Italy): A white flower bouquet with an elegant finish. You can find a few good ones in the St. Louis market.
Torrentes (Argentina): Beautiful scents, like perfume, but some can be excessive. Ask your local wine store for a good, balanced one.
Albariño (Rias Baixas, Spain): This has gained good exposure in the U.S. Look for some peach and mineral notes for a refreshing wine.
Verdejo (Rueda, Spain): Clean, with mineral and earth notes—a great sipper.
Viognier (Rhone, France): The grape also is grown in many countries. This is a fruit bomb—lush, full and aromatic.
These are just some of the unique varietals now more readily available in St. Louis. So, as you get ready for sipping al fresco, think about trying something new.
Tasting Tip: Acidity—White summer wine can be high in acidity. How can you gauge the acidity level? When tasting the wine, see how quickly your mouth salivates. The quicker you salivate, the higher the acidity. Your mouth has a natural pH level, which it wants to correct.
Wine Recommendation: Pick your favorite varietal and taste its counterpart from other wine regions around the world. Then, venture further and try some of the varietals that you haven’t had before. Experiment and enjoy!