Into the white wine wilds

Mix it up with these unusual varietals

Sure, you know Chardonnay, and you are friends with Riesling, and you probably have met Pinot Grigio. You appreciate the white wine stars, and I do too. My beloved wine is an un-oaked French chardonnay called St. Veran, which is delicious and smells like apples. It tastes crisp and clean, with no sign of oak; how refreshing.

Do you find your white wine choices have become dull and unexciting, or are you happy in your flavor safety zone? Have you considered what else might be out there? I know I need to mix it up, I enjoy dry whites and I’m thrilled when I see a wine list with unusual white wine varietals.

First, let’s start with a mandatory wine, which is bubbles. Sparkling wine is not only delicious, it can be downright cheap. Try Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco; they are both easy to drink, taste great and can be had for a fraction of the cost of French Champagne. Of course, if you are willing to splurge, Champagne is the king. Try a Bellini, which is made with Prosecco and peach puree. It’s a nice alternative to a mimosa, which is orange juice and sparkling wine.

Let’s move on to the wines you may not have heard of, nor tasted. Orvieto Classico is a region in Italy that produces a dry white wine that is really exceptional. It’s equally fruity and floral, but not sweet. Soave Classico is another Italian region producing a medium bodied, floral wine with a refreshing acidity. Both wines are made to drink with virtually any food, or by themselves. Also noteworthy from Italy are Gavi and Verdicchio. Verdicchio reminds me more of a chardonnay; it has a certain creaminess to it with flavors of pineapple and peach. It can also be held for a few years.

Vinho Verde is a wine from Portugal literally meaning “green wine,” but translates to “young wine.” It is a light, fresh, citrusy wine you should drink immediately after bottling. Be sure to pick up a fresh bottle; avoid any older vintages. It has a faint green tint and a very slight effervescence. It’s well balanced and goes really well with seafood.

My stand-out favorites are French whites from the Loire valley. The whites are suited well with all kinds of foods, but best with lighter fare. There is the region of Sancerre, which is primarily Sauvignon Blanc. Vouvray and Saviennieres are, again, regions, both made with Chenin Blanc and they are the darlings of the area in my opinion. Vouvray can be a little sweet, depending on which one you buy. Muscadet is a bone dry white made from grapes called Melon de Bourgogne. It’s a light, crisp, high-acid wine.

I remember years ago before I drank wine and didn’t know very much about it, a wine drinking friend gave me a bottle of Vouvray. It sat in my fridge for months. I finally decided to open it and as I recall, angels sang. I won’t make that mistake again! Happy tasting.

First appeared in the March 2017 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.


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