All too often do I see aromatic white wines cast aside in to the 'other' category, at the back of a wine list or trade portfolio, or down in the back corner of a wine store with the sweet wines. As if to say that aromatic whites, along with sweet wines, aren't really worth it, or that the only people that drink them are strange people. Well it is high time that I do something about that!
For many people there are two main types of white wines: light and crisp, and Chardonnay. We often chunk Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc together which face off against the Chardonnay on the shelf. Usually you'll come across people who will only drink one or the other. Because heaven forbid they should drink both. It is ridiculous but it is how it is. Then you get the surprisingly massive group of 'other' whites. This is where you will find, if you bother looking, the aromatic white grape varietals of the world. Plus all the other grapes you can't pronounce as they have either too many vowels or not enough. They tend to be Germanic, Austrian or Spanish, sometimes even Greek or Lebanese. Unless you are a hard core wine liberal like myself you have probably never tried an 'other' white wine in your life. Or if you did you didn't realise as you had already had a few rounds on the Chardy train first.
It is time to shed some light on the matter. The big boy grapes that people often list off when talking about aromatic whites are: Gewurztraminer or Viognier. Gewurztraminer is the wine equivalent of roses, lychees, turkish delight. Viognier has the allure of apricots, honeysuckle and hazelnut butter. Okay so we have those two gods to contend with.
Then there is Pinot Gris. If we are going to be fair we should include Pinot Gris as one of the aromatic gods of the wine world but all too often (and believe me here) it is a cash-crop that is made as a watered down version of its former self. Don't get me wrong as there are some truly wonderful Pinot Gris wines out there (some even featured in this e-store) but generally they are bland, acidic and made far too 'safe'.
It is at this point that I would like to mention that not all aromatic whites are the full bodied overly perfumed wines that you might be thinking of. Sure there are examples out there of wines that have a consistency of mango puree and smell of your nan's bathroom but many aromatic whites are crisp and elegant. Don't be afraid of aromatics!! They are your friend!
So here are a few grapes, and wines, that are worth trying out.
The grape of kings and queens found in pretty palais along the Loire Valley. Like Riesling it is incredibly versatile creating bone dry whites to the sweetest of the sweet. Here you'll find peaches and apples dancing with kumquats and grapefruits. Our selection currently holds mostly dry examples but there are sweeter examples clearly marked for you.
This is white floral central. Gardenia and honeysuckle are curtailed by white nectarine, fresh pears and dried apricots. A trickle of white rose may linger on the palate if it is a particularly ripe example.
Similar to Falanghina but has more Chardonnay aspects to it. Often fuller in body and with more tropical fruit flavours. Expect to see mango in hot pursuit of the grapefruit. A wonderful acidity will bring this wine alive without transporting you to acid central (Riesling town).
Aah Muscat. It is known to many as nothing more than kiddy juice as it is the only grape whose wines actually smell of grapes. Whilst this may be true it is so much more than that. Here you will see seville oranges, yellow nectarine and rockmelon tripping the light fantastic.
You read that name and probably thought I made a spelling mistake. I didn't. It is a spanish grape varietal and largely is reserved for sparkling wine production, where it gives acidity and aromatics to Cava. Here you will see pineapple and mango flirting with apricots and yellow plums. Top examples also have a nutty and floral element to them, all of which are simply devine!
So no excuses now. You've just been enlightened by the wonders of aromatic white wines, how do you feel? Like you want to try one now don't you?
A few of our current favourite blends are: Wolffer Estate's Classic White, Thelema Mountain Vineyards Viognier/Roussanne and AA Badenhorst's Family White. All are stunning and need to be going home with you tonight!