Wine Jones: Summer wines
June 18, 2009
When the weather turns warmer, and we have more fresh vegetables and fruits to add to our meals, we tend to move towards lighter styles of wine, for summer sipping pleasure. White varietals tend to be the summer wines of choice as sipping a well chilled, crisp white wine seems like a natural fit on a warm afternoon. The majority of white wines produced come from the three major white varietals, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
In addition to these grapes, there are also 50 other white grape varieties, grown throughout the world, that are made into single varietals or blended wines of two or more grape types. With so many grape varietals being made into wine, there are many white wine options to choose from when selecting some new wines to try this summer.
Each grape will have a distinct flavor profile, which, of course, will vary slightly depending on the weather, growing techniques employed, and region that grape was cultivated in.
Of the three major white grapes, Riesling is considered a lighter-bodied grape, Sauvignon Blanc medium-bodied, and Chardonnay is a fuller-bodied grape. How the wine was produced will add other flavor and aroma options to that grape as well. For crisper, cleaner styles of wine, look for wines that were produced without any oak aging; wines produced using stainless steel will be cleaner and crisper, no matter what their flavor profile is.
Over the last 10 years there have been an increasing number of wines being made from grapes other than the big three.
Albarino, a lighter-bodied grape originating in Spain, is being produced in many other wine regions, as is the Italian varietal Pinot Grigio, and the once-rare Viognier is now commonplace on wine lists and in the marketplace. Semillon, the basis of some great Sauternes from Bordeaux, can be found in refreshing light-style white wines, from many new world wine regions. To assist you in selecting some different white wines this summer, the following is a thumbnail flavor description of some of the more popular white grapes.
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and#8226; Albarino: Generally dry with fruit flavors that vary from lime and pineapple to pear, peach, melon, apple and apricot, and some have floral nuances. Good acidity, a mineral-like cleanliness and freshness.
and#8226; Chenin Blanc: Generally will have a core of acidity and medium bodied, with distinctive scents and flavors of pears, melons, apricots, apples and peaches.
and#8226; Gewurztraminer: Can be made in dry or sweet varieties. Flavors qualities include: lychee nuts, honey, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, apricot, pear, minerals and rose.
and#8226; Pinot Blanc: Typically a medium-dry to dry lighter-flavored white wine with citrus, melon, pear, apricot and perhaps smokey or mineral undertones.
and#8226; Pinot Grigio /Pinot Gris: A light, crisp white wine, with a range from melon to pear and some even offer a subtle tropical or citrus fruit, often there is a honey or smoky flavor component as well; it has very smooth, almost silk-like mouth-feel.
and#8226; Riesling: This generally low in alcohol and light-bodied wine will present flavors and aromas of ripe peaches, apricots and melons, with a distinct minerality to it.
and#8226; Semillon: Orange, lime and minerals are characters that can be found in the various dry versions of this variety. It is medium-bodied with crisp acidity, and has a subtle honey essence to it.
and#8226; Viognier: Floral aromas of honeysuckle or jasmine suggest a sweet wine, but a good Viognier is semi-dry with low acidity.
To add to the selection process, some wines are made from one grape but have two names. The crisp, acidic Sauvignon Blanc grape is also produced under the alias of Fume Blanc. In French wines the Sauvignon Blanc grape produces Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. Chenin Blanc is the grape used to produce Vouvray wine in the Loire Valley.
What about Chablis? There isn’t a Chablis grape, Chablis is a region in France, and French wines labeled Chablis, are 100 percent Chardonnay grape juice. Chablis was a marketing name used in California for generic white jug wine.
Try some different white wines this summer, most will pair well with the lighter meals we tend to enjoy in warm weather. Most white wines are lower in alcohol than red wines, and all should be served between 45 and 50 degrees, serving a wine at a colder temperature will mask the flavors and aromas of that wine.