Is there a difference between a rut and a routine? Let’s say you eat pizza every Friday night. Pizza is awesome! So is that a rut or a routine? What if you eat the exact same pizza from the same pizza place and drink the exact same bottle of wine with that pizza every Friday night at 7:30? Again rut or a routine? Though that determination is in the eye of the beholder we all know there are millions of choices for Friday night dinner, hundreds of pizza options alone, and millions of choices of wine. Eating the same pizza and drinking the same wine may be a comfortable and even delicious decision, but there is so much more….
When it comes to white wine many consumers tend to make their selection from three main varietals: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio/Gris. These are three delicious wines, easy to pair with food and agreeable to most wallets. I am not suggesting you stop enjoying these wines but if these are the only white wines you drink I am suggesting you may be stuck in a rut. However, I would not point my finger at you and not help you out. I would like to suggest five outstanding white wines to add to your repertoire of enjoyment. Though these wines span the globe they are all readily available and easy on your palate and your wallet.
Let’s start with Hungary and a grape that I love: Furmint. Furmint is a white grape that dominates Hungary’s Tokaji region. Furmint is most notable for sweet Tokaji, which is one of my favorite dessert wines, but it is also delicious in a dry form. Furmint is incredibly versatile. It offers pleasing aromas of Sauvignon Blanc, with a pleasant oakiness of Chardonnay and the racy minerality and acidity of dry Riesling. This food friendly wine pairs with poultry, pork, figs, cheeses, seafood, and shellfish. Here is an example Furmint:
Pajzos Tokaj T Furmint 2014: soft gold; exploding nose of grapefruit, stone fruit, lemon curd, and savory herbal notes; firm mineral palate with racy, mouth-puckering acidity and a long, tart lime zest finish; love it! SRP approx. $9.99
Our next stop is Austria and the delicious Gruner Veltliner. Gruner Veltliner is one of the most food friendly white wines I know. This dry white grape grows predominately in Austria. With flavor profiles of citrus zest, green peppers, grapefruit and herbaceous herbs, it is a fun alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and dry Riesling. It has racy acidity and typically a pleasing wine on its own or with food. Gruner Veltliners are consumed young and typically run between $10-25. Excellent wine with sushi, seafood, shellfish, poultry, cheese, vegetables, and Indian cuisine. Here is a delicious example of Gruner Veltliner:
Glatzer Gruner Veltliner 2014: soft golden yellow; vibrant stone fruit, tropical fruit, melon and citrus were beautifully met with crushed stone; crisp and clean on the palate with a pleasing tart acidity and firm minerality that coats the mouth in a zesty, long finish; love this one; SRP approx $14.99
Next we head to the beautiful Greek isle of Santorini where we will find the outstanding Assyrtiko grape. The volcanic ash rich soil of the island of Santorini creates the most elegant and delicious Assyrtiko. It is a full body white wine with flavors of citrus, savory herbal notes, pepper and a racy minerality. This dry wine has a creamy texture but don’t be fooled, it is dry and another wine that pairs great with food. Santorini is an island and 70% of the vineyards are Assyrtiko, you can imagine this wine soars with seafood and shellfish, it’s also perfect with sushi Thai cuisine and Indian cuisine, along with cheeses and spreads as an aperitif. Here is one suggestion:
Argyros Santorini 2014 Assyrtiko DO: soft golden yellow; bursting with stone fruit, grapefruit, lemon zest, a hearty dash of white pepper, and crushed stone; playful on the palate with racy mineral driven acidity, tart mouth-feel, well-structured, long, dry finish; awesome; SRP approx. $30.99
For you Chardonnay lovers have I got a treat for you? South African Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc calls the Loire Valley in France home but it is becoming the grape of choice in South African wines. Chenin Blanc in France is commonly crafted sweet but in South Africa it is predominately dry, so if you like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio this is a wine for you. Flavors include apples, nectarines, mango, passion fruit, orange, lemon and melon, with honey, butterscotch, caramel and orange blossoms also present. It is perfect paired with Mediterranean cuisine and remember Chenin Blanc for Thanksgiving; it is a perfect accompaniment to turkey. Once you try Chenin Blanc I am certain it will be added to your white wine rotation regularly. Here is a great South African Chenin Blanc:
Secateurs Badenhorst Family Wines Chenin Blanc 2015 Stellenbosch, South Africa: soft gold; yellow apples; stone fruit, passion fruit, orange blossom, with a touch of honey; more honey on the palate with a creamy, rich mouth-feel balanced with a firm acidity and a zesty, tart finish; delicious; SRP approx. $14.99
Finally, we have one of my absolutely favorite white wine varietals: Arneis. Arneis is an Italian white wine grape grown in the Roero region of Piemonte. Arneis means “little rascal” in Piemontese dialect because historically the grape has been difficult to grow. Though it has not always been a popular white grape to consume on its own (historically used more for blending) modern Italian wine makers are crafting beautiful Arneis wines and the world is taking notice. Arneis is a full body white wine with aromas of fresh cut flowers, apples, pears, citrus, apricots, peaches, and toasted hazelnuts. It is rich and round and pairs with a wide variety of foods, especially creamy pastas but also poultry, pheasant, pork, seafood, shellfish, or summer soups such as gazpacho. It also pairs well as an aperitif or on its own. Here is a beautiful representation of Arneis:
Vietti Roero Arneis 2014 DOCG: soft golden yellow; lovely notes of orchard fruit, stone fruit, fresh cut white flowers, orange blossoms, and a touch of lightly toasted hazelnuts; layers of flavors on the palate; rich texture, a mineral driven acidity, well-balanced; pleasing, elegant, finish; yep love this one too; SRP approx. $24.99
As the heat of summer sets in keep these delicious white wine varieties in mind when doing your wine shopping. Explore! Ask your favorite wine merchant or online retailer for suggestions if you cannot locate these exact wines. Each of these varietals have something delicious to offer for summer and as we move into fall. Furthermore, any time you are enjoying poultry, pork, seafood, shellfish, and spicy cuisine such as sushi, Indian and Thai. So take a leap of faith and expand your white wine vocabulary and repertoire to include these five outstanding wines and end your three trick pony white wine rut.
My Song Selection: These grape varietals and wines are fresh. Not new, in fact, many of them are ancient varietals that were on the brink of extinction but have been saved and now reborn. So fresh but not new; just like good music!
What are your favorite white wine varietals? Let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!