White wines you

haven’t discovered yet?

Cheesed off with Chardonnay?  Sick of Sauvignon Blanc? In a Riesling rut? There are so many more white wines than these - the big three!

When it comes to white wine, France grows more than just Chardonnay in Burgundy and Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire Valley.  And the jungle of regions and designated grapes and permitted styles can confuse even savvy wine lovers.

Côtes de Gascogne IGP is an ‘Indication Géographique Protégée’ that is less specific and traditional than the ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’ designation.  Wines designated IGP may use winemaking methods and grape varieties that are not approved for that region and are often great bargains.

Relatively obscure and remarkably affordable, Domaine de Grachies Côtes de Gascogne IGP (105411) $11.99 mixes the zingy characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc with the tropical fruit medley of flavours – melon, mango and papaya. Mixing Colombard, Ugni-Blanc and Gros Manseng to Sauvignon Blanc clearly produces excellent white wines.

Often the more unusual white wines come from little-known regions. When was the last time you tried a wine from Romania? Within Romania, Jidvei is the most famous producer of premium dry and medium dry white wines.

Native to Romania, the Feteasca Alba grape is a white clone of the indigenous variety Feteasca Neagra originating in Moldova. Feteasca Alba Jidvei Sec (410845) $12.49 might be mistaken for dry Riesling crossed with an unoaked Chardonnay. Lemon, lime, peach and apricot flavours sizzle in every sip of this unusual dry white.

Malbec has come to be recognized as Argentina’s signature red wine. Slowly but surely Torrontés is being recognized as Argentina’s signature white wine. In 1999, after working more than 20 years as a consultant winemaker for national and international wineries, Argentine winemaker Susana Balbo decided to build her eponymous winery in the heart of Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza.

With floral honeysuckle aromas drifting out of the glass, Susan Balbo Crios Torrontes (769125) $19.49 has hints of white pear, white flowers and lemon. Flavours of fresh-cut apple and poached pear linger on the tongue, too, before finishing crisp and remarkably dry.

 

Here in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, the Stewart family chose to keep their original plantings of the Swiss vinifera grape 

Chasselas, planted in 1961, rather than pulling it out of the ground during the Great Grape Pull-out in 1988 when growers received $8100 an acre to pull out their existing – mostly Labrusca - vines.

As the primary grape in their Quails’ Gate Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris (585737) $17.99 Chasselas has helped make this the number one selling BC VQA white wine in British Columbia. Pinot Gris adds ripe pear notes to compliment the medley of aromas. Slightly off-dry, the palate is fresh and fruity with perfectly balanced acidity and a lively citric finish.

Passerina is a rare local white grape that is found in the Marche 

region, in Italy. Many researchers have studied its identity, however, its origins remain uncertain. Known by various names such as ‘Pagadebito Gentile’, ‘Campolese’ and ‘Uva Passera’, the term ‘Passerina’ is also attributed to grapes that have small often seedless berries.

An unusual offering from Italy, made entirely from Passerina grapes, Barone di Vallforte Passerina (508309) $18.79 is a rich, full bodied white that leads with aromas and flavours of lemon and grapefruit, dried pineapple and a core of mineral and herbs.

Viognier and Marsanne are white wine grapes that originated in France’s northern Rhône Valley and were often blended into Syrah based wines to add aromatic floral notes to the Rhône’s spicy reds. Imaginative Australian winemakers adopted it and tailored it to their particular growing conditions.

 

From Australia’s McLaren Vale, d’ Arenberg ‘The Hermit Crab’ (892729) $18.99 is a luscious blend of Viognier and Marsanne. The Viognier provides apple, pear, peach and honeysuckle aromas and a spritz of sweet ginger. Marsanne adds notes of mango and marzipan.

The seafaring Phoenicians transplanted Muscat of Alexandria from Alexandria, Egypt to Málaga, Spain 3,000 years ago. Roman conquerors discovered it growing on steep slate terraces 2,000 years ago.

Not to be confused with todays sweet Moscato wines, Jorge Ordóñez Botani ‘Old Vines’ Moscatel (839589) $23.50 is fruity but absolutely dry. Aromas and flavours of honeyed peach, jasmine, guava and pineapple make this 100 per cent Muscat of Alexandria an unusually memorable and outstanding white wine.

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